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THOR: THE DARK WORLD 3D

SYNOPSIS:
Faced with an enemy that even Odin (Anthony Hopkins) and the fantastic realm of Asgard cannot withstand, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) must embark on his most perilous and personal journey yet, one that will reunite him with Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and force him to sacrifice everything to save us all.

Review by Louise Keller:
Surrounded by a plethora of visual effects aimed to impress, Chris Hemsworth's larger than life and abundantly handsome Thor storms onto the screen, muscles bulging, red cape flying and trademark hammer firmly in hand, in a sequel that is at times engaging but often bogged down by a cumbersome plot. TV director Alan Taylor replaces Kenneth Branagh at the helm this time, failing to deliver the well-paced dramatic elements of the 2011 film, unable to manage the transitions between far-away Asgard with its translucent rainbow highway and rain-sodden London, where the climactic finale is set. The screenplay lacks light and shade and it is not surprising that the film's humorous moments stand out as its best.

The plot evolves around a species called the Dark Elves, whose pallid complexion and stark features contradict their obsession for darkness. They are intent on using the powerful energy source Aether for their own dark reasons during the forthcoming alignments of the 9 realms, of which Earth is one. As chance would have it, gorgeous astrophysicist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) happens to absorb it, offering the perfect opportunity for Thor (Hemsworth), the god of her dreams to whiz through the universe to save her. But not too fast. All the realms are in danger of turning dark (Ausgrid, beware); besides, there is Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Thor's traitorous brother with whom to contend.
Thank goodness for Hiddleston, whose striking features and smarmy manner make for good drama and a villain we love to hate. He is a much better drawn character than Christopher Eccleston's Malekith of the Dark Elves and the gigantic warriors that seem to present themselves simply as opportunities for special effect destructions. Anthony Hopkins is back as Odin with a detached, scornful and clipped manner; the themes once again relying on father son relationships and his kingly expectations.

He only has two scenes, but Chris O'Dowd is great comic value as Jane's new would-be suitor. His quirky manner and delivery is just right and his presence comes as a welcome relief when the plot becomes overburdened and murky. Kat Dennings is also fun as Jane's intern but a tad overdone and hats off to Stellan Skarsgård in a very funny turn as the astrophysicist Dr Erik Selvig, who think best in his underpants.

Portman is highly decorative and suitably feminine as the object of Thor's desire, although Hemsworth seems to steal the show - a bit like a peacock whose tail is in full flight. As to be expected, the special effects make a splash with some exceptional visuals like the funeral scene when a flaming boat flies over a waterfall, glistening beads of eternity escaping into space with myriads of balls of light. But there is little behind the dazzle - though that will be no deterrent to the hoards of teenage boys who will be enthralled.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
If I were a 13 year old boy I'd want to go straight back in and see it again - partly because it's so full of cool effects, stunts, weapons, gizmos, monsters, baddies, fantasy and space; and partly because I couldn't understand what was going on, who was fighting who and why. Not being 13, I don't want to see it again, even though I couldn't understand what was going on, who was fighting who and why. I do get the big picture: good v evil. I also get the competing siblings and the father issues.

Everyone is very good, in a slightly stagey way; they speak formally to imply some other cultural mode, with the exception of Odin (Anthony Hopkins), Loki (Tom Hiddleston), and Jane (Natalie Portman). Oh and don't let's forget the bubbly and funny Darcy (Kat Dennings) who brightens every scene she is in. Of which there are not enough. Also memorable is a novelty turn from Stellan Skarsgård as a mad (and sometimes naked) scientist.

The costumes (in the mythical world, that is) are full of beastly references, lots of big horns, snarling faces and crazy eyes. The film is a weird mix of primitive ritual and space age fantasy; some of the weapons are swords, others are laser guns.

But this is a comic world, a world of Marvels. Nothing has to make sense or conform to any rules of physics. The only rules that are relevant are the human codes of existence, imprinted on the characters so we can at least follow their motivations in a general sort of way.

The one thing I do like about Alan Taylor's direction is the humour, which is peppered through the film in a boyish sort of way, catching us off guard and amusing us for a moment before we lunge back into the swirling, deadly Aether or smash against the rocks/mountains/skyscrapers mid-fight. (Some of Thor's scenes are reminiscent of Superman - with a sledge hammer.) The make up and special make up are excellent and will probably win nominations, at least.

There's a great deal of effort involved in making this film and I am full of admiration - even if not especially keen to see it again.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 2

THOR: THE DARK WORLD (M)
(US, 2013)

CAST: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Stellan Skarsgård, Idris Elba, Christopher Eccleston, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Kat Dennings, Ray Stevenson, Zachary Levi, Rene Russo, Anthony Hopkins, Chris O'Dowd

PRODUCER: Kevin Feige

DIRECTOR: Alan Taylor

SCRIPT: Christopher L. Yost, Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely (comic book by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Jack Kirby)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Kramer Morgenthau

EDITOR: Dan Lebental, Wyatt Smith

MUSIC: Brian Tyler

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Charles Wood

RUNNING TIME: 112 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Walt Disney

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 31, 2013







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