Monday, 11 November 2013

Thor 2: The dark world

8 November 2013

Trailer. Tedious.

Drearily explosive, missing almost every chance at realising the myths.

The Thor films have a lot to live up to (it has always been clear this would be a sequence of sequels). Two long, nearly successive runs for creative teams on the comic book created a complicated, compelling reinvention of Norse mythology, incorporating significant doses of science fiction, though these were not presented as the ‘space gods’ (advanced aliens) that the films have opted for.

More importantly, the comics operated on a mythic scale, reaching a peak in the second run, that of writer/penciller Walt Simonson, that has proven hard or impossible to match in other comics, Sandman excepted.

We’re embarrassed by heroism, and superheroes are one of the areas where this concept can still be explored. The Thor comic book adopted a fairly naive, but effective, version. There was little of the anxieties of the much more popular Batman or X-Men comic franchises, which were also definitively rebooted in the 1980s.

A film, even a film series, cannot develop mythology in the same way as a many-year run on a comic book. But it should have been possible to  do it better than with these two films so far. The obvious model should have been the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, where miraculously Tolkein’s colossal, anally retentive mythmaking somehow comes across on screen.

The Thor films have tried something similar – they took part of the Rings lesson to heart, and have designed a convincing world. The level of detail would inspire awe, if we were allowed to see it.

Unfortunately, all of this design seems wasted by the action-film-making-by-numbers approach. Explosions, frenetic camerawork, plots that appear to have been severely cut so that they scarcely make sense, and a false threat that totally removes any tension.

Peter Jackson and team had a much more difficult task realising the threat of Sauron, yet managed it. Thor 2, like Thor 1, offers nothing memorable.

Actually that’s not quite true. As with Thor 1 and the Avengers, Loki is the standout star, thanks to Tom Hiddleston, who seems born to the role. And indeed, he captures most of the charismatic, ironic qualities of Simonson’s character (itself based, I think, on Wagner’s intellectual Loge).

If the inevitable third film could only slow down, limit the action to the very end, and invest more time in building both a sense of threat and the necessary heroism to counter that threat, then it could be a decent film. The actors are in place – almost everyone here is well-suited to their roles. The exception is Anthony Hopkins’ Odin, with the actor quite obviously too bored to care.

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