Friday, November 8, 2013

Thor: The Dark World [2013]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB (A-III)  ChicagoTribune (2 1/2 Stars) (2 1/2 Stars)  AVClub (B-)  Fr. Dennis (2 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. McAleer) review
ChicagoTribune (M. Phillips) review (S. Adams) review
AVClub (A.A. Dowd) review

Thor: The Dark World [2013] (directed by Alan Taylor, screenplay by Christopher L. Yost, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, story by Don Payne and Robert Rodat, based on the Marvel comic by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber and Jack Kirby) is the latest installment in Marvel Studios' emerging  Avenger Cinematic Universe.  The Thor comic-book character (as well as his kin/companions from his home world of Asgard is inspired by Norse Mythology with some significant updating.

The most important difference between the Thor of Norse-mythology and the Thor of the Marvel universe [IMDb] [wikip] is that Thor and his kin/companions in the Marvel universe are no longer Gods, but rather powerful beings that live in another realm (the above mentioned Asgard) and keep the other 8 realms, including Earth, in order.  Their interventions (for the sake of Cosmic order/peace) make them act sort of like Gods, BUT they are not immortal, that is, they can die.  Since Marvel's Thor (played in the last several films by Chris Hemsworth) is NOT a god but a very powerful being (a superhero) he is then able to interact with the other superheroes of the Avenger Universe.  Hence he and his adopted/step-brother Loki [wikip] [IMDb] (played in the last several films by Tom Hiddleston) played significant roles in last year's Avengers [2012] ensemble film (Indeed, Loki [wikip] [IMDb] had been that film's principal villain).

The distinctive difference between Thor / Loki and the other Avengers is that Thor / Loki and their Asgardian kin/companions are from another world and they do fight forces that are more fundamental to the peace/order of the universe than the more technology based Avenger/superheroes of earth.  But they are able to interact.  So superhero/demi-god Thor [IMDb] [wikip] from a world where "magic and technology are the same thing" was able to meet and impress Jane Foster in the original comic a nurse who tended to Thor when he had been banished from earth and in the movies an astrophysicist (played superbly in the film by Natalie Portman) studying wormholes who encounters the banished Thor in the first installment of his "marvelous cinematic saga" one night out in the New Mexico desert, when Thor appears to have "dropped out of the sky" via one of those wormholes that she and her assistants Darcy (played by Kat Dennings) and Dr Erik Selvig (played by Stellan Skarsgård) were "studying."  Much ensued then ... and much, of course, takes place now.

In the current film, the enemy that Thor as well as the other Asgardians led by Thor's father Odin [wikip] [IMDb] (played in these films by Anthony Hopkins), the King of Asgard, fight are the "dark elves" who (in the story) existed BEFORE the current Universe with its 9 realms (of which Earth and Asgard are two) existed, and who wanted to destroy now the Universe and all said realms to return all things to that state of Primordial Darkness.  Well, Odin, king of the Asgardians, the awesome but also benevolent guardians of the 9 realms could not let that stand.  So much, much Epic Nordic style battling ensues.

The constant battling _could_ become unsettling to a fair number of Catholic/Christian viewers especially those remembering that a lot of the Nazis, including SS-commander Heinrich Himmler, were fanatical neopagans who glorified incessant battling that existed in the Nordic/Viking sagas.

There is, further, a somewhat unsettling "swipe" arguably taken against Judeo-Christian religion in the current film when early-on Thor is portrayed as swinging his legendary hammer in the manner of a sling to make short work of the champion of a race of  Stone Giants.  Super-hero/Demi-God Thor, having destroyed the Stone Giant with a single swing of his hammer smiles and smugly asks "any others?"  The giants seeing their champion vanquished in a single blow lay down their arms and run.  The borrowing of motifs from the Biblical story of David, a lowly teenage (youngest) son of a nobody shepherd, taking down the Philistine Giant Goliath with a single shot from his sling (1 Samuel 17) could not be more obvious.  (The crucial differences in the stories is this -- Thor was a DemiGod/Superhero while David was a little nobody who had only his own bravery and the Biblical God on his side).  Thor acts regally and with a smile, as a confident DemiGod/superhero of his type would ... but for those of us trying really hard NOT to see in homages to the Nordic Paganism of the goosestepping of Nazis, THIS SCENE seemed stupidly provocative (and added nothing essential to the story ...).

On the plus side, viewers do get to see the ceremonial awesomeness of a Viking style funeral after Thor's mother/Odin's wife Frigga [wikip] [IMDb] played by Rene Russo) dies following an attack by the "dark elves" on Asgard.

All in all, there is much battling, much often amusing and sometimes quite awesomely depicted traveling "between the realms" via worm-holes with the FATE OF THE UNIVERSE AT STAKE ... ;-) ... making for a quite enjoyable teen / young-adult oriented movie.  It's just that someone like me (both one of Czech descent whose parents lived under the Nazis and one who is now a Catholic priest) does start to wonder how close are we getting with a film like this to goose-stepping Nazis firebombing "enemies."  After all, Hitler's architect Albert Speer's planned "Hall of the Nations" for downtown Berlin "after the Nazis had won" could have easily been as awesome as the colossal structures of the "benevolent guardians" of Asgard portrayed in the film.

A still fun but at times somewhat disturbing film ...

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