Thursday, November 14, 2013

Thor: the Dark and Awesome World

First, to get the review out of the way:

It was awesome, go see it!

Yes, I'm over using awesome again.  I know, big shock.
Why was it awesome?

Two reasons, for two sets of viewers
Three if you count my sister as her own group.
(Yes, there is more shirtless Thor.)

No spoilers – I don’t count stuff in the trailers as spoilers.

1) For non-comic book fans:

The Marvel Cinematic Universe film makers bothered to spend the time letting viewers get to know the characters before launching into the levels of world building in this movie. 

It is very appropriate that Christopher Eccleston, who played the Ninth Doctor in Doctor Who’s celebrated return to the airwaves is in this.  Very similar to his first season of that series, the first Thor started out slowly (after the combat against the Frost Giants, of course) to get the new fans gently introduced into one of the crazier corners of the Marvel Universe.  Thor used the very familiar concept of a “fish out of water” romantic comedy for a large part of the center of its storyline to get the general public’s feet wet on Marvel’s concept of gods walking the Earth.

Not only did The Dark World expand the more fantastic concepts already accepted by those who’ve seen the original film, it also built off the successful, larger and more over the top Avengers as well.

The new story was filled with inside jokes and references plus emotional highs and lows that key off of the characters explored in the first film, and many other parts of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as well.  Most importantly, the final product was a boatload of FUN for both those who know the entire character’s fifty year history, or just the history presented on screen in the past few years.

Equally critical to enjoyment as the character development and relationships, and a heck of a lot more impressive on the big screen in 3D (which worked very nicely this time) is now that Thor has been seen unleashing his power levels in grander form in the Avengers, he was allowed to cut loose much more mightily and visibly than in the original movie.

This leads to the second group:

2) For comic book geeks (like myself):

Again, similar to the progression from early to later seasons of Doctor Who- now that the normal people have been made comfortable by multiple excursions into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the movie magic people were free to uncork the crazy.

The visually stunning Asgardian magical science, or scientific magic, created by Lee and Kirby and augmented by Simonson and Buscema (and others, but none quite so well) flowed all over this film. It looked wild and nuts and shiny and magnificent.  The Fantasy/Science Fiction blend escalated from what was established in the first Thor, referenced in Captain America, and resurfaced in the Avengers.

Maleketh and Algrim/Kurse, pulled from those comic book stories, were formidable foes for Thor.  Their threat level made Thor teaming up with Loki understandable. 

More than most other comic book heroes, Thor has found himself working with his arch enemy frequently.  This is partially because of their family connection, but even more so because of where their stories came from originally.

Pardon me while I don my well-worn mythology geek hat.

In the original Norse myths, Loki got the Asgardians into trouble with their enemies on a regular basis. However, he is also nearly as often the one that pulls them out of trouble just as effectively.   In those oral tales he was a trickster archetype, like Bugs Bunny, Captain Jack Sparrow, or Groucho Marx.  However, in stories crafted by the culture of Viking warriors, who valued brute force and smacking people over the head above trickery and book learning, Loki was never viewed as heroic as the three characters listed above.  His dimwitted brother was always a much more popular deity.  Once the Monks got their hands on the legends to record them in writing, they Christianified them a bit. Loki was cast more directly in the Satan role, and Odin’s niceness factor was amped up, when his original personality was pretty much a trickster as well.  Push that version of the characters and stories through a super heroic Excelsior! style filter and you’ve got the Marvel version of Asgardian tales in a nutshell.

To get back on topic –
With all those transitions, Thor remained the lovable hammer hurling oaf that made him the number one weekend box office draw he is today.

With all the previous groundwork laid and accepted, they could now make the Thor movie I was hoping for last time:

Rich, diverse and entertaining denizens of Asgard and Earth interacting in combat, adventure, celebration and grief.

Loki as a true Marvel villain, who like all great villains acts as if he's the hero of his story.  He is eternally scheming and conniving yet possesses his own version of honor. He is physically capable in a fight, but far more formidable mentally.  One expects him to be equally likely to aid the Aesir as betray them at any given moment, but he’s always excessively entertaining either way.

Thor as the mightiest Avenger, battling throughout the Nine Realms of Yggdrasil, and pitting himself against foes that may be beyond his power levels, but never his courage or determination.

He fights for Asgard, for Midgard, and most importantly, for those he cares about.

The last benefit of the shared universe, is knowing “THOR WILL RETURN.”

After all, based on that ending, the mid credit set up for a future Marvel film and the end credit resolution to a cliff hanger, the question of:

“Will the awesomeness end here?”

Is answered with a resounding:

In Conclusion:

Proof that this movie is awesome for Group 1- the normal people:
My wife and daughter were laughing out loud, emotionally reacting to the developments and cheering throughout the film.

Proof that this movie is awesome for Group 2- geeks like me:
It made me stand up and dance!

Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeey, Viking Ladies…
womp womp womp
womp em Asgard Style!

Thanx to my amazing wife for the Mighty costume!

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