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THOR: THE DARK WORLD (Directed by Alan Taylor)

Funny how Thor (the mightiest Avenger) is probably the weakest and least interesting character amongst the stars of the Marvel Studio flicks. The first movie spent time introducing Thor and like most origin stories, the interest was kept at a respectfully high level most of the time with the key being the character development of Thor himself.

This is where the sequel falls flat. Once you understand that Thor is arrogant, brash and headstrong (and loves Jane Foster), there is nowhere else to go unless you spice things up and the writers of Thor: The Dark World fail to do that completely. Thor is utterly boring (despite Chris Hemsworth’s best efforts) and predictable – lacking any edge whatsoever. Thor’s flaws and weaknesses (evident in the first movie) are glossed over and somehow he becomes the least interesting character in his own movie.

But first the threat that Thor and his allies have to face – Malekith (Christopher Eccleston), King of the Dark Elves – seeks to return the universe to its original state (i.e. darkness) by utilizing a powerful weapon called the Aether. Not much else is told about Malekith, the Dark Elves or the Aether in the expository introduction – one is supposed to take the explanations at face value. Of course, Malekith ultimately gets hold of the Aether (whatever it is) – with Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) inexplicably in the thick of the narrative. Obviously, Thor gets the upper hand in the end – although at the denouement, it’s not quite clear exactly what happened.

In fact, there are numerous loose ends and plot holes peppered throughout the story with way too many references “borrowed” from previous sci-fi fantasy films. One gets the feeling that the writers, producers and director wanted to ensure that the audience could relate to the film better with these familiar references.

Shall I name a few? How about the opening epic battle sequence (reminiscent of Fellowship of the Ring) or the awkward use of lasers and space ships within the Nine Realms (which recalls the Phantom Menace especially the scenes at Naboo) or Malekith’s towering space vessel (the design of which is similar to General Zod’s Kryptonian ship in Man of Steel – though that’s probably unintentional).

It’s not all bad, of course. The film lights up when Loki (Tom Hiddleston) joins the party, Rene Russo’s cameo (Frigga) was significant and there were genuine moments of excitement in the final battle between Thor and Malekith. But the problem is that the film is pretty average most of the way and even the special effects are not worth the expense of 3D or IMAX 3D. Sure, stick to the end and you get your bonus scene which basically alludes to the Guardians of the Galaxy film.

With the 2nd Avengers movie coming up on the horizon (2015), there are two more opportunities for Marvel Studios to stop waffling and bring back the awe and fun of the first wave of movies with Captain America: The Winter Soldier and the afore-mentioned Guardians of the Galaxy. Fingers crossed.

CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER TRAILER

Speaking of the good Captain – the trailer dropped about a week ago and already it looks more promising that Thor: The Dark World. Maybe because the characters appear more interesting and the premise seems stronger as well? In the trailer we see Black Widow, Nick Fury, Falcon and of course the titular character (whom we all know is Bucky Barnes, or is he?). Anyways looks promising.

X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST TRAILER

I’ll say it flat out – this trailer looks awful. It reminds me of the risible Last Stand! Considering the size of the cast and the source material, you would think that this was the perfect opportunity for director Bryan Singer to atone for the travesty that was Superman Returns. Even at this early stage – looking at this trailer – the movie seems like it’s gonna turn out to be a train wreck. So much of the goodwill built up by Matthew Vaughn and X-Men: First Class has all but disappeared. Sigh.

… still there’s more …

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