Here's what I want, said Thor: The Dark World cinematographer Kramer Morgenthau: I want a real slow tilt up Hemsworth's abs. I want the Asgardian light to be especially slanty and dramatic in this little gazebo here and I want Hemmy's pecs to look absolutely humongous. Got that? I mean I want those suckers to look huge. And I don't care if this body shot has nothing to do with the story. That's irrelevant. This is Hemmy we're talking about. So I want water from the sieve — yes, of course there'll be a sieve — to drip slowly down his beautiful cosmo-Nordic hair and face, over the mountainous (again, almost gluteal) pecs and languish in the crevices of his abs. I want this bod to look like a beautiful desert landscape, okay? And dammit, I want a slow zoom with Hemmy's naval as ground zero. I want this bod to be explosively high-def. Okay? I want Brad Pitt from Troy to cower and weep in the exquisite immensity of this particular torso.
Director Alan Taylor, a Game of Thrones alum like Morgenthau, had no choice but to relent.
Here's the thing about that body shot and the look and feel of Thor 2 in general: The movie is incredibly self-aware of its comic book parentage, and also aware of its unique role in the Marvel universe.
Visually, you can often compartmentalize the film's scenes into comic-book style boxes. The landscapes and set pieces here are big and bold, the stuff of medieval tableaus. There's an Asgardian nighttime funeral ceremony which is especially noteworthy in that regard.
The story itself takes a few pages out of Peter Jackson's playbook and basically does an impersonation of Lord of the Rings, most notably Fellowship's expository battle sequence accompanied by voice over, which feels like a shot-for-shot reproduction.
The bad guy is a nasty albino elf named Malaketh (Christopher Eccleston) who's been dormant in a spaceship for a while. When a convergence of the universe's nine worlds disrupt some great primordial balance and people and pigeons start accidentally apparating all over the various galaxies, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), on earth, stumbles upon Malaketh's secret weapon, a mercurial airborne elixir called Aether (The One Ring!) which imbues its master with untold power. Thor (Aragorn) comes to the rescue, takes Jane (Frodo) back to Asgard, and they try to destroy the Aether once and for all, with the help of Loki (Gollum), Kat Dennings and a British intern (Merry and Pippin?) and the wandering naked Stellan Skarsgard as loopy physicist Eric Selwig (Gandalf).
Thor remains the most comic of the Marvel franchises, which is to say that there are more quote unquote "jokes" in the script than in Iron Man or Captain America. It continues to mine the inherent humor in the "stranger in a strange land" model and get effective mileage from things like a fully suited Thor getting into a car or taking a Metro train. The jokes pile on and occasionally distract, but generally hit their marks.
It's a much better (and f nothing else, a more relaxed) attempt then the first messy Thor effort. And the charm hasn't yet worn off as it most certainly has with Iron Man. After Tony Stark's third ridiculous installment this summer, and the new ultra-solemn Superman attempt, not to mention the weird and boring Wolverine fiasco in Japan, it's nice to a see a superhero movie settle into a tone that makes sense — a KERPLOW and punchline approach reminiscent of comic books themselves. This is a good, goofy, gaudy summer movie, three months removed.
In other, really exciting, Thor-related news, a movie theater in Shanghai inadvertently used an image from homoerotic fan fiction for its Thor poster. Marvel can now expect huge box-office numbers from Shanghai.