You know things are pretty awful when you have to enlist a bad guy to help with taking down the OTHER bad guys, but that’s the standard formula you got with the sequel to Kenneth Branagh’s popular movie “Thor” that came out in 2011 and starred Chris Hemsworth as the hammer-wielding Norse demi-god.
As far as sequels go, this one’s not so bad, but it doesn’t really get interesting until late into Act 2. There’s a prologue (much like the “Lord of the Rings” ring tale) about “Aether”, a super-evil and powerful mist-entity that is coveted by Malekith (Christopher Eccelston), the vicious ruler of the Dark Elves. He and his warriors are defeated by Odin’s dad on the Dark World planet and the Aether safely hidden away deep within the bowels of Asgard. But! Malekith escaped and went into hyper-sleep aboard a space ship, awaiting the one day that the Aether is freed.
We skip ahead to present day and things on Asgard are heating up: there’s this universal planetary conjunction thingy coming up (all nine “realms” or worlds are gonna line up after a 2000 year hiatus–not a good thing), peace is finally within Thor’s and papa Odin’s (Anthony Hopkins) grasp, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is imprisoned for what he did in “The Avengers” movie (hope you watched it), and meanwhile back on Earth, Thor’s girlfriend, Dr. Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), has been waiting two long years for tall, blonde, and big hammer boy to come back.
Jane’s kooky assistant, Darcy (Kat Dennings, who plays a kooky waitress on TV’s “Two Broke Girls”) and their new intern, Ian (Jonathan Howard) discover in an abandoned warehouse in London some weird spacial anomalies that appear to (and quite conveniently) open worm-hole portals from here to (surprise, surprise!) Asgard! Jane gets transported through one of these and ends up in the bowels of Asgard and smack-dab next to the secret Aether’s hiding place. My, wasn’t that bad timing!
Quicker than you can say “plot contrivance”, Jane gets zapped with the Aether, Malekith (who looks like Max Schrek’s “Nosferatu”) wakes up from his long dormant sleep and wants revenge, and Thor gets worried about his sweetie and whisks Jane back to Asgard for protection just as all hell breaks loose from Malekith and his small army of warriors and their weapons. Seriously cool weapons, too. Star Wars never had these weapons and why they don’t use them enough is a mystery because they really kick ass.
Anyway, after Queen Frigga (Rene Russo) dies protecting Jane from being kidnapped by Malekith, Thor plans a bold and highly treasonous move: free his half-brother Loki from prison (it takes evil to fight evil, right?) and move the battle to the Dark World so no one else on Asgard will get hurt. But can Loki be trusted?
Well, the battle on the Dark World doesn’t exactly go off as planned. There’s a tragic death, and Malekith ends up stealing back the Aether from Jane and high-tailing to Earth to start his destruction of all nine worlds from there. This guy’s got some serious anger management issues!
Luckily, Jane’s brilliant (albeit slightly looney) mentor, Dr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgaard) has a solution: jam a bunch of poles with electronic devices around that will distort the planetary convergence and create intermittent worm-holes that they both can control…or sometimes not…and get rid of these invaders. Malekith and his bad guys land in London for the showdown (at least it isn’t NYC again!) and Thor’s there to stop him, but those dang “pop-up” worm-holes just prove to be a nuisance. They keep getting in the way as they’re fighting! Pop! They’re in Greenwich one second, Asgard the next, the Dark Word the next, and then, pop! Back in London! At least THIS fight holds your interest!
Stay for the end credits as they give you a little spoonful of sugar for the upcoming movie “Guardians of the Galaxy” and THEN stay until way after the total credits end if you want to see a silly little ending that’s kinda cute.
Taking over the director’s reins from Branagh is Alan Taylor from HBO’s “Game of Thrones” fame. His tenure on the cable show gives him an edge here as the direction is actually better than the first film. The lively screenplay by Christopher Yost, Christopher Markus, and Stephen McFeely is not as flavorful as the first film, but it keeps the action moving, if you can get past the laughable plot contrivances that they used to move the story along from A to B. And it was kinda sad to see Thor’s three war buddies on Asgard, so wonderfully played up in the first film, so underused in this movie.
There’s the requisite Stan Lee appearance in the film, naturally, and a delicious little throw away scene with Captain America (Chris Evans in a cameo). Hemsworth is Johnny Beefcake all the way for the ladies and rightfully so. He’s a man’s man who vanquishes the villain, saves the day, and gets the girl at the end. Portman is a smart cookie to be sure, but she still needs to be the rescued damsel-in-distress…not a sword-wielding “I’ve got this” equal that is SO prevalent in today’s action films. I found that refreshingly delightful!
Then there’s Tom Hiddleston. With his bad-boy persona, natural good looks, and snarky attitude, his charisma is all over this movie. He’s a lovable cad, a villainous rogue, and an ever-smirking twisted ball of evil that you can never turn your back on. He lights up the screen every time and his chemistry with Hemsworth is as believable as any real-life brothers. He’s worth the price of admission alone.
Not the best in sequels I’ve ever seen, but certainly not the worst. These are great characters that have a rich comic book history to them and one can only hope that “Thor 3” in the future will give us some surprises. Until then, look for Hemsworth to throw his mighty hammer again in “The Avengers 2: Age of Ultron” in 2015.
48 Hours (1982)
Releasing a convict from prison to help fight the bad guys wasn’t an original idea that Thor came up with. Nick Nolte thought it up, too. Although, one has to wonder what it would have looked like with Loki signing Sting’s “Roxanne” off-key when Thor came to visit him.
Putting Eddie Murphy on the map after his meteoric rise on Saturday Night Live, this cop-buddy movie was a blockbuster that cemented Murphy as bonified, certified superstar. Too bad he’s made some serious career mistakes since then…
But I digress…
With five (FIVE!!) screenwriters, one of which being director Walter Hill, this dark comedy has grizzled San Francisco cop Jack Cates (Nolte) in a major dilemma. His two partners were gunned down by Ganz (James Remar) a lethal cop killer, and the only lead to him is Ganz’s ex-partner, a smart-alecky crook named Reggie Hammond (Murphy) who’s still in prison with six months left to go.
Cates gets the wild idea to spring Hammond out for 48 hours in order to catch Ganz. Needless to say, the two do NOT get along and their distrust for each other fuels the film for some great moments. All Cates wants to do is catch a killer and all Hammond wants to do get laid and retrieve his stolen $500,000 hidden in a car. The two strike a deal and an uneasy partnership is made.
The action turns serious as Ganz has teamed up with another killer named Billy Bear (Sonny Latham) and soon the bullets are flying and the body count is rising. This is the cop-buddy movie that started all cop-buddy movies and it’s still one of the very best.
This is really Murphy’s movie as he steals every scene he’s in with his wicked charm, his signature laugh, and the fact that he showed off some real acting chops. These, along with Hill’s, direction proved this film to be a winner. This movie spawned a horrible sequel (“Another 48 Hours”) which I saw and quickly forgot. Yeah, it was that bad.
Cool side note: Clint Eastwood and Richard Pryor were originally cast as Cates and Hammond. Now, THAT would have made an interesting movie!