I’m a sucker for comic book movies. Always have been, always will be. They were such a novelty back at the beginning of the new millennium. X-Men and Spider-Man changed the whole game. Up until that point all we really had were the Batman movies, which had gotten pretty dire by the time Arnold Schwarzenegger started spouting ice-themed puns (“Chill out!”). The best part about the comic book movie boom was that they were good. For the most part. The first two X-Men and Spider-Man movies are still looked on fondly, even though Tobey Maguire was not great in his role. The expectation is that quality would fall off as the years went on and the movies began multiplying. But that hasn’t happened. Thanks to Marvel Studios we’re now getting thought-out films that try to build something impressive, rather than just cash in (though they are definitely cashing in, big time). Just because I love the movies doesn’t mean I’m not more than willing to watch as Doug Benson and some of his comedian friends knock them down a peg.
The Benson Movie Interruptions is a series in residency at the wonderful Cinefamily (aka the Silent Movie Theater) on Fairfax in Los Angeles (I’m a member, are you?). Yeah, unfortunately this is another event you can really only see in LA, though Doug does take the show on the road every once in a while. Doug and a few other funny people sit on big couches at the front of a theater and talk over a film, Mystery Science Theater 3000-style. Tonight Doug took on Thor: The Dark World with the help of Zach Galifianakis (The Hangover), Ben Schwartz (House of Lies), and Mark Agee (writer for The Jeselnik Offensive).
The second Thor film was half of Marvel’s big push post-Avengers, the other being Iron Man 3. The fear was always that these films would feel disappointing after the massive spectacle of the 2012 team-up picture. Both films hit with me; a comic book movie has to be exceedingly bad (Fantastic Four, Man of Steel) to get a real negative reaction from me (it’s my nerd bias). Despite liking them, I haven’t rewatched either film since seeing them for the first time. That is one of the benefits of a Benson Interruption – you can see a movie again to get a feel for its actual quality level. I’ve seen a bunch of movies for the first time in this way; it is a great way to see disposable trash like Now You See Me, John Carter, and The Grey. However the Interruptions have given me an opportunity to reassess several movies as well; Fast & Furious 6 and 2013’s Evil Dead remake only rose in my estimation in this way, whereas The Hunger Games suffered. So the question became how I would feel about Thor: The Dark World – a movie I viewed as having a rather boring opening that gets redeemed by humor and an inspired final setpiece.
The rewatch definitely made the faults a lot more clear: the first third of this movie is pretty impenetrable. It is full of meaningless exposition. And things don’t improve too much in the second act; sure there are a couple cool fight scenes, but there are even more boring walk-and-talks and stand-and-talk-mores. And watching the film with real comedians did not help the comedy at all. The jokes that I liked so much the first go around now seem stilted and forced. Even the Loki-Thor banter feels stiff. Surely this was a consequence of comparison to the talent watching from the couches, but it was still pretty disappointing. I will say, however, that the final battle still picks the whole movie up. I won’t claim that it makes up for everything that comes before, but it certainly helps. I was also surprised to find that I enjoyed the Benecio Del Toro-centric teaser scene way more this time; it made me even more excited for this summer’s Guardians of the Galaxy than I already was.
At the very least, the comedians made the experience worth it. Benson tends to lie in wait, anticipating the perfect moments to snipe the hell out of a scene. Schwartz kept the pace up, spending most of the movie pointing out obvious (and not-so-obvious) (and non-existent) references to other films. Agee threw in an offensive joke every once in a while, which is exactly what I was hoping for. Galifianakis always fades into the background in these things, letting you forget he’s even there before reasserting his presence in a big way.
Is Thor: The Dark World a good movie? Not really. But it’s good enough for my broken comic fan barometer. And that’s all I can ask for. What better way to watch such a mess than with four very funny men? No better way, I say. So get thee to Los Angeles and take in a Benson Interruption. I’ll even provide you with the website.