Thor: The Dark World

Posted: December 4, 2013 in Film reviews

Directed by Alan Taylor. Starring Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston and Christopher Eccleston.

Whatever else you might think about the Marvel film franchise, you have to admire its unstoppable, juggernaut like nature. We had Iron Man 3 earlier in the year, following on the heels of Avengers Assemble, Captain America and the first Thor film. In 2014 we’ll get the second Captain America film plus Guardians of the Galaxy and in 2015 Avengers 2. Phew! Eventually they’ll run out of steam, but it doesn’t look like happening any time soon.

Before we scoot into the future however, there’s the little matter of the second Thor film.

Building on events from both Avengers Assemble and Thor, The Dark World opens with Thor battling insurrections amidst the nine realms, whilst his adoptive brother, Loki languishes in a dungeon beneath Asgard. Meanwhile Jane Foster is trying (and mostly failing) to get on with her life in the absence of her hunky blonde man God.

Something in the depths of space is stirring however, something that will draw them back together. That something is an army of Dark Evles led by Malekith (Eccleston) who are on the trail of an ancient weapon called Aether which they want to use to unmake the Universe. Quite how they plan to exist in this unmade universe is never made clear, despite quite a lot of exposition at the start (which is fairly superfluous given that much of it is explained again in dialogue later).

After Malekith’s army attacks Asgard, and they suffer a very personal loss, Thor and Loki join forces to exact vengeance, with Thor having the extra incentive of wanting to save Jane from a horrible fate. But can the hammer swinging hero trust his witticism swinging brother, and will they ever get their car keys back?

Marvel really do have these films down to a fine art now, and after two previous outings Hemsworth and Hiddleston play their characters with practiced ease. This isn’t to say either is remotely complacent, they give it their all, and if Hiddleston is clearly (yet again) the star of the show, that is no insult to Hemsworth. In other hands Thor could be a hulking lunkhead, but Hemsworth plays him just the right side of noble pastiche. He’s big and monosyllabic and utterly heroic, but he carries himself like a man well aware that he’s the straight man to Hiddleston’s comedy gold, and Hemsworth still manages to inject a bit of dry humour into Thor, making him a hero we can root for, even if he is a little harder to empathise with than either Tony Stark or Captain America.

After the exposition heavy start the film takes a little while to get going, but once it does, like Thor’s hammer in flight, it’s nigh on unstoppable. It isn’t high art, it isn’t going to win any Oscars, and set against the magnificent Avengers Assemble it all feels a little small scale (even if all of reality is at stake) but it’s funny, action packed, and if the finale that sees Greenwich attacked by alien hordes is less epic than most of New York being laid waste to, frankly it at least makes a refreshing change.

As before Marvel have excelled themselves with the casting. Eccleston might look like he’s taking it all a bit too seriously, whilst Sir Anthony Hopkins looks suspiciously like he’s daydreaming about spending his paycheque, but both give solid performances. Portman gets more to do than last time, and the benefit of a good actress in the role is that Jane isn’t just a two dimensional damsel to be rescued. Idris Elba returns as Heimdall, and much like Portman gets more to sink his teeth into, although you can’t help thinking he’s still underused, which could be said about Jaimie Alexander as Lady Sif and the rest of Thor’s Asgard buddies. Stellan Skarsgård is back too, although he seems to have forgotten his clothes… and it’s nice to see Rene Russo back on the big screen.

It isn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination, and as enjoyable as it is you can’t help feeling that it’s just a placeholder, keeping us invested in the characters until they can join up with the rest of the Avengers again, but whilst it’s all a little forgettable after you leave the cinema, whilst you’re sat there watching it it’s hugely entertaining, and I’m not sure you can ask for more than that.

Can we maybe have more Loki next time though? Pretty please!

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