Starring: Chris Hemsworth (Rush), Natalie Portman (Black Swan), Tom Hiddleston (Midnight in Paris), Christopher Eccleston (28 Days Later), Anthony Hopkins (The Silence of the Lambs)
Director: Alan Taylot (Game of Thrones)
Writers: Christopher L. Yost (The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes) and Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely (Captain America: The First Avenger)
Runtime: 1 hour 52 minutes
Release Date: 30 October (UK), 8 November (US)
The God of Thunder was always a difficult character to make sense of in cinematic terms, but Thor turned out to be a pretty decent movie thanks to the skilled direction of Kenneth Branagh and the great casting of Chris Hemsworth as the title character. After meeting up with fellow heroes in The Avengers, Thor is back on his own and without Branagh. Does it match up to the quality of Marvel’s other projects, or is this franchise unworthy to wield the power of Mjolnir no more?
Thor works well as a continuation of the first film and of The Avengers, picking up almost all the loose ends from both pictures and continuing. The story of The Dark World is the weakest aspect of the picture unfortunately; it’s your standard fantasy fare complete with a powerful MacGuffin that the villain needs to take over the world and blahdeblahdeblah. The film’s first act drags a bit, taking too long to get going and spending too much time on needless exposition. But once the plot gets rolling, the characters get interacting and sh*t starts to get real, you begin to forget how trite the material sometimes gets. The dialog is consistently witty, though certainly dialled back from the wacky antics of the first film; Joss Whedon’s influence can certainly be felt during certain pieces of dialogue. The film is also much darker than the first in both look and tone, though I do feel they could have gone a bit further with it. It all adds up to a great climactic showdown full of badass action and some funny gags interspersed throughout. And be sure to stay during the credits for probably the most bizarre post-credits scene of any of the Marvel films. I’m sure it will confuse those who aren’t aware of where the next couple of films are going, but the nerds should be satisfied.
Hemsworth is as good as ever playing Thor, though not much has changed with him. Unlike Tony Stark in Iron Man 3, the events of The Avengers don’t seem to have affected him as much and he mostly goes through the motions. By the end of the film, I didn’t really feel like much had changed in Thor as a character. This is more a fault of the script than Hemsworth, but it does reflect badly on him. Natalie Portman, Kat Dennings and Stellan Skaarsgard all return from the first movie as well, and Anthony Hopkins once again has fun hamming it up as Odin. Hiddleston steals the show once again playing Loki; once he joins the adventure, the film really comes to life thanks to his performance and his banter with Hemsworth. It really makes you wish the movie was about him, as he is not only more interesting than Thor but he is the one with the bigger character arc. Unfortunately, the weakest aspect of the film is the villain Malekith, played by Christopher Eccleston. He is very much a stock bad guy, with no more real motivation than “he is evil and hates Asgard because they beat him”. What he lacks in definition, he more than makes up for in threat thanks to his army and power, but it left me wishing for a villain that really interested me beyond spectacle. And be sure to look out for some fun cameos from the likes of Chris O’Dowd, the obligatory Stan Lee, and a certain fellow hero that provides the best gag of the entire movie.
The action scenes in The Dark World are certainly more adventurous than the first film. Battles are much larger and involve many more characters, creating much more variety and spectacle. The final battle is certainly inventive, taking advantage of the fantastical nature of the film and having fun with it. The design of the world feels very consistent with the original and still manages to translate the mad designs of Jack Kirby into reality, though the cinematography and lighting has changed somewhat; the more mystical aura that Asgard had has been lost here and ends up feeling more like a generic fantasy world. Certain scenes even feel like they’ve been ripped from a Lord of the Rings movie, especially the prologue battle sequence. Director Alan Taylor’s background in television could explain this, but otherwise he has done a good job with the look of the film. The visual effects are as good as ever, and the score works with both original compositions and those recycled from the first.
Thor: The Dark World is good. Not great, just good. It entertains, it continues the story, and sets up for a potential third picture with a good hook. It is certainly one of Marvel’s weaker efforts, but considering they already gave us the masterpiece that is Iron Man 3 this year I can cut them some slack. Now to wait until spring for the arrival of The Winter Soldier…
FINAL VERDICT: 8/10