Ta-da! Thor: The Dark World storms into cinemas and proves to be yet another thunderous success for Marvel. Part Lord of the Rings and part Star Wars, Dark World has more in common with this year’s Star Trek Into Darkness than other superhero films like Iron Man 3 or The Wolverine. It’s fantasy sci-fi, which means it’s a blast to watch on the big screen even if it is a little bit by the numbers.
Picking up yet again after the cataclysmic events of The Avengers, Dark World sees Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and friends policing the galaxy – the nine realms have been in turmoil ever since Asgard was cut off from them due to the destruction of the Bifröst Bridge way back in the original Thor. With Loki (Tom Hiddleston) now imprisoned however, Thor is free from brotherly distractions and able to set things right.
Of course, trouble looms as it always does in this kind of picture. An ancient evil awakens – the Dark Elves and their leader Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) – who are eager to resume their hunt for the Aether, a magical substance which can turn everything to dark matter. Apparently dark elves prefer everything to be dark rather than sunny. Thor disagrees so reunites with love interest Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) to stop things from going to pot.
It’s a story that is, frankly, ridiculous – but you forgive it because that’s sort of the point. Sadly, Malekith is a very one-note villain. Eccleston’s talents are severely underutilised, and there’s a sense that much of the character’s backstory was cut out. He’s not a bad villain, just unmemorable, as he serves the plot well but without character development he fails to make a lasting impression.
On the plus side, Malekith’s actions result with Thor freeing Loki and teaming up with his adopted brother to put a stop to the dark elf’s plans. This, in many ways, is the real meat of Dark World. Hiddleston is outstanding as Loki, and he and Hemsworth play off of each other to great effect. It’s a fascinating relationship, and one that manages to work in both drama and humour to great effect. The humour in particular helps to make these godlike characters relatable in a meaningful way – and it’s something that Marvel has developed a real flair for.
On the other side of the fence, it’s good to see Portman back in play as Jane. That said, there’s a huge contrivance involving her and the Aether. It’s lazy writing but it happens early so you’re forced to roll with it rather than accept it later, which I guess is a plus. Anthony Hopkins reappears as Odin, lending some fatherly gravitas to the picture, while the strong supporting cast ties it all together.
Director Alan Taylor of Game of Thrones fame keeps the pace fast and breezy, but also envisages an Asgard that’s more lived in than Kenneth Branagh’s glossy take. The CGI is expectedly outstanding but there are also plenty of impressive practical effects and costumes on display. It’s just as shame that the story didn’t take a few more risks like Iron Man 3 did. Still, Thor: The Dark World stands as a hugely enjoyable experience but not a surprisingly novel one. Be sure to stay after the credits for two separate scenes which tease what’s to come (one mid-credits and one at the very end)!
The God of Thunder owes his brother Loki thanks for making this superhero sequel one to watch.