Faced with an enemy that even Odin and Asgard cannot withstand, Thor must embark on his most perilous and personal journey yet, one that will reunite him with Jane Foster and force him to sacrifice everything to save us all.
As Thor: The Dark World begins, a sinking feeling starts to set in. The films epilogue introduces the background for the film, and by now it all feels rote. The epic battle, the evil fantasy race, the magical Macguffin. By now these are superhero cliches. We’ve seen these elements in the Hellboy series, The Avengers, and Man of Steel , but never before have they been so obvious or have they seemed so tiresome. Thor: The Dark World gets better from here on in, but generally it is all a standard superhero fare.
Marvel seem to have hit upon a formula with their Avengers franchises. An almost precise mixture of comedy and drama which has perhaps perfected in the Iron Man films, and has had mixed success elsewhere. The original Thor balanced these facets quite well. Thor: The Dark World doesn’t do so quite successfully. The drama is certainly there but the humour often falls flat. This is most telling in Natalie Portman’s first scene, where we find her on a date with Chris O’Dowd. Portman (who is not exactly known for her comedic acting) delivers a few lines that simply bomb, and when Chris O’Dowd can’t inject humour into a scene you know he is working with very little. Kat Denning, who was pretty amusing in the first film is borderline annoying here. The humour only starts to pick up when Tom Hiddleston’s Loki shows up.
Indeed the same can be said about the film in general. The first half an hour or more, in which Hiddleston plays little to no part, is mostly exposition, and sets up the rather uninteresting romance between Jane and Thor. When Hiddleston does start to come into the story, everything picks up. He delivers lines that would otherwise be unfunny in such a mischievous manner that it is almost impossible not to at least chuckle. The drama also picks up in these moments. Loki is by far the most interesting character on screen, though not altogether consistent, he is infinitely more complex than the likes of Thor, who unfortunately has nowhere in which to develop as a character. Hiddleston’s influence is so beneficial that it is telling when he is off screen. This time is often spent waiting for his next appearance which sometimes is simply too long away.
Loki’s prominence is perhaps a good indication that the film is really lacking a strong villain. Christopher Eccleston is given very little to do as the dark elf Malekith, most of his dialogue being in an alien language. However, Eccleston’s experience playing villains still shines through. Though the character is little more than a stock antagonist, Eccleston manages to instil some level malevolent energy to the role.
Overall the set pieces and story entertain enough to keep the audience’s attention through the film’s runtime. The final set-piece has Thor and Eccleston jumping between various worlds as they battle it out. It is a conceit that helps to keep the action fresh and interesting, and makes for a stand-out scene. There is also no denying that the film is a beautiful one. The world and character design is excellent and no doubt takes a page from Guillermo Del Toro’s book, and the world he created for Hellboy.
Thor: The Dark World is nothing more than a serviceable sequel to the much superior original. In truth it is not much more than a cash in on the popularity of the Avengers franchise. There is no real reason for this film to have been made, and nothing to set it apart from any of the multitude of superhero films. However, as these things go, it is still an enjoyable enough experience. It is certainly much better than the second entry in the Iron Man series. Let’s hope Thor 3 is as successful as Iron Man’s second sequel.