t h o r : t h e d a r k w o r l d
30th October 2013
Hemsworth & Hiddleston
29th October 2013
Ah, the ever expanding world of Marvel. No other super-franchise (for want of a better phrase) dedicates so much time to cross pollination. From small cameos after the credits to full on assemblies, you’re always aware that what you’re watching is part of a universe. And so it is with the latest in the canon.
I’m not a huge aficionado of the aforementioned universe. I’ve seen all the applicable movies and generally enjoyed all of them but I really can’t say I’ve bought into the whole thing. Part of this may be my advancing years and part of it may just be that I’ve never really engaged with the comics that most of them are based on. More than ever during Thor: The Dark World, I started to think that I was missing out on a whole other side of this universe. I have definitely seen the original Thor but for the life of me i can’t remember much about it, I suspect I probably should have gone back to re-watch it before getting involved in the sequel.
Picking up where the original left off, we find Thor (Hemsworth) back in his world attempting to bring peace to the nine realms, whilst resisting his parents subtle hints that he should maybe give up on his mortal girlfriend and get with a nice Asgardian lady. His troublesome brother Loki (Hiddleston) meanwhile is safely tucked up in the kind of prison that only exists in movies; neat, tidy, and containing not one toilet. Back on earth, scientist and mortal love interest Sarah Frost (Portman) is knocking around East London poking her beak into anomalies discovered by the local youths. Chief scientist Erik Helvig (Skarsgard) has gone a bit off the rails and is arrested for hassling tourists naked at Stonehenge whilst waving some scientific instruments. Frost accidentally absorbs some bad stuff and Thor soon retrieves her from Earth as the bad guys come looking for the bad stuff.
If none of that really makes any sense to you, well, it didn’t to me either and it probably means you weren’t paying proper attention to the first film. How much difference this makes to your enjoyment of this instalment will depend on how willing you are to just go along with the slightly fractured first third of the movie. I did start to lose patience about the halfway mark but given my subsequent enjoyment of the rest of the movie, I’m more inclined to think this is maybe my failing rather than the movie’s.
For me though, the second half of this movie is far more of a ride than the first. It seems to take an age to get to the good stuff and by that I mean the point where Tom Hiddleston’s wonderfully conniving Loki is released to assist his brother (for reasons I won’t go into for fear of spoiler). Once Loki is out of the bag, the film really hits its stride. The Marvel universe is one of the few super-hero universes that has a genuine sense of humour and for a super-hero movie, this one at times is laugh out loud funny. In truth, that probably sits a little at odds with the overall universe threatening theme but I thoroughly enjoyed the humour in this. Hiddleston is at the centre of most of it. His Loki is superbly devious, a character you would absolutely not trust but one that gets all the best lines all delivered with sly, grounded humour. Hemsworth also gets to deliver some amusing scenes, his deadpan delivery working perfectly for the ridiculous situations his god finds himself in.
The chaos and destruction visited on Greenwich is impressive to behold but at times does look a little like a section from a Dr Who episode, the dark elf foot soldiers are reminiscent of Cybermen, all be it more agile. Sections of the dark elf attack on Asgard are tediously Star Wars - esq (and not the good Star Wars) as razor sharp spaceships weave in and out of old-world style buildings defying the barrage of laser fire slung at them. The Star Wars comparisons continue once the ships land and the bad guys come out pinging lasers at the baffling old-skool armour and shields of the Asgard troops.
In terms of cast, pretty much everybody shows up on form. Hemsworth is the consummate Thor and as mentioned above, Hiddleston outshines everybody as Loki. Portman is relatively quiet as Frost and Skarsgard has great fun with what is effectively a cameo role, bouncing around in his underpants for all he’s worth. Jamie Alexander is tragically wasted as girlfriend of choice (for the parents anyway) Sif, though hopefully she’ll carve more of a role in future instalments (hinted at in the traditional post credits sketch). It’s great to see Rene Russo back on screen as Thor’s hard as nails mum and Anthony Hopkins dispenses wisdom as is required as the king.
Christopher Eccleston struggles to make his dark elf Malekith stand out but it's not really his fault. Malekith feels more like a Maguffin in this movie than anything else. He's required to get the conflict going but the script doesn't offer him any room for growth. Visually resembling one of Star Trek's many villains, you won't spend a lot of time considering his fate. And finally there is even space for a brilliantly funny cameo from Chris O’Dowd as Frost’s hapless date, making possibly the first trans-dimensional mobile call at just the right moment. I’m willing to bet he’s not on EE.
Thor: The Dark World is not without its faults. The first half of the movie takes too long to get running and I’m sure if i spent the time on it, I’d come up with half a dozen plot holes and at least one too many convenient contrivances but it would be wrong to concentrate on the flaws. This is a proper blockbuster and it wears that badge proudly. Massive in every sense (not just Hemsworth’s pecs - honestly, there were girls actually gasping out loud during the press screening), the movie does more than enough right to make you forgive its issues.
In Hemsworth and Hiddleston Marvel has two superb leads that share a fantastic on screen chemistry, with those two are on screen, the movie really soars. Outright hilarious (in the right way) in places, The Dark World is happy not to take itself too seriously and pulls itself up at exactly the right times. The sight of Thor catching the Tube will particularly delight London viewers, even though they will of course realise that you can't get from Charing Cross to Greenwich in three stops. The 3D is, as ever, entirely redundant but that didn’t stop my enjoyment. If you’re not up to speed on the Marvel universe, I’d recommend taking the time to watch the original Thor and Avengers Assemble before taking this on as that will increase your enjoyment here. But either way, if you're looking for a blockbuster worthy of the title, this will do you nicely. Thor as a series will never quite be up to Iron Man , the character is just not as charismatic, but I have to admire Marvel's holistic approach to their Avengers based movies and this one definitely adds to the universe. The Collector will no doubt be on our screens in the not too distant future and I very much look forward to it.
Check out the trailer here.