The second sequel in Phase Two of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe is an enjoyable, if predictable superhero romp. Marvel studios has an uncanny ability to churn out hit after hit with the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and have yet to produce an entirely bad film. Thor: The Dark World is no exception to that rule. There are wonderful performances and thrilling set pieces but the plot and screenplay have inconsistencies and a lack of ambition that keep it firmly in mediocre superhero film territory.”
After the events of Avengers Assemble, Asgard is in a tentative peace. Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is in prison and the other realms have been quelled by Thor and the Asgard army after a brief rebellion. Meanwhile in London, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) is coming to terms with Thor’s absence. She and Darcy (Kat Dennings) discover an anomaly called ‘the convergence’ where she is able to enter another realm where a powerful weapon called the ‘Aether’ has been hidden for hundreds of year. This discovery awakens the Dark Elves, led by Malekith (Christopher Eccelstone) who has revenge in store for the Asgardians and the other realms.
Thor: The Dark World is a perfectly adequate continuation of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It has effective action sequences and a plot that moves along at breakneck speed. However, there is something all the familiar and predictable at work that makes the film utterly disposable. This is a paint-by-numbers superhero movie. The almost comedic screenplay has tonal inconsistencies that take away from a perfectly entertaining romp. The Marvel films have never threatened to veer into the tone of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy or Man of Steel but there is an uncharacteristic array of glib one-liners that are distracting. The fingerprints of Avengers Assemble director Joss Whedon (who allegedly was brought in to oversee some of the production) are very apparent here, which may have stifled (Game of Thrones director) Alan Taylor’s plans for a more stripped down, grittier take on the character. For instance, a scene with emotional weight is immediately followed by Stellan Skarsgard in his underpants in a silly and unnecessary lampoon. One can only wonder that if the film-makers don’t take these more dramatic events seriously – how is the audience expected to? There are no real stakes raised and any dramatic tension is immediately quashed. That being said, there is an irresistible pleasure in seeing the God of Thunder crammed in the front seat of a Volvo and hanging up Mjolnir on a coat rack.
Furthermore, the film is shepherded by a wonderful cast. Hemsworth has a charismatic screen presence and is perfect in the titular role. Anthony Hopkins too is seamless in his role as Odin. Hopkins brings much needed gravitas to the movie and is given much more to do than the original. Odin and the Asgard Empire have become almost tyrants in their oppressive quest to pacify the other realms. Hopkins has the ability to convey these complexities and gives the movie another layer of depth.
Tom Hiddleston however, is the real star of the movie. Loki is the only villain in the modern comic genre to have room to develop a character over three films. This is by far the best outing for the God of Mischief. He is a complicated Machiavellian who is no longer the snarling, megalomaniacal carton villain from The Avengers. Hiddleston clearly relishes playing the role and the fun the English actor is having is evident onscreen. Loki is a character whose motivations and actions are ambiguous and unpredictable which is nailed perfectly by Hiddleston. Less so is Christopher Eccelstone’s Malekith who is competently intimidating but complete devoid of depth or real motivation.
Another disappointment is Brian Tyler’s score, which is another action adventure score that is wholly unmemorable. Regrettably, the romantic and jarring theme by Patrick Doyle in the original Thor is thrown out despite being one of the more impressive superhero themes in recent memory.
The model set by the Avengers and Iron Man 3 is obviously what we can expect from the next instalments of the Marvel films. There are two post-credit Easter eggs which Marvel fans will want to remain firmly in their seats for which has become a staple of attending these movies. Producer and Marvel head honcho Kevin Feige has seen the balance of action with funny one-liners and visual gags set by Whedon and is reproducing this formula to recapture that mass appeal. That being said, the movie is fun enough not to be boring. One can only hope that we can get something more from the rest of The Avengers.