Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddlestone
Genre: Blockbuster/Superhero silliness
As The Convergence, the rare every thousand year’s occurrence of all of the Nine Realms aligning bares nearer (bare with me here), this is the chance for the leader of the thought dead dark elves of Svartalfheim, Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) to gain the power of a mysterious entity known as ‘Aether’ and plunge the entire universe back into darkness. Still there? Good. With the threatened destruction of the entire universe, the lives of Thor (Hemsworth) on Asgard and Jane Foster (Portman) on earth are once again intertwined and to prevent the universe from being apparently destroyed, Thor must also reluctantly enlist the help of his disgraced brother Loki (Hiddlestone) and all three must make a perilous journey and sacrifice everything. Or something like that. Oh, and Anthony Hopkins, Rene Russo, Idris Elba and Stellan Skarsgård are involved in there somewhere
That may sound like a daft plot; well it is. However, in a time where it seems fashionable for all our favourite super heroes to go down increasingly dark and moody paths, Thor: The Dark World almost serves as a perfect antidote to these. For me it is all that you would want from a film featuring the God of Thunder, moody elves, dark matter that can apparently destroy worlds, bright coloured CGI all over the screen, Idris Elba wearing a silly hat and Stellan Skarsgård in his pants (!).
Taking over from Kenneth Branagh, Game of Thrones director Alan Taylor seems to know what he is doing and has created a film that is tonally judged very well in my view. Not to say the film doesn’t get dark when it needs to; there are romping stomping battle scenes under dark thundering skies that certainly get as gritty as the 12a certificate allows and all the usual action film clichés (vengeance, noble deaths, fulfilling prophecies etc.). Rest assured though, a silly one liner or visual gag is never too far away, and all this is done well, keeping a surprisingly good balance to proceedings. With a silly and ridiculous but at the same time outrageously complex at times plot, and action set pieces never far around the next corner, the just fewer than two hours running time quite simply flies by.
The fact TDW has at least five writers involved and there were apparently a plethora of re-shoots is quite obvious as the fact is that as the plot gets increasingly sillier it also has holes as big as the ones that transport our characters from world to world. The final action set piece is as bonkers as it is nonsensical, but none of this seems to matter mainly down to the fact that those involved, and us the audience are having so much fun.
Hemsworth, in what is his third outing now, has certainly made the role his own to create a very likeable (if a little two dimensional) character as well as demonstrating surprisingly good comic timing. However, despite this being his film (well, he is the title) he simply cannot compete with Tom Hiddlestone’s Loki. Obviously enjoying playing the (British) bad guy role with outrageous relish, Hiddlestone is a magnetic and charismatic screen presence, pretty much stealing every scene he is in. This may be partly down to the fact he is the only character with any thought out depth, but it is a character that sadly feels underused. The few scenes Thor and Loki do share are superbly written and the two bickering chalk and cheese brothers share exceptional chemistry as they escape Asgard to Svartalfheim as reluctant allies. When we have not seen Loki for a while though, we do miss him.
With the testosterone of Hemsworth, the slithering of an only slightly recognisable Ecclestone, constant shifting between worlds and bright coloured CGI all over the place, the other characters are pretty much left sidelined and tend to turn up when the plot requires it. Portman, for example, though vital to the plot as it is conventionality her that stumbles across this ‘Aether’ that Malekith so badly craves, is essentially there as a damsel in distress and given very little do but look helpless. Likewise King Odin (Anthony Hopkins) Heimdall (Idris Elba) and Thor’s Asgard mates are treated as very disposable. Back on earth, when not running around Stonehenge naked, Stellan Skarsgård is there towards the end to provide inexplicable, but vital to the plot and survival of the universe, science. When he turns up it is one of an abundance of those “oh of course” or “that is very bloody convenient” plot points, but when done with so much vigour and audacity at such a break neck speed, it is all perfectly forgivable.
Also expect the usual cameos (one expected, one not so much; but both good fun) and a scene during (set up for the next film, “is that who I think it is?”) and after the credits (pointless and not worth the wait, but they know we will sit through the credits anyway, bastards!).
Mad, audacious, O.T.T. and more than a little flawed, but made with an emphasis on fun; Thor: The Dark World will not win any awards for solid character development or well thought out great story telling, but while so many other comic book heroes try to go all serious, this is pure popcorn pleasure.