Topping The Avengers (or Avengers Assemble, if you must) was never going to be easy, and there’s no doubt Thor: The Dark World lives in the shadow of the events of the biggest grossing superhero flick of all time, but at least it has a really good go.
The gang’s all here: Thor, Loki, Odin…and Natalie Portman – OK, Jane Foster… Overall the cast performs well but it’s difficult to be sold by a supposedly highly intelligent scientist who things it’s a good idea, when she finds herself in a random place in the middle of nowhere, to touch the strange goo-like red substance which is moving around of its own accord.
Anthony Hopkins earns his place returning as Odin, bringing a reminder of how great power and the weary of war can change great men into the very thing they despise. Really it’s his wife Frigga (Rene Russo) who steals the show in the briefest of moments and she shows her true colours as more than just a queen.
Of the characters, most supporting players, such as Kat Dennings’ Darcy, get a decent amount of screen time and some good laughs or at least justify themselves. Sadly it’s the villain, unrecognisably played by Christopher Eccleston, who has no depth or complexity to him – you’d think after hanging around for 5000 years or more he’d have something interesting to say but there is no character beyond raw emotion.
More than once, the film strays close to the feeling of the original Star Wars films. There’s a villain who speaks with wrath, is pale and wields great power, his dark servant who does his bidding without question and the feeling of the torch being past between the wise old man and the youngster who stands up to evil despite massive odds.
This is not necessarily a bad thing, in fact the parrallels with themes such as magic and space together, the frantic lazer battles juxtaposing the more traditional aspects of life on Asguard. Unfortunately there isn’t the same driving narrative surging through the film, and with Thor’s own lessons learned in the first film – little to encourage you to grow with the character.
What is a fantastic though is that the film has all the humour, all the action and, best of all, Loki. Since the first film, Tom Hiddleston has taken Loki on a journey which broke out of Thor into the Avengers, and now struggles to fit back in. For much of the plot he is sidelined, confined to the dungeons out of sight.
Despite this – every single time you see him on screen you are entertained. He is gifted with the best lines, the best timing and the strongest emotional story arc of any character. He could have been used more, think of the role of Gene Hackman in Superman II, but the team were cautious and merely held him back – setting things up for fireworks in Thor 3.
The story has some fun twists and turns, and even gives Idris Elba a chance to shine as we know he can (another character who deserves to go further in the next instalment), but overall plays it safe.
The end result is a really really good film, but not quite as high as the standard set by so many Marvel flicks brought out over the past few years. Thor is a strong character, and Chris Hemsworth brings him to life brilliantly, but his sheer spectacle makes him the most un-relatable Marvel hero, and so it is more difficult to connect with the film.
In all Thor: The Dark World isn’t the moody sequel you might expect in this post-Dark Knight world, ironically it’s actually more comedic than the first film, but it does tick all the boxes for fans of both action films and comic book tales.
If you’re in the mood for a great film, this is a solid choice, but if you are looking for something unforgettable, you’ll be left wanting.
James Michael Parry