Thor: The Dark World

Thor: The Dark World

(M) Disney/Marvel DVD/BD & Digital Download

The guy with the mallet with the hard to pronounce name and very well developed upper torso is at it again in the sequel to the original film.

One of the problems with the Marvel series of films is that although they link with each other there is nothing consistent about them. With the release of The Avengers last year, the studio established a roster of stars who worked well together as a team to keep Earth free of the invading hordes.

With its stand-alone films however Marvel have another problem altogether. How do you sideline the Marvel-verse characters in a continuing story? As Thor battles to keep the nine worlds from converging and causing a cataclysmic event, where are the Avengers? On holidays?

So this is the problem faced by all these stand alone films from now on, it needs to ignore the “universe” it operates in. Captain America sequel The Winter Soldier due out in April next year will no doubt suffer from the same problem.

Alan Taylor’s follow-up to Kenneth Branagh’s 2011 original retains its predecessor’s sense of fun, lacing its fantasy sci-fi plot (evil elves plotting the Nine Realms’ destruction with the help of ancient material called Aether) and sober interludes (a Viking-style funeral) with some witty gags (Thor takes the Tube! Stellan Skarsgard naked at Stonehenge!) and a flock of cameos (one inevitable, the other humourously unexpected).

Try as the film might to introduce tension and drama however, it can’t get past Thor himself — an unvanquishable deity from Asgard who wields lightning with a flying hammer. It is interesting that Thor’s misguided foster brother Loki (played by Tom Hiddleston) is the most interesting character in these films. He has genuine motivation for his gripes, while the golden-haired Thor has taken all the kudos and is in line for the throne. In every scene without him, the film feels his absence. In fact it feels like the film really gets going when Loki is back in the game in the films’ final third.

By contrast Chris Hemsworth’s Thor is all well-developed biceps and bluster but strangely is sidelined by the sheer number of characters in this film. Hemsworth has always done well with the slightly silly concept of a viking-like god with a cape and he is able to balance the comic lines well. He is still outclassed by Hiddleston though.

The first film was able to balance the Shakespearean tone well, with the fish-out-of-water origin story and juggling Asgard and Earth scenes much better than it does here. The humour often feels tacked on and obligatory. Case in point is go-to funny guy Chris O’Dowd who is criminally underused and who gets only a couple of scenes to lighten the tone, but it adds nothing to the overall story. Ditto for Kat Dennings, fresh from the first movie and two seasons of 2 Broke Girls. Her comic scenes almost need to be followed by a boom-tish sound effect.

Christopher Eccleston is wasted as Malekith, the head of the Dark Elves. Unrecognisable in make-up his villain is almost as toothless as the cartoon villains in The Avengers. Even as Malekith has his eyes on the Convergence of the Nine Realms to obliterate them all, you can’t help but think little else in the film is aligned so well.

In the end the film feels a little like a mash up of spectacular battle scenes, tacked on humourous moments and familial reconciliation scenes.

Marvel-verse fans are advised to not make for the exit as soon as the end credits start rolling and stick it out until the very end if they want to see a postscript that reveals a character who may prove central to the next film. Indeed, the end credits have two Easter-egg scenes, in keeping with the trickle of in-jokes aimed at Marvel aficionados that provides a flash-quick cameo for one of Thor’s superhero companions from The Avengers.

Adrian Drayton

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