Review: Thor: The Dark World (2013)

Thor must put his differences aside with his brother when he discovers evil Malekith is planning to take over the universe.

You can’t keep a good Avenger away for long. Two years after his first outing, and one year after the team extravaganza, Thor keeps up his consecutive yearly appearances by storming out of 2013’s summer blockbusters. As expected, this is a glorious SFX-fest but would even the gods tire of a good thing?

Chris Hemsworth returns as the God of Thunder, this time to save not only our world but his own.  Most of the cast from the original follow; Natalie Portman and Stellan Skarsgård, as scientists Jane Foster and Erik Selvig, both now in London, and Tom Hiddleston and Anthony Hopkins, as brother Loki and father Odin, amongst others. They face an old enemy of the universe, the Dark Elves, led by evil Malekith (Christopher Eccleston), intent on conquering every planet. It becomes even more personal for Thor when Jane Foster becomes possessed with the power to help them. But with the combined forces of our scientists and friendly gods, there is hope for us all.

The film begins with a ten minute introductory sequence giving the back story of our main antagonist, and for a sequel introducing an unheard of villain in this way, it is all very uninspiring. In fact, everything is all lightweight – including the occasional Lord of the Rings-type fight scenes – until the aftermath of the raid of Asgard by the bad guys, as it results in Loki being asked for help. “You must be truly desperate to come to me for help” is his response. This sort of sounds like the character talking to the writers; how Loki manages to have all his despicable ways quickly put aside (that formed the basis of Avengers Assemble and the first Thor) is tenuous to say the least. A similar problem is how he and his adopted mother (Rene Russo) have somehow developed a lifelong bond between instalments.

Then there are the comparisons to Man of Steel, one being how this delves into the realms of sci-fi quite heavily, setting itself on Thor’s world for the majority of the time. The appeal of superheroes has always been to see their capabilities in the real world, how they would be treated. There’s a human element to it. Yet when, as it does here, they spend more than half the time in a fantasy planet, the mystery and interest is removed.

That’s not to say there’s no enjoyment; the end battle is similar to 2008’s Jumper but on a much bigger scale, and it’s always delightful to watch Hiddleston play Loki. Kat Dennings, returning as Portman’s sidekick Darcy, also just about manages to sit on the right side of the annoyance border, which can only be a good thing.

You could argue the imbalanced tone unsettles the flow, with the seriousness of Malekith (no surprise there as played by Eccleston) being jarred by the playful one-liners of Darcy (again no surprise given it’s Dennings). However, at the end of the day it’s about a race of Norse gods using medieval swords to defend themselves while having highly advanced technology. You just have to sit back and appreciate this for what it is; there’s no use in making sense of anything.

Thor: The Dark World is an unsubstantiated pleasure – it looks the part and is an improvement over its predecessor in the visual department. But it sorely misses Kenneth Branagh’s directorial gravitas, resulting in a hollow, unoriginal viewing experience. Greenwich as a battleground looks very cool though.

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