Director: Alan Taylor
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins, Christopher Eccleston, Idris Elba, Rene Russo, Kat Dennings
Written by: Christopher Yost, Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely, (story) Don Payne, Robert Rodat, (based on the characters created by) Stan Lee, Larry Lieber and Jack Kirby
Running Time: 112 mins
Release date: 30th October 2013
When Thor blasted onto the big screen a few years ago from the pages of Marvel’s comic books, it was a refreshing blend of mythology, fan boy action and lashings of wit. Then we got the excellent The Avengers and the Norse God Of Thunder fitted right in as a team player in the Superhero Universe. So expectations were incredibly high for Thor’s second solo outing, Thor: The Dark World. Unfortunately, by the end the high standard of work from his previous outings had come crashing down in a blockbuster lacking in real originality and really showing the shortcomings of the man with the hammer.
Before Odin and Thor ruled Asgard, a mighty war occurred between the Asgardians and Dark Elves of Svartálfaheimr, led by the malevolent Malekith, who longed to control a power source that would darken the known universe. Banished forever, the power source is hidden. A year after the battle of New York, Loki is imprisoned on Asgard and Thor is a step closer to replacing Odin as leader. Meanwhile, in London, scientist Jane Foster has discovered a portal that has led her to release the power source and so the banished Dark Elves leader wants it before the Nine Realms can inline. It’s a battle that Thor cannot fight alone and so must turn to an unlikely person for help.
Where Kenneth Branagh’s first film worked so well was not to have too much padding. We were given plenty of character development in a story that zipped along at a tremendous pace, while never having time for unnecessary flab. Here, director Alan Taylor has three distinctive acts: the first, a long and sometimes tedious explanation of things occurring, the second (and most interesting) involving Thor and Loki and the finale, which is confused and repetitive.
As we have come to expect from Marvel, the production values are very high, with Asgard looking amazing and the other sets, costumes and general look of the film being spot-on. What it does do is borrow/rip-off quite heavily from two of the biggest film franchises around, The Lord Of The Rings and Star Wars. The Elves look like rejects from Peter Jackson’s epic films and there’s even a large red eye-like creation within the baddies spacecraft. At one point, when Jane and Thor are on Asgard, I thought we had stumbled into the awful romantic scenes from Attack Of The Clones.
The plot is hardly original, another power source wanted by another bad guy. We’ve been here before. It also lacks any real character development to occur and so Thor becomes exactly as we have left him before, which is a huge shortcoming. It shows that as a stand-alone hero, he is rather bland and uninteresting. He works well with others, as a fish-out-of-water but as a solo act he is limited.
It doesn’t help that the usually difficult second act becomes the most fascinating when he is teamed up with his brother and old adversary, Loki, a character who has far more to offer both as a character and as a partner. The sad thing is, this is short-lived and then we move into the finale, by which point you have almost given up.
The cast all try valiantly to give the film some well needed energy but it’s not enough if the script isn’t delivering. Chris Hemsworth has become Thor and while the handles the action sequences well, the character has nowhere to go so it leaves him with nothing to do. Natalie Portman’s Jane gets a few comic moments but she spends most of the time either floating with blurred eyes or crashing down to the ground after having “an episode” with the power source. The romance between her and Thor has also become tiresome. Anthony Hopkins is his usual strong presence but Kat Dennings as Jane’s intern Kat has gone from mildly amusing in the first film to downright annoying here, having been given her own intern (yes we know he’s an intern, you keep telling us!) and Stellan Skarsgard’s scientific genius Dr Erik Selvig has become a confused mess with a habit of running around naked.
So once again it is up to Tom Hiddleston as Loki to bring the film some well needed life. His delivery is impeccable and his creation has developed so well that you are screaming out for his own stand-alone film.
I really wanted to like Thor: The Dark World, being such a huge fan of the whole Marvel Universe but this disappoints in so many ways. The humour is sorely lacking and when it does appear, it’s too little too late. The scenes in London are your usual tourist trappings you’d expect from a Hollywood blockbuster (a scene on the Underground is amusing but factually wrong) and the final just goes on and on and on with the same thing being thrown at you.
If there is to be a continuation of the Thor world, then it will have to find something far more interesting than just rehashing old story-lines from other Marvel films. Give him a decent partner and he flies. Leave him to his own devices and he is a crushing bore. That’s what has happened here.