In the tradition of most sequels, Thor: The Dark World unsurprisingly darkens and dirties up the universe we visited in 2011’s cheerier and smaller scale first film. We are firstly introduced to the Dark Elves of Svartalheim, one of the Nine Realms in a somewhat protracted prologue detailing the history of Malekith (Christopher Eccleston), leader of the Dark Elves and said to be older than the universe itself. Malekith is bent on destroying the universe using powerful dark matter called the Aether and wages war on Asgard only to be defeated by Odin’s (Anthony Hopkins) father Bor. Thousands of years later, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) finds the Aether, awakening the dormant and vengeful Malekith…
While Thor: The Dark World is certainly a shade or two darker than it’s predecessor, resembling a real sci-fi epic and putting all characters in mortal peril, it not only retains the humour of the first film and Avengers Assemble but possibly exceeds them too. Weighing in at a trim and lean 112 minutes it’s packed to bursting point with some neat action sequences, laughter, tears and thrills galore but its true strength lies in its characters. Predictably it is Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and his naughty brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) that command our attention above all others and Hemsworth and Hiddleston were born to play these roles. Hiddleston is full of malice and mischief but there has always been more to Loki than villainy alone and the British actor does inner turmoil and ambiguity to Shakespearean levels. But Loki needs a foil and Hemsworth’s Thor is more than up to the task. Their moments together onscreen are electrifying and while Portman is perfectly sweet and charming as the object of Thor’s love there are moments when the audience just want her to step aside and leave the brothers to it.
More of a worry is the length of time awarded to the irritating Darcy (Kat Dennings; doing her best with an annoying part), a character created for the first film who appears to be around to spout one liners that miss more than they hit. For a Thor film to dedicate more time to a mediocre, unnecessary character than the Lady Sif (Jamie Alexander), The Warriors Three (Ray Stevenson, Zachary Levi and Tadanobu Asano whose Hogun is shoved off world, out of sight and out of the action) and Idris Elba’s Heimdall feels misguided. Shoddy treatment for such important characters in the Marvel Universe, it’s a real shame that what should become an epic love triangle between Thor, Jane and Sif is swept under the carpet keeping comic book fans undernourished.
Stellan Skarsgard returns as Dr. Erik Selvig and gets the lion share of Earthbound laughs and back on Asgard Rene Russo gets to be both graceful and badass as Thor and Loki’s mum, Frigga. Yes, even with a name like Frigga she manages to be classy. Hopkins continues to be the perfect Odin, wise, brave and bit scary when he has a ‘Dad shout.’ As villain Malekith, Eccelston is unrecognisable, buried beneath a mountain of make-up and prosthetics but manages to convey the requisite menace and spite required for the leader of the Dark Elves. Faring less well is poor Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje who spends most of the film wearing a giant helmet and growling.
A veteran of quality television such as Game of Thrones, Six Feet Under and Boardwalk Empire, director Alan Taylor makes an arresting feature debut here, marshalling a good degree of humanity amongst the fantastical elements and whenever the film looks as if it may get bogged down in exposition he manages to rescue proceedings keeping it a trim and action packed affair. London and Greenwich in particular are used extremely well and it’s about time action on Earth left the US for excursion to our shores. Our capital city is enormously cinematic and seeing the God of Thunder knocking about Greenwich feels entirely natural.
Fans should be aware that there are not one but two stings at the end of the film so stick around until the very end. While Thor: The Dark World may not be flawless it’s a hugely entertaining addition to Marvel’s pantheon and sits very comfortably next to the first film and Avengers Assemble.