Review – Thor: The Dark World Is Just Too Much Fun
It’s sort of fitting that the first main player seen in Thor: The Dark World is Loki.
While Chris Hemsworth is note perfect as the Prince of Asgard, it’s Tom Hiddleston that really burst out of Thor. Hiddleston has a charisma that is essential to making the God of Mischief so much fun while feeling so dangerous at the same time. While much of Thor: The Dark World is enjoyable, it’s at it’s best when Loki is sneaking around being dry and sarcastic and it really takes off when Hiddleston and Hemsworth get to bounce off each other.
Courtesy of another Anthony Hopkins voiceover we learn that thousands of years ago the world was covered in darkness. After a gruelling battle the darkness and those wielding it were defeated and source of the darkness was hidden. I’ll give you three guesses as to where.
Thor: The Dark World improves on Thor in almost every way. I say almost, because it still has some major problems that keep it from being great, but the highs are too much fun to ignore and once again Marvel prove they’ve got this blockbuster malarkey worked out and then some.
One of the most important things that The Dark World does right immediately is present Asgard as an actual place. In Thor I had trouble believing that more than eight people lived there but here, gone are the cramped sets and the Realm Eternal finally feels like a kingdom. Soldiers train, children play and Asgardians bustle about doing, I don’t know, Asgardy things. This is crucial because when the proverbial hits the fan you feel the damage, Asgard feels like somebody’s home.
The whole aesthetic of this world, in fact, is just beautiful in how pulpy it is. It’s halfway between fantasy and sci fi, so scores of warriors fight with swords and then fly off in spaceships shooting lasers at each other.The events of the first film left the realms in chaos so this installment begins with Asgardian forces policing the various worlds. While the realms basically just break down to foresty realm, icy realm and sandy realm it’s fun seeing this mythology expand and fill out. There’s a great moment near the beginning of the film where Thor enters one particular fray and we get to see how the villains of the galaxy react to The God of Thunder showing up looking for a fight. This is where Thor: The Dark World really comes into it’s own and director Alan Taylor does an amazing job building on what Kenneth Branagh and his team did. Here Taylor makes the jump from TV to film look incredibly easy. There is a sombre sequence at the midway point that’s possibly the most beautiful work yet in a Marvel Studios film.
It’s the earthbound stuff that drags the film down. Natalie Portman, Kat Dennings and Stellan Skarsgard have fun reprising their roles but it really is just fluff. This is where the film relies on humour to disguise the fact that nothing of worth is happening. The humans are here to deliver and receive exposition and it’s a testament to the aforementioned actors that their scenes aren’t completely unbearable.
The relationship between Thor and Jane Foster remains the least convincing romance in cinema and it’s an issue that constantly threatens to sink the film. Everything that goes pear shaped is a result of Jane’s actions and Thor’s alleged love for her. The main thrust of the narrative depends on you buying this love but it’s about as believable as the lightning summoning hammer Thor throws about. Natalie Portman deserves a better character than this. Lip service is made to her being a scientist but she’s a woman completely defined by her attraction to a man with enormous pecs. Peggy Carter and Steve Rogers’ relationship remains the most touching and engaging romance in the Marvel films and that this film couldn’t do the same for these star crossed lovers is disappointing.
Equally disappointing is the film’s big bad, Malekith the Accursed. Loki aside, Marvel seems to have trouble really nailing it’s villains. Malekith wants to cover the universe in darkness. And that’s the end of his motivation. He’s about as interesting as one of the nameless Chitauri that littered the Avengers. It’s a shame because Christopher Eccleston is a great actor (as is the equally wasted Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje playing his enormous henchman Kurse) but he’s just given nothing to do. Having said that, Malekith’s plan is basically the same as the Red Skull’s, but at least Hugo Weaving managed to inject a bit of life into the character. Malekith is a complete nothing.
But shoddy romance and shoddier villain aside Thor is just too much fun to resist. The action is better, the humour works better and the emotional beats land better. Phase 2 really is flying at us and with Cap 2 and Guardians of the Galaxy coming it looks like it’s only going to get better.
Also stick around for the credits. There’s an important one halfway through and a useless one at the end.