Director: Alan Taylor
Writers: Christopher Yost, Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins, Christopher Eccleston, Jamie Alexander, Zachary Levi, Idris Elba, Kat Dennings
Running time: 120 minutes
Asgardian god Thor (Hemsworth) returns from battling aliens in New York to bring peace to the nine realms which are at war, but when evil dark elf Malekith (Eccleston) returns from years in exile to bring darkness to the universe, he must call on his villainous brother Loki (Hiddleston) for help in stopping him.
As we begin entering phase two of The Avengers’ solo adventures, we in turn enter into bigger, wilder territory. Iron Man aside, who has already completed his trilogy of films, Thor is the first of the heroes to surface after the events of Joss Whedon’s The Avengers. The first task assigned to each of them is to give reason for not calling on the other Avengers for help when faced with a crisis, after they patently all worked so well together. The Dark World isn’t interested in spending too much time dealing with such wrap-up duties, quickly explaining things away through throwaway lines exchanged between a reunited Thor and Jane while they race to get on with the plot in hand – and what a riotous plot it is.
There’s a distinct air of The Lord Of The Rings permeating throughout as we open straight into an epic historical prologue which encapsulates the events of ages past that have ultimately led to the events of this particular adventure. Everything is about how this thing happened to that guy during the battle of so-and-so which caused this thing to happen and that thing to be locked away in that dungeon and so on and so on. Even when we get to an early battle sequence there’s a definite Legolas-Gimli dynamic going on between Thor and Sif (strangely unused in a potentially potent love triangle) as they argue over whose kill is whose. Clearly it’s trying hard to distance itself from the corporeal Earth-set adventures of Iron Man, Captain America and The Avengers, and remind us that Thor is actually a god.
Yet the script still spends a lot of time on Earth, and more specifically, in London. Presumably thanks to tax-breaks , the UK capital is once again the center of a 2013 blockbuster, though writers Yost, Markus and McFeely would have us believe it’s because Jane and Darcy’s equipment has picked up a strange signal in the capital that could well be some kind of wormhole. In ways it’s nice seeing London at the center of attention, but I never quite believe it in such a big sci-fi blockbuster as this. I’m sorry to all those who laughed hysterically, but Thor, the god of thunder, riding the tube, is just a bit silly. Mind you, that’s probably the silliest thing in a film which is being painted with extremely broad comedic strokes. Humour in a Marvel film is fine; it’s welcome and we expect it, yet here they perhaps should have wiped the knife on the edge of the jar just a little more. At every turn there’s a new gag, another joke, something silly. It’s fine dotted throughout, but it gradually grew to the point where it actually became burdensome; too obvious in its attempts to rub our funny bones, feeling more like a comedy than a superhero film.
Chris Hemsworth, stepping back into the role he seems born to play, remains great as Thor, and is surrounded by a brilliant cast of both newcomers and returners. Jane Foster, missed from The Avengers, is back as Thor’s romantic counterpart with a rather meaty and pivotal role, and Christopher Eccleston is wonderful as the bad guy Malekith, even if his excellent turn isn’t enough to give the character real potency. He feels dangerous, but never a genuine threat.
The Dark World is a perfectly fun and enjoyable entry into the Marvel canon, but it’s less impressive and interesting than it probably should be, and certainly less surprising than the first one. The script plays for broad laughs when it should play for subtle wit, but all things considered this is a solid piece of popcorn fodder that places the God Of Thunder in line for a welcome reunion with The Avengers.