I have to admit when I heard the title Marvel had chosen for their follow-up to 2011’s Thor, alarm bells immediately started ringing. The Dark World seemed to imply a grim tone and the announcement that the director would be a regular helmer from the Game of Thrones TV series re-affirmed this belief. This didn’t sit well with me as the first movie’s charm and lightness were its biggest assets. Thankfully, Thor: The Dark World succeeds in expanding the Marvel universe without losing the humour and fun that made its predecessor such a treat.
• Director: Alan Taylor
• Exhibition: 2D
• Rating: 12A
• Run Time: 112 mins
Akin to the first movie, Anthony Hopkin’s Odin delivers the opening exposition, detailing his own father’s defeat of the ancient Dark Elves. Unfortunately, Bor was deceived into thinking their leader, Malekith, also perished in the battle. Instead, his plan to destroy the known universe was merely put on hold until the power he was going to use to achieve this aim – the Aether – is re-activated; and wouldn’t you know it, that time is now. When we meet Thor, he is restoring order to the Nine Realms, which was thrown into chaos by Loki’s actions. However, when the Dark Elves make their presence known, he has to take action to save his homeland.
Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston continue to charm the proverbial pants off of the audience. Despite the clear love the audience has for Hiddleston, Taylor avoids overexposing Loki – with the characters not meeting until almost an hour into the movie; but when they do, their verbal sparring and an interesting cameo provide lots of laughs. The supporting cast are mostly on-form too, though Hopkins and Portman could have put a bit more effort in.
Taylor manages not to fall into the trap that many other big movies seem to – namely, outstaying its welcome. At a relatively brisk 112 minutes, The Dark World trundles along at a steady pace, with the right amount of set-pieces and character moments to keep the audience engaged. He also manages to ground the visual effects. For instance, the opening prologue is saturated in CG imagery but I never felt jaded by it.
The only real hitch in proceedings is the script. While the dialogue is filled with humour and quips, the plot seems to have gone through a few revisions. This is normal on movies like this – but there are a number of items left up in the air, like a possible love-triangle between Thor, Portman’s Jane Foster character and Jaime Alexander’s Sif, that ends up going nowhere. I am also relatively confident that a fairly big plot point was hastily changed – you can practically see the newly-sewn seams in the story.
As is the case in almost all of the Marvel movies to date, the villain is short-changed. Chris Eccleston’ Malekith is given limited screen time and even less of a character arc. In fact, his second-in-command, Algrim, is given far more to do – which seems like an odd decision. This seems to be becoming the modus operandi for Marvel, something that I hope will change in future movies.
Thor: The Dark World manages to keep the mix of fantasy and science-fiction that defined the first movie, expand the movie universe and still maintain the humour and wit that made the journey getting us here so enjoyable. Hemsworth continues to bring to life a character that simply should not work on screen and Marvel somehow make it seem normal that a god would be jealous of a scrawny Irish man. Long may it continue.
Finally, make sure you stay for the two post-credit stings. Yes, two.