29th Oct2013

‘Thor: The Dark World’ Review

by Jack Kirby

Stars: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Christopher Ecclestone, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins, Kat Dennings, Stellan Skarsgård  | Written by Christopher Yost, Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely | Directed by Alan Taylor


When the first Thor film was released in 2011, within weeks of studio stable mate Captain America, I assumed that I’d like the latter film much more than the former. I thought that even by comic book movie standards, Thor existed in reality too heightened, simply too silly to translate to a feature film that would satisfy twenty-first century tastes and sensibilities. As it turned out, I felt Thor was the far superior film to the all-too wholesome, rosy-cheeked adventures of Cap. Thor was silly, but delightfully so and aware of it. There was even a streak of bold romanticism, an aspect that Thor seems to do better than other Marvel Studios features.

And so we come to our second date with the thunder god. It’s hammer time. In a post-Avengers Assemble landscape, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is sorting shit out across the various worlds of the astral plane he inhabits, by laughing jovially, quipping heartily and smiting things with his trusty hammer. Meanwhile, girlfriend Dr Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) is doing science in crap-looking bits of London and gets infected by some nasty substance of untold power called the aether. This alerts dark elf Malekith (Christopher Ecclestone), who, like Dr Gonzo, is dead keen to get his hands on this aether as it will help him destroy the universe (which always seems a silly thing to want to destroy to me). You’ve also got dodgy brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and slightly dull father Odin (Anthony Hopkins) kicking about as well as Foster’s mates Darcy (Kat Dennings) and the now crazy Dr Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård), who spends much of the film in his underpants or nothing at all, who provide support and comic relief.

This might sound a bit complicated, which is unfortunate as I have simplified it a bit. Generally, you should just go with it. That’s what I did for most of the first act, happy to feast my eyes on shiny rainbow bridges, levitating cement mixers and special hats. The production design is probably The Dark World’s best feature. It might be almost entirely made of pixels, but Asgard looks really lovely, like a really nice place to spend a long weekend. That said, by the time Natalie Portman gets to this CGI fantasy land and is smooching with an intergalactic hero with a silly hairdo by a lakeside, you do wonder if you’ve accidently started watching Attack of the Clones. In contrast, the use of physical costumes and props is to be wholly commended. There’s something so much more satisfying about seeing people in funny costumes smacking each other rather one set of graphics laying into another. The second string bad guy, who looks like a sort of Norse Predator, is a particularly good example of this.

As the film progresses, it begins to more fully embrace its comedic leanings. Happily, this even extends to the film’s climactic fight scene, which amusingly to this naturalised South Londoner, takes place in Greenwich. It seems weird to me that whilst Natalie Portman gets imbued with phenomenal cosmic power, she doesn’t get a chance to use it. Still, it’s nice to see her using her science to help her BF. The scene borrows from the fictional physics of the Portal games, which along with the baddies being blokes in costumes, makes it much more interesting to watch than the average comic-book movie climax, much more so than Avengers Assemble’s finale.

The continued use of comedy during this sequence is indicative of the film’s confidence and poise and Game of Thrones director Alan Taylor’s ability balance themes and moods. Frankly, The Dark World’s biggest misstep is to suggest Thor can travel from Charing Cross to Greenwich via tube in three stops and in fewer than eight minutes. Compared to this monstrous piece of misinformation, a galaxy-crossing, hammer-wielding reject from a hair metal band who speaks in cod-Shakespearean dialogue seems like a wholly believable character from a gritty social realist kitchen sink drama.

Thor: The Dark World is released across the UK from tomorrow.


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