Release Date: 30th October 2013
Running Time: 120 minutes
Director: Alan Taylor
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins, Christopher Eccleston, Stellan Skarsgård, Idris Elba, Rene Russo, Kat Dennings, Chris O’Dowd
Continuing from where The Avengers left off, Thor: The Dark World finds the ever-devious Loki now imprisoned beneath Asgard for his antics back on Earth, while Thor is trying his best to keep the peace between the nine realms. Elsewhere, Jane is still looking for signs of him after his sudden departure and accidentally stumbles into the Dark World, awakening an ancient power which brings with it the tyranny of the Dark Elves. It picks up the pieces much more effectively than the previous Marvel instalment Iron Man 3, which acknowledged its predecessor by having Tony Stark suffer panic attacks whenever he recalled New York; which seemed convenient way to avoid the subject. The end result is a blockbuster which hits the ground running and barely falters.
What the Marvel universe does best is to blend humour and spectacle to tremendous effect, which is what it excels at again here. Running with the fish out of water scenario which made 2011’s Thor so enjoyable, we see Natalie Portman’s Jane the victim of culture shock this time round when she visits Asgard. Thankfully though Thor still sticks out like a sore thumb back on Earth and has some trouble navigating London transport. That’s not all it excels at; while the first instalment was high on laughs, the action seemed somewhat small and contained at times. The Dark World delivers on both fronts, providing spectacle that’s bigger but loses none the original’s charm. The final battle itself is spectacular, as it rather niftily manages to be both original and witty: something which this year’s superhero films could surely learn from (I’m looking at you, Man of Steel).
The blending of Sci Fi and fantasy is something which this universe does quite deftly too, and so the Dark Elves are entertaining enough (think Legolas meets Klingon), even if their motives are uninteresting. They are visually striking though, and bring with them a palpable sense of dread. Alan Taylor clearly brings some of his experience from Game of Thrones to the mix, as The Dark World often echoes fantasy series like Lord of the Rings; particularly in the first act, but there are also parallels between Thor’s romance with Jane and Aragorn’s with Arwen. The Sci-Fi element however is somewhat silly, and at times makes little sense when Portman and co are trying to explain what they’re doing; “something something gravitational fields whatever MAGIC” seems to be the order of the day, although you’ll be enjoying yourself so much that you’ll barely notice or care.
Once again the performances provide the heart, soul and laughs; particularly Tom Hiddleston as Loki, who after reprising him for the third time is clearly still having an absolute ball. A lot of the excitement centres around his character and the twists and turns he creates along the way, however more than ever this is Thor’s movie, and Hemsworth shoulders leading man duties with ease. Elsewhere Hopkin’s does his hammy Shakespeare routine, Christopher Eccleston is unrecognisable as the lead villain Malakeith, Chris O’Dowd has a very funny couple of scenes and Skarsgård and Kat Dennings as Erik and Darcy get more laughs this time round too.
Little flourishes here and there will please fans: a cameo appearance from one of the Avengers gets the most laughs, and having not one but two credit stings will be keeping the faithful glued to their seats once the credits are over. What The Dark World reminds you more than anything is how adept and clever this Marvel universe is; it continues to be gloriously entertaining, and doesn’t mind poking fun at itself along the way. A rare feat for a globally dominating franchise.