Following the success of the Kenneth Branagh directed original, Thor: The Dark World continues the trend of the tongue-in-cheek portrayal of the differences between Asgard and Earth and perhaps surprisingly brings more laughs than any other Marvel film to date.
Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is travelling between the nine realms and putting down uprisings and rebellions caused by his destruction of the Bifrost. Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) who hasn’t seen him in years discovers an ancient power and accidently awakens Maliketh (Christopher Eccleston) and the dark elves from their slumber. Hoping to conquer the nine realms, only an unlikely team of Thor and his half-brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) stand a chance of stopping the megalomaniac and bring peace to all the realms.
Marvel’s decision to hype Thor: The Dark World as a brooding comic book film adaptation, complete with director Neil Marshall (most famous for the serious fantasy Game of Thrones) has proved to be somewhat misleading. While there are moments of high Shakespearean drama the majority of the running time is a riotously fun affair.
Hemsworth and Hiddleston reunite to provide the innate chemistry of bickering brothers perfectly once again and their exchanges remain the highlight of this sub-franchise. Added kudos to Kat Dennings’ Darcy, who steals some of the biggest laughs from under the demi-Gods noses, the highlight being her apparent concern for Thor’s hammer Mjolnir.
The setting changes here too, with the first two-thirds spent seeing Asgard up close and personal, as Jane Foster finally gets to visit Thor’s home world. What a shame then that she is really a peripheral character destined to be the damsel in distress to Thor’s Prince Charming. Considering her role of intelligent and independent scientist in the first film, this feels like a step back for her character.
Eccleston’s villainous Maliketh is also side-lined as chunks of his backstory were apparently cut at the last minute to make extra time for Loki. While fine in principal, relying on a main villain who seems to have no method to his madness side-lines his importance and when the inevitable ˜big thing crashes into Earth’ finale happens there is little threat of dramatic tension.
Marshall’s direction is excellently handled and he proves here that he is one of the more visceral directors working in and around the Hollywood A-list. The tight-angled sweeps and the keen eye for detail in the art direction help to bring the previously quiet Asgard to life. He also presents the comic moments in perfect timing, which means that even when the narrative is struggling you are still at the very least entertained.
The return to Asgard is a fun, if predictable affair. While the chemistry between Hemsworth and Hiddleston reaches its peak and the laughs are heartier than ever before, the lack of a decent villain and the cookie cutter third act finale leave Thor: The Dark World as something of a mixed bag. There’s still plenty here to enjoy however and the Marvel Cinematic Universe continues its run of enjoyable blockbusters.