Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins, Christopher Eccleston, Jaimie Alexander, Kat Dennings, Stellan Skarsgard
Directed by: Alan Taylor / Written by: Christopher L. Yost, Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely (story by Don Payne and Robert Rodat) / 120 minutes
What’s it about?
Thor must risk all to prevent Asgard’s deadliest enemy from unleashing a powerful force that will destroy life across the realms…
With Kenneth Branagh’s Thor (2011), Marvel Studios once again served up a surprise hit that in a similar vein to Iron Man established a firm and popular screen presence for another of the lesser known characters from the Marvel pantheon. Admittedly I’m not a fan of fantasy or ‘sword and sandal’ epics, I’ve never fully understood why but perhaps much like Tony Stark I prefer hardware and flawed human characters that I find more relatable. I’d never read a Thor comic until I decided to give J. Michael Straczynski’s acclaimed run a go (around 2007/8 if I recall correctly) and found that I thoroughly enjoyed it thanks to decent characterisation and the blending of rich mythology with ‘real world’ elements.
I generally still can’t take to the fantasy/sword and sandal genre but with The Mighty Thor and his ties to the wider Marvel Universe, I gladly make an exception. With the stage set by Mr. Branagh, director Alan Taylor (Game of Thrones) takes over the throne to helm Thor: The Dark World, the God of Thunder’s first post-Avengers Assemble outing. It’s certainly a much grander production than the previous Thor (which was quite a grand venture itself), clearly benefitting from an increased budget in the wake of Avengers success – much as was the case with Iron Man Three. This is a visually epic film with the rich detail and sweeping vistas of Asgard balanced against the more recognisable but no less breathtaking landscapes of the London set Earth-bound scenes.
The film’s narrative enriches the visual aspects, providing high stakes and action-packed thrills with a smattering of romance, charm and humour that complement the dramatic elements without undermining them.
Chris Hemsworth makes a confident return as the iconic Marvel hero and presents a wiser, slightly more seasoned Thor fighting to bring order to the Nine Realms, supported by companions Lady Sif (Alexander) and the ‘Warriors Three’ Volstagg (Ray Stevenson), Hogun (Tadanobu Asano) and replacing Josh Dallas is a post-Chuck Zacahry Levi as Fandral – who sadly is given little to do here.
Natalie Portman again deftly balances the sensitive and intellectual attributes of Jane Foster (who’s not afraid to slap a god in the face) and figures significantly in the grand scheme of things.
Kat Dennings enjoys (and certainly makes the most of) an enlarged role as the zany Darcy, facilitating a number of the film’s fun comical moments some of which also involve a rambling (and nude) Stellan Skarsgard as the previously brainwashed (see Avengers Assemble) Dr. Erik Selvig.
I initially had trepidations about Christopher Eccleston as the vengeful Dark Elf, Malekith (a role that was originally set to be played by Mads Mikkelsen) but I was pleased to find that he executed the part rather well and his performance is bolstered by some good make-up/prosthetic work.
But, once again, the true star of the show is Tom Hiddleston who gives another wicked yet complex turn as Loki, chastised and imprisoned by Odin (Sir Anthony Hopkins). Hiddleston carries with him a Shakespearean air and could easily carry a film of his own – ‘nuff said.
So, ultimately, is The Dark World better than the first Thor? Quite possibly is all I can say for now, as I’ve said it’s certainly bigger in scope and the threat is a sizeable and substantial one but I do have a weakness for heroic origin stories and feel that there is perhaps more emotional resonance within Branagh’s film. All in all though it’s another reliable hit from Marvel Studios and whilst I may favour other Marvel characters, I’ll always be open to the odd trip to Asgard.
The bottom line: Thor: The Dark World is an epic, exciting and fun piece of comic book entertainment and serves up healthy doses of all you would expect from a Marvel film. Ensure you stay for both the mid-credits and post-credits scenes!
Thor: The Dark World is in cinemas across the UK now and is released in the States on 8th November.
What did you think of Thor: The Dark World? Share your spoiler-free thoughts below!