Thor: The Dark World (2013)

“All this because Loki desires a throne…”

Marvel fans around the world celebrated when Chris Hemsworth again picked up his hammer, put on his red cape and very nicely trimmed his beard to reprise his role of the very popular Thor . This time however, as well as reuniting with the old cast, he is directed by Game of Thrones’ Alan Taylor, and joined by Christopher Eccleston, who plays the ancient elvish villain Malekith. This epic Marvel instalment has some visually stunning settings and some hilarious moments. It is also more ambitious and perhaps involves the characters more deeply in universal events than does its predecessor. But although it still holds onto the successful recipe of humour and action that made the first film so great, I felt it lacked the succinct, ethereal cohesion and character-based plot that is so important in order to transform the magical and surreal to something we can all relate to. Instead, I found the film simply jumped between badly times jokes and familiar action awkwardly, and I could even say that I was fairly bored at more than one point in the film.

The first film was successful, like Avengers , because the people were the plot. The story was about our hero, Thor, learning lessons and becoming a worthy king in the eyes of his father. In The Dark World , the ideas and tropes created in the first film are simply repeated and slightly tweaked in order to cushion the fall of the ambitious, but slightly pointless plot. I say pointless, because at no point does the viewer feel like the earth is in any real danger. This is of course expected, it is a superhero movie after all, but that is exactly why the characters themselves must take centre stage, even for a sequel. For me, Thor: The Dark World has made the same mistake Iron Man 2 did, which is to simply regurgitate and hope that the cranked-up plot holds the film up.

This sequel clearly had more money to play with, but instead of the mystical, magical realm of Asgard, we are treated to a re-hash of Rivendell from Jackson’s epic trilogy. This may sound harsh, but it all leads to a feeling of compliance, rather than the unique combination of science and magic that led me to favour Thor over several other Marvel movie heroes. I do not mind nods to other films if done delicately, and in the new interconnected world of Marvel it is in some ways necessary, but The Dark World snatches directly from Thor so frequently, the viewer could, and should, feel slightly robbed of the film’s initial promise. 

The acting is of the standard we should all expect from this talented group, but unfortunately the actual characters are all watered-down versions of their former selves. Heindell for instance, once a powerful, intimidating all-seeing guardian, is turned into a fairly normal Asgardian that chin-wags with Thor at the bar. Not only this, but his role is made close to obsolete by his inability to see the enemy. Even Anthony Hopkins, who attempts to add drama to a transparent script, struggles to create tension as every character “gets on” due to the importance of tying up the plot into a Marvel shaped bow. As far as new faces are concerned, Eccleston does well in his role of Malekith, but unfortunately he is not given the time to develop a character that acts more like a puppet in an over-complicated story.

It would be unfair to suggest that this film was a disaster (despite the fact I have spent the entire review ranting about its failures as a Marvel movie), or even to say it was anything less than watchable. But when you are so familiar with what fun can be drawn out of comic book heroes, it becomes galling and disappointing to see a film with such potential missing out by neglecting such fundamental necessities.

Shapstik verdict: I may be swimming upstream with this review, as it stands at around eighty percent on most consensus review sites, but for me the film lacks the originality that its setting suggests. I cannot help but feel a more character-based plot, with the introduction of a more believable villain, would have avoided the disappointing feeling of Thor-ing out after the ice-cool first movie. 5/10


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