Review – Thor: The Dark World

It’s hammer time once again as the Marvel juggernaut rolls into town for a universe-ending epic of god-like proportions that’s more akin to Lord Of The Rings on party pills.

Thor: The Dark World Poster

After watching The Dark World, one wonders where the franchise can go from here. There’s nothing Thor-some this time around and not even Loki can change that

This sequel had an awful lot to live up to, not only in light of the surprisingly enjoyable Thor, but also following the box office dynamite of Avengers Assembled (as it was called in these here parts) and this summer’s Iron Man 3.

Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Odin (Anthony Hopkins) share a father-son moment in Thor: The Dark World

Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Odin (Anthony Hopkins) share a father-son moment in Thor: The Dark World

A major factor behind Thor‘s success was the tongue-in-cheek approach it took towards what’s, let’s face it, is pretty ridiculous material. It also struck gold with the chemistry between Thor (Chris Hemsworth), astrophysicist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and, in particular, Thor’s adopted brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston).

Loki stole the show in both Thor and Avengers Assembled, so it should come as no surprise to see him front and centre here. However, not even the wonderful Hiddleston can save The Dark World from ending up as an unengaging and leaden experience and the worst film in the Marvel canon since Iron Man 2.

Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) finally meets her man again in Thor: The Dark World

Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) finally meets her man again in Thor: The Dark World

In trying so hard to rekindle the spark that brought Thor so brightly to life and build on the world that was so imaginatively created first time around, the sequel gets bogged down in unnecessary exposition, a confusing narrative and a mind-boggling amount of special effects.

God of Mischief Loki (Tom Hiddleston) in Thor: The Dark World

God of Mischief Loki (Tom Hiddleston) in Thor: The Dark World

The hiring of Game Of Thrones director Alan Taylor, who replaced Sir Kenneth Branagh, makes sense when watching the film as it has a distinctly Tolkienesque look and feel, from the long, flowing costumes to the Howard Shore-inflected score and the presence of elves.

The elves in question here are The Dark World‘s chief baddies, led by Dark Elf overlord Malekith (a barely recognisable Christopher Eccleston). Malekith was thwarted by the Asgardians in his last attempt to bring darkness to the universe by taking possession of the all-powerful Aether. Centuries later, however, he’s given another chance when Jane, who’s now living in London, enters another realm (don’t ask) and unwittingly becomes the Aether’s vessel. Thor takes Jane to Asgard for her own protection and must turn to the imprisoned Loki for help when Malekith unleashes his forces on the city.

The evil Dark Elves ruler Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) in Thor: The Dark World

The evil Dark Elves ruler Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) in Thor: The Dark World

When Hiddleston’s on screen, the film springs to life and thrives on the mischief the Brit thesp brings to the part. The scenes he shares with Hemsworth are head and shoulders above anything else in and when he’s not around you find yourself counting the minutes until his next appearance.

The Dark Elves invade Asgard in Thor: The Dark World

The Dark Elves invade Asgard in Thor: The Dark World

This rather speaks volumes about the film as a whole, as the scenes without Loki fail to grab the audience in spite of the valiant attempts of the cast. Anthony Hopkins is given more to do this time around as Odin, while Idris Elba’s all-seeing, all-hearing gatekeeper Heimdall gets to take off his helmet and have a drink with Thor.

All-seeing, all-hearing Heimdall (Idris Elba) in Thor: The Dark World

All-seeing, all-hearing Heimdall (Idris Elba) in Thor: The Dark World

However, Portman’s Foster is nothing more than a distressed damsel to be rescued and is so underwritten it brings to mind her turn as Queen Amidala in the Star Wars prequels. She’s saddled with a couple of irritating sidekicks in the form of Kat Dennings’ teeth-grinding Darcy (whose role was expanded from the first film for some reason) and nice-but-dim Ian (Jonathan Howard), although the scenes she shares with Stellan Skarsgård’s eccentric Dr Erik Selvig make for some nice comic relief.

"Nooooooo!!!!" Chris Hemsworth plays Thor in Thor: The Dark World

“Nooooooo!!!!” Chris Hemsworth plays the godlike superhero in Thor: The Dark World

Hemsworth, meanwhile, does his best to bring some depth to the semi-omnipotent superhero and gets a few moments to play up the ridiculousness of the character, most notably when he’s sans hammer and must make his way to Greenwich to stop Malekith’s evil plans via the London Underground. Alas, these are not nearly frequent enough to lift proceedings.

After watching The Dark World, one wonders where the franchise can go from here. There’s nothing Thor-some this time around and not even Loki can change that.

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20 comments

  1. CMrok93 · November 8, 2013

    Not as good as the first, but still a whole bunch of fun to watch, especially considering it is essentially the last big-jolt of fun we’re going to get for a long while. Good review.

    • Three Rows Back · November 8, 2013

      Thanks man. You got more of a kick out of this than I did which I’m pleased about. Maybe a second viewing will make me enjoy it more, we’ll see.

  2. Chris · November 8, 2013

    Damn, gotta disagree with your assessment of this being one of the weaker of the Avengers movies. I quite enjoyed the hell out of this one, significantly more than the first Thor, and I’d place it up there with Iron Man 3 and The Avengers among the best in the whole series so far myself. But, you know, different strokes I suppose, I just thought this was a much more well put together package than the first. 😛

    • Three Rows Back · November 8, 2013

      Sorry to let you down pal! I’m glad you got a kick out of this; I knew I’d get flak for my stance. Maybe I was in the wrong headspace or something, but it only rarely engaged me, mostly when Loki was on screen. Felt underwhelmed walking out of the cinema, which isn’t a feeling I’ve had with a Marvel movie since Iron Man 2.

  3. Lights Camera Reaction · November 8, 2013

    I really enjoyed the sequel, its a big improvement over the first instalment. There is a lot going on in this film, and the script is flawed at times. However, I still found it very enjoyable. Alan Taylor’s input really shines here, bringing his Game of Throne’s style with him. The action sequences and sets are remarkable, especially the film’s last act between Thor and Malekith.

    As for Portman, I have to disagree. She is given a lot more to do here, thrown right into the action. Portman shines in the first and last act in a role that could have been a fainting damsel in distress, despite looking a little bored in the middle.

    • Three Rows Back · November 8, 2013

      I expected to get some flak for my views on this. I’m glad you found it more enjoyable than I did. I like Taylor as a director and his work on GoT is great, but felt Thor 2 was heavy-handed. I wasn’t sold on the final set piece; felt it was confused and, frankly, not that exciting. As for Portman, maybe I was a little harsh, but I still feel she was underwritten. Horses for courses I guess.

  4. Gene · November 8, 2013

    I’m catching this tonight and we’ll have a review up at LTBM tomorrow, but I’m bummed to hear you didn’t like it. Some of the scenes I’ve caught in trailers struck me as a bit gawdy and overdone, but I was hoping those were the exceptions. Between Thor and Avengers I think Loki has solidified himself as the best villian thus far in this Marvel world. Sounds like he keeps that up well in this sequel. Thanks for the review!

    • Three Rows Back · November 8, 2013

      You’re welcome! Loki is great no doubt and there are parts of this that I liked; it’s just that the overall package didn’t engage me as much as I’d hoped and expected. Looking forward to Captain America: The Winter Soldier though.

      • Gene · November 8, 2013

        Yes. Definitely. The first trailer for Winter Soldier looked great!

  5. chris2508 · November 8, 2013

    Great Review. Yeah it seems Marvel are trying to use Loki as much as they can because of just how entertaining he is to watch.

    • Three Rows Back · November 8, 2013

      Thanks man. Loki’s a bit of a golden goose for Marvel; they sure as he’ll ain’t gonna get rid of him anytime soon.

  6. The Northern Plights · November 10, 2013

    Still cannot bring myself to watch fantasy filmzzzzz, but top-notch scribing, as ever.
    ~The Dippylomat

    • Three Rows Back · November 10, 2013

      Thank you kind sir. Do enjoy a bit of fantasy, but this one wasn’t fantastic.

  7. Tom · November 11, 2013

    I am slow to get to this one because I really didn’t much care for Thor from the start, hahah. Natalie Portman irks the crap out of me because her lack of talent drains the life out of anything she’s in (great point about her Queen Amidala in Star Wars, that’s a perfect example of what I mean). I will be seeing this, but I consider myself better prepared now. I expect Hiddleston and Hemsworth to be fun to watch, at the very least

    • Three Rows Back · November 11, 2013

      Hiddleston is the best thing about this by a distance, although Hemsworth gives it what he can. I think Portman’s more than just a pretty face (Black Swan proved that for me), but she isn’t required to do much of anything here.

      • Tom · November 11, 2013

        Good call, Black Swan was really surprising. And. . . was it just me, or did she and Mila Kunis have. . e-hem, great chemistry?

      • Three Rows Back · November 11, 2013

        Ha ha. That’s one way to describe it 🙂

  8. Popcorn Nights · November 12, 2013

    Nice review – I am pretty much in total agreement with you – and I also preferred the first one. I’ve had enough of Marvel’s films now.

    • Three Rows Back · November 12, 2013

      I was starting to think I was alone in not particularly liking this! I must admit I’m looking forward to the next Captain America movie, but this was a real let down.

  9. Pingback: Review – Terminator Genisys | three rows back

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