Thor: The Dark World Review
What should be a refreshing quality in a costumed superhero yarn becomes its Achilles Heel
Everyone I know loves this second Thor spectacular more than the first. But I disagree. Where Ken Branagh’s lavish production was alien Shakespearean fun about an arrogant princeling fish-out-of-water who learns to love and honour, boasting immense charm and genuine innocence, Alan Taylor’s follow-up, taking place after the New York toppling of The Avengers tag-team showdown, is an energetic bore of cardboard villainy, brawny contrivance and soapy comedy. Although I always agreed that Chris Hemsworth’s hammer-hurling debut lacked a set-piece or two, his sophomore assault possibly has too many, my complaint being that the derring-do is stale and humdrum with confrontations and battles more yawn-inducing than jaw-dropping.
We’ve seen it all before and the cosmic superhuman antics of these gods and sinister dark elves singularly fails to grip or excite despite the sheer brilliance of the FX work and undoubted charisma of the lead.
It is Tom Hiddleston who, much like his lauded character of Loki, mischievously snaffles the show, and no amount of physical heroism or frame engulfing action from Hemsworth and co can compete with his withering verbal sprightliness. The film only comes alive when he is on screen. Otherwise, it is by turns, generic piffle stuffed to the gills with Asgardian silliness or bedecked with grimy dismal Anglophile grey. What should be a refreshing quality in a costumed superhero yarn becomes its Achilles Heel. Greenwich cannot fail to bring down the fantastical scope and colour, and the London scenes feel just plain wrong.
Bigger in scale and aspiration than its predecessor, The Dark World jettisons its charm and warmth in favour of the more typical stretches of elaborate action. Some of the comedy is good – with one of the better cameos from Stan Lee – and Hemsworth still makes for an engaging and sympathetic Thunder-God. But, at the same time, the story feels both more epic and yet dumbed-down. A cluttered and more clichéd narrative overplays politics and ritual at the expense of genuine emotion and excitement. The bad guys elicit absolutely no sense of menace at all, with Christopher Eccleston’s dark elf lord Malekith so distressingly one-dimensional that if he turned side-on he would vanish altogether. Thor’s chums belong in a panto. The sight of Asgardian soldiers in battle is horribly reminiscent of Masters of the Universe and Krull, the combo of swords and shields, lasers and explosions makes for uncomfortable combat companions.
Portman is wasted and Hopkins just annoys, but Tom Hiddleston once again comes to the dastardly rescue with what remains the best ongoing performance in a Marvel movie yet.
Personally, I much prefer Kenneth Branagh’s original Thor outing, which seemed to hit all the right notes, while this instalment completely lacks originality and combines elements of Abrams’ first Star Trek with the Star Wars prequels to no great effect. I am surprised at the level of admiration critics bestowed upon Taylor’s blockbuster. Asides from the expectedly inspired performance from Hiddleston, this feels hollow and generic. But if you are a fan of Marvel superheroics – and who isn’t – then you will still find much of worth and entertainment in this expansion.
I never thought I’d say this being such a champion of the first film, but this Thor is something of a bore and I don’t particularly relish any more trips to Asgard.
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