Thor: The Dark World

Thor - The Dark World - Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, quad posterDirector: Alan Taylor

Writer: Christopher L. Yost, Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely

Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Christopher Eccleston, Anthony Hopkins, Idris Elba

Cert: 12A

Running Time: 112 mins

Year: 2013

The lowdown: By Odin’s beard! Chris Hemsworth’s Norse God Pwoar – sorry, Thor, returns to bring the hammer down on an ancient elfish race threatening to plunge the universe into darkness. Natalie Portman is back as the love interest, Anthony Hopkins brings his Shakespearean bark as Thor’s dad, and series favourite Tom Hiddleston returns as irresistible bad guy Loki, joined by new villain Christopher Eccleston. Alan ‘Game of Thrones’ Taylor proves he’s a perfect directorial choice to add a little grit to the gild and ensure Marvel’s rampant reign continues.

Thor - The Dark World - Chris Hemsworth, hammerThor - The Dark World - Tom Hiddleston, Loki

The full verdict: Initially seen as Marvel’s biggest risk, after two successful character outings there’s enough confidence and finance invested in Thor to make this official sequel a full-on sci-fi fantasy epic, albeit one cunningly masquerading as a superhero movie.

Contractual references to New York and S.H.I.E.L.D are present but, a funny and unexpected cameo aside, this is Thor’s private party and he’s not just treading water until the Avengers assemble again.

Since we left him munching Shawarma with his superfriends, the mighty Mr Odinson has been busy walloping his way through the Nine Realms in the name of peace and not-so-secretly pining for mortal love Jane Foster (a game Portman).

Hemsworth fits the Asgardian armour so neatly now that no mental adjustment is necessary. He handles the action, comedy, drama and romance with such charm and swagger it belies any notion he’s just an incredibly buff Australian in a cape.

Thor - The Dark World - Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, AsgardThor - The Dark World - Christopher Eccleston, Malakeith

Shame then that his adversary, Dark Elf leader Malkeith (Eccleston), isn’t given decent shading; his violent quest for the plot’s Macguffin, the volatile substance Aether, casts him as a ticked-off terrorist. Saddled for most of the movie with subtitles and an implausible French plait, Eccleston doesn’t fill the Big Bad void sufficiently and we are left looking elsewhere for malevolent thrills.

Traditionally the superhero sequel is where our protagonist’s morality is tested. But Thor doesn’t need a dark side; he has a brother for that.

After Avengers Assemble, Loki went from newbie nemesis to Marvel’s most wanted. Hiddleston once again brings depth and pathos to a character who could have easily become a sneering pantomime villain. The goading of his stronger sibling masks a genuine need for acceptance and after an attack on Asgard affects him personally, he’s momentarily stripped of his tricks to reveal previously hidden vulnerability.

There are a few minor missteps; Jaimie Alexander’s Lady Sif is relegated to unlikely love rival and the talented Tandanobu Asano deserves more than a fleeting fight scene.

Thor - The Dark World - Jamie Alexander, Lady SifThor - The Dark World - dark elves

As anticipated the effects are indeed out of this world, culminating in a stunning showdown that has everyone zipping through beautifully-realised worlds (and Greenwich) quicker than you can say Mjölnir, the dizzying and often humorous invention on display deftly disguising some rather sketchy science.

Entertaining, action packed fun but with enough emotional heft to keep it grounded, Thor: The Dark World is a more than welcome addition to the Marvel movie universe.

Ok Cap, you’re up…

 

And…

 

Stay seated for not one but two post-credit stings. You know the drill by now.

Angela Britten