Benjamin has been reviewing films online since 2004 and has seen way more action movies than he should probably admit to!
What's the big deal?
Thor: The Dark World is a fantasy superhero film released in 2013 and is the second film released in Phase Two of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a single continuity connected all previous and forthcoming films produced by Marvel Studios. It is a sequel to Thor and features Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins, Rene Russo, Stellan Skarsgård, Idris Elba, Jamie Alexander and Kat Dennings all reprising their roles. The film is directed by Alan Taylor this time and follows the events shown in Avengers Assemble. Despite mixed reviews, the film was still a financial success and lead onto a third film released as part of Phase Three - Thor: Ragnarok in 2017.
What's it about?
In present-day Asgard, Loki has been imprisoned for his crimes on Earth while Thor and the Warriors Three - Sif, Fandrall and Volstagg - are pacifying the Nine Realms in order to bring peace during the reconstruction of the Bifröst. The Asgardians soon learn of a rare event known as The Convergence due to happen, when the Nine Realms are aligned and form random portals between each other. In London, astrophysicist Jane Foster and her assistant Darcy are witnessing such a portal disrupt the laws of physics when Jane stumbles into another realm and becomes infected by the Aether, a powerful and mysterious artefact, before returning her to Earth.
Alerted by Heimdall's claim that he cannot see Jane with his omnipotence, Thor rushes to her aid and brings her to Asgard himself in order to heal her. But Odin, Thor's father, recognises the Aether as a powerful weapon long sought by Malekith, ruler of the Dark Elves who craves to destroy the universe. With the Aether now in Asgard, Malekith and his henchman Algrim have reawakened to claim it and Thor has no choice but to turn to the one man who could help him - Loki...
What's to like?
The first Thor spent too much time in New Mexico rather than Asgard so this time, we're treated to a full-on assault on our senses. Asgard once again looks stunning and feels like a living, breathing world as it expands on the good work done in the first film. We even get to see a bit more of the other Nine Realms as well, making the film one with a really epic feel to it. But at its heart is a love story - or rather two. The tension between Jane and Sif for Thor's affections never quite spills over but I got the sense that it might do in the future. Here's hoping as Portman deserves far better than simply being the love interest in peril.
Hemsworth and Hiddleston are still fantastic value for money, offering a real chemistry and genuinely good performances despite the weakness of the script. Alexander has more to do than before as does Hopkins and Russo. But let's be honest - we're more interested in Hiddleston's timeless villain and Hemsworth's impeccable physique. To some extent, the pair of them carry the film and its fancy visuals which is no mean feat.
- The scene where Jane slaps Thor had to be reshot dozens of times because Portman kept 'fake slapping' him. In the end, she slaps him for real. When she has to punch Loki, it only took five takes.
- Stellan Skarsgård wasn't sure if he could shoot the nude scene at Stonehenge, even though he would be wearing a thong. The crew politely reminded him that he had been filmed doing much worse in Nymphomaniac: Vol. 2!
- This is the last film written by Don Payne who also wrote Thor. Payne died of bone cancer before this was released.
What's not to like?
The script is, once again, a clunker - very little of it makes sense and there is rarely any real feeling of danger or tension, even when the film's climatic battle takes place in London. The problems aren't helped by Ecclestone who is shackled beneath too much makeup and is a pretty weak baddie but also the whole reality-altering thing. A good fight scene is one that offers us plenty of thrills and spills, gripping stunt work and a sense of everything being on the line. You know things have gone wrong when you have to commute back into the fight on the London Underground and nobody bats an eyelid when you have a massive hammer in your hands. I've used the Tube and I'm pretty sure I would have changed carriages!
I understand that this is a Thor movie but because he sometimes feels indestructible when he's swinging Mjölnir, you never get the sense that he's in danger of any harm happening. Likewise, his Warriors Three feel redundant in battle sequences because Thor just takes everything out with apparent ease. Is it too much to ask to see Thor injured or fighting without his hammer, to have him face a real challenge for once? Maybe in the next film but here, it all feels a bit too easy for him.
Should I watch it?
Debatable. There's plenty to enjoy in Thor: The Dark World from the performances of Hemsworth and Hiddleston to the imaginative world of Asgard but there is much to criticise as well. The underwhelming effects needed a bit of polishing, the script needed a lot of work and there needed to be a decent foil for Thor to tangle with. As it is, it's an enjoyable enough blast of popcorn-fun but a long way behind the standard of Iron Man 3, for example.
Great For: English viewers who finally get to see some action in the UK, the duo of Hemsworth and Hiddleston, die-hard Thor fans, plot-hole spotters
Not So Great For: anybody looking for a traditional action film, other MCU entries that are stronger than this
What else should I watch?
There isn't much to separate this from it's predecessor Thor - it too offered a fantastic insight into the world of Asgard before throwing it all away in a dumb action sequence on Earth. Marvel fan-boys might not want to hear it but might I suggest that they still haven't quite got the right film for the character just yet? It's the same with The Incredible Hulk - they just need the right script to get the best out of the character.
Up next in Phase Two of the MCU is Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which brings us back to Earth for an action-packed espionage adventure. This is actually a damn fine film and reminds us that with a bit more thought and energy, Marvel can do more than just endless rip-offs of superhero flicks. And that quality continues with Guardians Of The Galaxy which, despite the unfamiliar surroundings, still manages to be about as much fun as you can have in a theatre without being asked to leave.
Christopher Yost, Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely *
Release Date (UK)
30th October, 2013
Action, Fantasy, Superhero
© 2015 Benjamin Cox