In the second of Marvel’s Phase Two films set in the aftermath of “what happened in New York”, Thor: The Dark World sees the Norse god (Chris Hemsworth, Rush, Snow White and the Huntsman) return to his love Jane Foster (Natalie Portman, V for Vendetta, Black Swan) as they have to deal with the arrival of the Dark Elves, an ancient evil led by Malekith (Christopher Ecclestone, Doctor Who, The Others).
The film does a great job at addressing the issues that I had with the predecessor, like growing a sense of humour. Instead of it being a super-serious Shakespeare play, Thor: The Dark World reminds us that it is a comic book movie first and foremost, yet still maintaining the key themes of family and betrayal. It’s peppered with fan service, keeping up the inter-film connectivity with traditional Marvel techniques like post-credits scenes and spectacular cameos by Stan Lee and… well, telling you would just spoil it.
Most of the principle cast return for the sequel, with every member doing the job they required. Much like Robert Downey Jr. and Hugh Jackman, Hemsworth has reached the point where I can’t envisage any other actor playing Thor. Portman gives yet another solid performance, capturing the fish-out-of-water aspect, as well as being nerd eye-candy. Fan favourite Tom Hiddleston (War Horse, Midnight in Paris) comes back as the trickster Loki, arrested for his crimes. Some people have complained that he has become an over-used character, and I can see their point, but he benefits this time around from not being the main antagonist. This enables Hiddleston to step out of the limelight, developing his mischievousness and getting the best lines in the film. Other characters that I felt were short-shafted last time also get expanded screen time. Idris Elba (Luther, Pacific Rim) gets more time to be imposing and generally awesome, and Anthony Hopkins (The Silence of the Lambs, The Elephant Man) shows more of his conflicting relationship between his sons instead of spending half of the film asleep.
The movie introduces several other characters to the franchise with Christopher Ecclestone’ s Malekith and his lieutenant Kurse (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, The Mummy Returns, The Bourne Identity) finally give Thor some villains he can go toe-to-toe with, instead of just a 5-minute fight sequence with a robot. The only problem that I could find with them, whilst being sufficiently evil, was that I felt their motivations were glossed over. The IT Crowd’s Chris O’Dowd makes a delightful, yet minor performance, and is joined by another newcomer, Jonathan Howard as Ian the intern. The chemistry that he had with Kat Dennings (2 Broke Girls) was another avenue that could have been explored further, but I’m glad it wasn’t dwelled on too much and that Dennings had more to do this time around instead of being there just for comic relief.
The new direction from Game of Thrones’ Alan Taylor is refreshingly welcome. He manages to recreate Branagh’s sci-fi vision, but blending it seamlessly with the source material’s fantasy routes, you can even see stylistic touches connected to the TV series. The action has been ramped up this time around, with the stakes increased and the final scenes being a joy to watch.
As films go, Thor: The Dark World isn’t faultless, but it is practically the perfect sequel. There is more action, more risk and more humour. Yet it stays true to the first film, bringing back a superb cast with expanded roles and develops character relationships further.