The first Thor film was a curious thing. It was certainly enjoyable but it was so overblown and clichéd that I thought it might be some sort of straight faced parody like Pearl Harbour. Still it did give us the brothers Thor and Loki (puny god) who have already proved themselves worthy of more screen time in The Avengers.
Thor The Dark World (if there is no colon on the poster there is no colon in the title) isn’t a perfect film either, it certainly doesn’t hold together as well as Iron Man 3, but there is a tremendous amount to enjoy.
Before we get into the details though let’s sort out whether this is a actually a sequel or simply the next in a series like Harry Potter or James Bond. It is beginning to feel a lot like the latter, making this part eight. Three of the main returning cast from Thor played a significant role in The Avengers which in turn told an important part of Tony Stark’s story so it is all fitting together like.. well, like the comic books. In fact this new film follows on from Joss Whedon’s instalment more than it does Kenneth Branagh’s.
That being the case S.H.I.E.L.D are noticeable by their absence. There is some pretty big stuff going down on our little planet and you’d expect them to show up. They got their knickers in a big twist over a hammer in a hole in the first Thor but now that there are some serious astronomical, gravitational and physical anomalies occurring they couldn’t make it to the party. I can only assume that Nick Fury didn’t realise the entire universe was in jeopardy and since it was only London getting trashed rather than a three street town in New Mexico they didn’t think it was worth the air fare. It might all be explained in the S.H.I.E.L.D TV show and a part of me wonders if their season break may have deliberately coincided with the release of this film so that episode six could refer to it. Ultimately it doesn’t matter as the film is better without them. We do get a strong reference to one of the other Avengers though and it is a delicious moment.
Anyway, to the matter in hand. All of the Marvel films have worked around great casting but they really hit the jackpot with Tom Hiddleston. He is probably the best screen villain since Alan Rickman’s late eighties/early nineties double tap of Die Hard and Robin Hood. The character of Loki is very well employed here and the film gets around 75% better any time he is on screen.
That shouldn’t devalue any of the other cast though and it is Loki’s interactions with Chris Hemsworth’s protagonist that really shine here. There is one scene in particular, as the brothers escape on a stolen spaceship, that is a wonderful barrage of quips but the humour actually flows throughout the whole film, irrespective of who is on screen. Hemsworth’s portrayal of the Thunder God is a spot on mix of heroics and grounded pomposity and the parts where the intricacies of real life mix with the fantastical are brilliant, both on Earth and on other planets. We get the hero of Norse Legend squeezed into a Volvo, travelling on the Tube and wondering, on entering a small studio apartment, where one puts one’s magical hammer but there is as much milage in seeing a human being react to Asgard as there is in seeing Thor cope on Earth. Jane Foster’s thrill on meeting the mighty Oden is a highlight of the film. Her excitement does not centre on who he is but on the fact that he is her boyfriend’s Dad and that he has been told about her.
The supporting cast are similarly well served with Kat Denning’s Darcy standing out among the earthlings, she is sassy and funny and the same best friend character in a rom com would have stolen the show. Stellan Skarsgård returns to continue Dr Selvig’s arc, earning pity among the laughs and there is even room for a new guy, Ian.
Meanwhile back on Thor’s home planet, Idris Elba is back. He didn’t get much to do in the first Thor movie but this is rectified here with a nice Legolas moment as he brings down a much larger foe. Similarly wasted before was Rene Russo as Frigga who also has a chance to do some cool stuff this time around. Of course there is always a little something extra for the geeks (we’ll get to the post credits sequences later) and which Sci-Fi nerd is not going to be excited by a cast rounded out with Doctor Who, The Borg Queen and Ray from Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travel. It also seemed as though one of the characters was directly inspired by Lord Flashheart so the Blackadder fans will be pleased too.
Thor The Dark World is guilty of some plot contrivances and unexplained events and certainly there is something going on at the end that seems to use the same idea as the doors in Monsters Inc. It makes no sense but it looks cool so don’t analyse it. More importantly though the film has great characters, consistently strong humour and superb design (loving the black hole grenades). The plot is on occasion genuinely surprising and it has great fun along the way. It is also heavily anglophilic so that is treat for those of us on this side of the pond. (It might just be me but I also thought some of the planet names sounded very Douglas Adamsesque. I swear one of them was called Slartibartfastenheim but I could be mistaken.)
Finally, this being a Marvel movie, you mustn’t put your coat on when the fat lady sings, there are three post credit sequences. The first comes midway through the scroll and is a set up for Guardians of the Galaxy so won’t make total sense for another ten months. The second, coming at the end, is actually more interesting, answering a question that six minutes earlier you thought was being set up for the sequel/next part in the series. Then there is a post post credit sequence sequence that will leave you with a smile on your face, as the Marvel films tend to do.
Is this one for the kids?
There are so many films hovering around in the 12A arena that are dark and violent. This one, like most of those in the Marvel Cinematic Universe has some fighting but is mostly just fun. I’d have loved it when I was 13. Mind you, I love it now too.
Bechdel Test Score = 3