- 08 November 2013
- By John Howell
Australian actor Chris Hemsworth returns as the muscle bound Norse God with a great big hammer in Marvel’s Thor: The Dark World. The superhero dominance of Hollywood continues unchecked. I've lost count of the number of comic book inspired movies that have arrived or are about to. From Captain America to X-Men, there’s no end in sight. Surprisingly, given their number, almost all have been worthy of attention, and Thor: The Dark World is no exception. The first Thor adventure, directed by Kenneth Branagh, was a dramatic and humorous ride that deserved its critical praise and wide appeal, introducing Thor as a rejected son, banished to Earth by Odin, the Allfather of the Gods. While trying to hang onto his powerful hammer and fighting off colossal, Earth destroying robots, Thor eventually learnt humility and grace.
In this chapter, a dark elf named Malekith (Christopher Eccleston buried under makeup and special effects) is after an evil something (the Aether) he wants to wield to return the universe to darkness and destroy the Nine Realms. The evil something has been hidden on Earth. When his past human love interest, Jane “the scientist” (Natalie Portman), stumbles across it by accident, it’s time for Thor to visit Earth in a tunnel of flame once more. He hasn’t forgotten Jane and she certainly hasn’t forgotten him.
Due to unforeseen circumstances, which I won’t explain to avoid revealing too much plot, Thor has to take Jane to his home world Asgard and must try to learn to trust his brother Loki, played with style and humour by Tom Hiddleston, while fighting off Malekith’s evil elves. Loki has been locked up for his past sins (see The Avengers for details), Jane gets to meet the parents, and Thor can participate in some nice father-son bonding.
Hiddleston’s portrayal of Loki is the film’s strongest element, unfortunately at times reducing Thor to the role of comic straight man or middle of the road sidekick. Loki's snarky comments and cheeky evil doings are a joy to behold. He owns a great helmet with giant horns too.
The special effects are way above average this time round, especially when showing off the splendour of Asgard and in the climatic finale on Earth. Not a cent was spared. The 3D seemed to enhance the film this time too, rather than fade into the background as it has in other equally effect laden spectacles. Interestingly, there is a strong attempt to present the fantastical elements as “high science”, both in the effects and in dialogue, creating a nice fantasy science fiction blend.
Director Alan Taylor, a veteran of many big name TV shows (Six Feet Under, The Sopranos and Game of Thrones) does a marvellous job of keeping the story flowing. Stellan Skarsgard is great as Jane’s now mentally deficient, trouserless former professor Erik Selvig, and Anthony Hopkins as Odin and his wife Frigga (Rene Russo) are more than just bit parts.
If you liked previous Marvel's superhero movies or are a fan of the fantasy genre, you can’t fail to enjoy this one. Look out for a Captain America cameo and as always with Marvel films, make sure you stay to the very end.
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