The dark world. With a subtitle like that, a scholarly dissertation may begin by looking at the different connotations of the word dark, and how the meanings may relate to the plot and themes of this latest instalment in Marvel Studio’s Avengers series. Hopefully among the many definitions, a period of unhappiness or unpleasantness will not be had by any intrepid viewer looking for an entertaining romp during these dark autumnal evenings?
Following on from the events of Avengers Assemble, referred to in both Iron Man 3and here as the “New York incident,“ director Alan Taylor (best known for his Emmy winning directing on The Sopranos and more recently his work on Game of Thrones) is handed the task of following in the footsteps of Kenneth Branagh who crafted one of the best films of the first phase, delivering a film which stands above the other Marvel films rather than settling on just offering a filler to tide audiences over until Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
Telling a story which stars a god who can travel through dimensions is rather different to the mutated/freak accident/technologically advanced heroes that scatter the celluloid landscape of recent years, and from Anthony Hopkins’ epic voiceover prologue recounting the events of 5,000 years ago, the is more akin to the fantasy films of the eighties, Krull and Willow, or even The Lord of the Rings, than the science fiction feel of Thor‘s fellow Avengers.
The heavyweight cast certainly adds gravitas, with the main actors returning from the original with the addition of the wonderful Christopher Eccleston as Malekith, leader of the Dark Elves of Svartalfheim, whose historic attempt to plunge the universe into darkness was quelled by Thor‘s grandfather Bor (Tony Curran in a momentary cameo), the weapon capable of this act sent out of reach to the aforementioned “Dark World”.
Jumping forward to the present day, we see Thor (Chris Hemsworth) bringing peace to the Nine Realms whilst brooding over missing love interest Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), in London with her research team studying anomalies created by the Nine Realms moving back into alignment, allowing transference between realms. Drawn through one such wormhole, Jane accidentally unearths the weapon, known as Aether, awakening Malekith and setting him on a course of revenge.
With Portman so pivotal, it is sad that the most memorable roles are Kat Dennings and Tom Hiddleston as Darcy and Loki, both played with equal glee and enthusiasm. Gone is the feisty independent Portman of Leon, and some scenes feel laboured and forced, akin to her role as Padmé in the Star Wars prequels. With a few exceptions such as when slapping Thor and Loki, she doesn’t seem to enjoy the role, whilst Dennings and Hiddleston revel in the fun of the secondary characters and provide needed humour in some of the lengthier scenes.
Hemsworth has grown in stature from a cameo as George Kirk in Star Trek before braving The Cabin in the Woods, but it is as the Norse god that he excels, delivering dialogue that from a less physically imposing actor would sound ridiculous, brave and commanding when required, righteous without ever being pious, and warm enough that it is understandable why Jane is unable to contemplate a world without him.
Hopkins gives the usual professional performance in the role of Odin, tactically astute but unenlightened to the more human needs of his subjects. Eccleston does well with limited dialogue and screen time, and it is The IT Crowd’s Chris O’ Dowd that gives the breath of fresh air needed in this film.
With an A-list cast, a credible director and more scope to be expansive in action, surely The Dark World cannot fail? Unfortunately, there are some painfully convenient plot devices such as the nature and power of the Aether and why it cannot be destroyed, the timing of the alignment and the sudden ability of Dr Selvig’s equipment to create mini-wormholes. The battle over Asgard is too reminiscent of The Phantom Menace, and whilst the characters are good company, the pacing is ponderous, labouring points the audience should already feel.
Despite this, it is still a solid entry on a par with other superhero sequels, visually stunning and with a fitting score from Bryan Tyler giving a more magical feel, more swords and sorcery than spandex and capes. This is certainly an enjoyable romp for whiling away the blustery wet evenings with a few crowd pleasing Easter eggs thrown in for good measure, some good comedy elements and action and even a briefly topless Chris Hemsworth for those interested in seeing such a sight, and it should satisfy fans until the return of Steve Rogers.
Thor: The Dark World is now on general release in 2D and IMAX 3D