Rating: 4 /5
When the main character of your movie is a Norse deity, you either go big or go home. So how does this movie top the destruction of a small American town in 2011’s ‘Thor’?
By throwing in a race of ancient aliens with a rage-filled leader, bickering Norse gods, spaceships, lots of Norse soldiers, an Earth-shattering cosmic event and then adding in the magical MacGuffin that’s everyone after.
‘Thor: The Dark World’ has all that, and more. This sequel and follow up to the 2011 story plunges us deep into the mythical world of the Asgardian Nine Realms and the Marvel Universe mythos.
Set two years after the original outing, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is back in Asgard, defending his people from a variety of otherworldly threats that was the result of the destruction of the inter-dimensional Bifrost bridge in the first movie, all the while pining for unlikely astrophysicist and love interest Jane Foster (Natalie Portman).
Foster, while on the search for the hammer-wielding hero in London, inadvertently releases a mysterious ‘Aether’, when she stumbles into a ‘gravitational anomaly’.
These elves look more menacing than Tolkien's
The result of her discovery: the awakening of Malekith (‘Dr Who’s’ Christopher Eccleston) and his army of Dark Elves who are hell-bent on destroying Asgard and plunging its realms into darkness.
‘Game of Thrones’ veteran Alan Taylor takes over the mantle from Kenneth Branagh. Clearly more confident than Branagh in the realm of fantasy, Taylor gives us an epic fantastical sci-fi parable but never veers away from the set-up that Branagh has masterfully created.
Taylor’s sets and special effects are more impressive, as are the action set pieces. But one thing that stumbles is the script. The Earth-bound first quarter is a bit of a drag, as we’re bogged down by the antics of Thor’s mortal compatriots like a streaking Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard), the wisecracking intern Darcy (Kat Dennings), the intern’s intern (Jonathan Howard) and Portman’s Foster.
Nevertheless, the film is perhaps one of Marvel’s strongest offerings yet.
Hemsworth again embodies the fair-haired deity, oozing charisma with an imposing physicality worthy of a deity.
But the movie truly belongs to Thor’s antagonistic brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston), who despite being cooped up in a transparent dungeon earlier in the movie to pay for his failed attempt to invade Earth manages to steal every scene he’s in.
A lethal mixture of manipulation and blind ambition that evokes Shakespeare’s Iago (‘Othello') and Cassius (‘Julius Caesar’), Loki uses his destructive tendencies to good use here. Possibly the most complex villain in Marvel’s loot — one that employs his wits instead of pure brawn — the master trickster is a fan favourite. He is no mere supporting character here like he was in 2011, but an essential crux that keeps things on knife’s edge.
Loki takes a chill pill while Thor saves the day, again
We play witness to the dysfunctional dynamic of Asgard’s first family — from Thor’s reluctance to take over the throne from Odin (Anthony Hopkins), mourning for the loss of mother Frigga (Renee Russo), to Loki’s constant connivance.
And as they bicker, make up, and betray… repeat. Clues and hints to how the Thor saga might play out in the future are peppered throughout the movie; for that is where the its focus truly lies.
The script is not without its humour either, as Thor’s fighting buddies, the Warriors Three (Ray Stevenson, Zachary Levy and Tadanobu Asano), add levity on the Asgardian end.
Unlike many of the current crop of big screen superheroes, this Thor feels very grown-up. It is a bona fide science-fiction saga in spite of its comic book origins — one that’s most certainly surpasses its predecessor.
Entertaining and sharply written, it is the perfect extension to Marvel’s Phase Two of its film ambitions.
Not to mention that its two post-credits scenes will leave you wanting more.
Like it says at the end: Thor will return.
And we can’t wait.