Faced with an enemy that even Odin and Asgard cannot withstand, Thor must embark on his most perilous and personal journey yet, one that will reunite him with Jane Foster and force him to sacrifice everything to save us all.
Alan Taylor, director of several well regarded TV series (Game of Thrones, Mad Men) steps in to take on the Thor franchise in the sequel to Kenneth Branagh’s origin film. Thor: The Dark World is the second film in phase 2 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, we have Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy releasing in 2014 before Avengers 2 in 2015.
In this post-Avengers world of marvel films, each standalone series needs to work a bit harder to leave an impression and Thor: The Dark World does so with strong science fiction elements while utilising a deep pool of characters at its disposal. Taylor brings a gritty tone and darker style to Thor, juxtaposed with light comedic moments regularly throughout the film and delivers this to great effect.
Story wise Thor: The Dark World isn’t overly sophisticated, as the film opens it uses a narrative exposition style. The film articulates to the audience the backstory driving the events that are about to unfold onscreen, it introduces a number of new elements which unfortunately aren’t developed to any level of real substance by the time the film ends. That being said, the high level plot is effective in weaving together an entertaining film, and Thor: The Dark World delivers on this in spades.
The main disappointment here however centres on the dark elf leader Malekith portrayed by Christopher Eccleston. The film had a great actor to make use of in this role but Eccleston is just given so little to work with and too little time on screen in which to do it. Malekith pales in comparison to Loki’s outing as the main villain in the first film, he is given little motivation and almost no backstory (other than what is given to his entire species) and a single goal that he pursues relentlessly.
That said Taylor makes excellent use of the wider cast of characters at his disposal, capitalising on some of the relationships built up in earlier Avengers related films. The crown jewel of these opportunities lies in using Loki. Tom Hiddleston’s performance keeps Loki as an entertaining, watchable character in every film he’s appeared in. Given their rich history and deep bond having Thor and Loki share the screen is a no brainer and the opportunity is utilised with great effect.
Beyond that the relationship of Thor and Jane Foster is explored further, Portman and Hemsworth are skilful in their respective roles at this point and the film is rounded out by Stellen Skarsgard, and Kat Dennings who both have excellent comedic sensibilities never allowing for one dull moment during their screen time.
Thor: The Dark World delivers some great actions scenes, with extensive set pieces that keep things moving in an overall well-paced film. With a variety of settings the action spans from fantasy style skirmishes to space opera chase sequences, making for a versatile galactic trotting adventure.
The visual effects department is obviously heavily used here given the nature of the film, Asgard simply looks gorgeous and without the scope for an Avengers class climax at the end of the film visual effects are heavily utilised to deliver something refreshing and less dependent on the expansive city wide scale destruction that we’ve seen several times in recent years.
Overall Taylor blends the action, and comedy brilliantly in Thor: The Dark World, it’s an entertaining and fun film which for the most part makes great use of its characters, and is an enjoyable next step on the road to Avengers 2. Speaking of which, make sure you stay for the mid-credits, and post-credits stingers, for there’s an exciting nod toward what’s coming.
I’m giving Thor: The Dark World 7 out of 10 stars, it’s opening in cinemas this Thursday 31st October 2013.