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Thor: The Dark World - Review

Thor: The Dark World

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 2.5 out of 5

MARVEL’S superheroes finally begin to show signs of fatigue with Thor: The Dark World, the weakest entry into the comic book universe to date.

Not for lack of trying, Alan Taylor’s film tries hard to further the momentum generated by Iron Man 3 (the first of its Phase 2 rollout ahead of 2015’s next Avengers extravaganza). But while big, brash, occasionally fun and sometimes as dark as its name suggests, the film ultimately leaves you feeling underwhelmed.

Picking up in the aftermath of Avengers Assemble, The Dark World finds Thor (Chris Hemsworth) headed back to Asgard to find the fragile peace of the Nine Realms threatened by the re-emergence of former enemies, The Dark Elves, and their vengeful leader Malekith (Christopher Eccleston), and forced to reunite with imprisoned brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) to protect all that he holds dear, including distant lover Jane (Natalie Portman) on Earth.

Unfolding on a typically epic scale, The Dark World isn’t without some enjoyable moments but it occasionally feels like it’ caught between two minds and never really goes for broke.

On the one hand, there’s tragedy at play to rival the darkest elements of Batman, while Marvel’s general desire to keep things light manifests itself in borderline slapstick sequences involving a naked Stellan Skarsgård running around Stonehenge or awkward situation comedy involving Chris O’Dowd’s fun but token love interest for Jane.

The film is, however, unquestionably at its best when in the company of Hiddleston’s Loki, the one genuinely two dimensional character whose masterful juggling of Shakespearean-style moral and ethical complexity with pantomime villainy continues to offer a veritable masterclass.

Alas, the same cannot be said for Eccleston’s token villain, Portman’s bland Jane (here reduced to a damsel-in-distress) or even Hemsworth’s Thor, whose limitations as a central hero are all too often exposed this time around.

Taylor, whose CV is notable for including some of TV’s finest shows (from The Sopranos to Game of Thrones) does his best to juggle the various elements but feels restricted by the demands of blockbuster convention. There’s nothing here to rival the ingenuity displayed by Shane Black’s Mandarin ‘reveal’ in Iron Man 3.

True, there is a surprise death but even that underwhelms and its ability to leave any lasting impact is negated by the film’s desire to keep returning to lighter material.

And, of course, with a superhero of Thor’s might, there’s plenty of super-sized superhero smackdowns that enable the special effects department to run riot. But while impressively staged, they do get somewhat repetitive.

If all this sounds harsh, it’s worth noting that Thor: The Dark World isn’t a complete disaster. Far from it. But given the rate at which superhero films are now arriving on our screens, it’s perhaps little wonder that they now have to work really hard to deliver something special.

And while the general creative consensus seems to be to make things bigger and ever more fantastical, it’s worth noting that this particular entry is at its most effective during the quieter, more performance-driven moments when the likes of Hiddleston, especially, can really work their magic. Then again, maybe it’s time to take another ‘risk’ and give Hiddleston his own movie.

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 112mins
UK Release Date: October 30, 2013