Thor: The Dark World (12A/PG-13, 112 mins)
Director: Alan Taylor
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Now that we’re firmly into Phase Two of Marvel’s plan for total cinema domination, the titles are coming thick and fast.
The next Captain America will be along in the spring, and in a year that’s already brought the terrific Iron Man 3 we now have this sequel to Thor, a movie that was bright, funny and carried along with a real zip by director Kenneth Branagh. This first return to that world doesn’t quite measure up, thanks to some uninspired storytelling, but it’s still a breezy and fun couple of hours.
The main bit of setup required is a prologue that goes all Lord of the Rings on us, as we learn about the Dark Elves led by Malekith (Christopher Eccleston). He’s after some cosmic goo called the Aether, which will allow him to get up to no good when the nine realms align for the first time in 5000 years, something called the Convergence.
Back in Asgard, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) has had to answer for his crimes in Thor and Avengers Assemble, and left to rot in prison until the plot requires him. Meanwhile, on earth, Natalie Portman’s scientist, Jane, is trying to adjust to life after Thor. But she gets dragged back into events when she’s alerted by her colleagues about some sort of portal they’ve found. Through a vague and confused bit of plotting, she comes into contact with the Aether via the portal, and gets somehow infected by it.
Thor brings her to Asgard in an attempt to cure her, but don’t look for much sense during this stretch that also brings an attack from Malekith that makes a mockery of the supposed Asgardian defences.
It’s one of two or three key sequences that, while never exactly botched, just point to a lack of directorial craft and poor editing choices. For all its story, and backstory, the writing isn’t the strong suit here. The big picture is often little more than gibberish, but individual scenes please and are still capable of moments of wonder.
Much of what draws audiences in comes from its technical brilliance. Glorious production design is used to realise Asgard and the other worlds we visit. Then of course there’s the action, generally rousing if a little repetitive at times. Thor swinging his hammer at a monstrous foe is enjoyable, but there’s only so many times we can watch that before it becomes monotonous. But come the Convergence, a grand finale awaits that makes the more sluggish passages worthwhile.
But the real selling point is the humour. Where the first film largely was largely comprised of Thor’s fish out of water antics, this time everyone gets the opportunity for a one-liner or two, and most comedies wish they were as funny as this.
It’s on a modest scale compared to the Avengers, but then so is almost every movie, but Thor: The Dark World will do very nicely until the next one of those comes along.