After walking through the tundral wasteland of Durham, I snatched the last ticket for a front row seat for a screening of Thor: The Dark World, and plunged into the subterranean lair of the Gala cinema for the first time. I took my seat, wrote the first paragraphs of this review, and settled in to view the latest (and fairly decent) addition to a franchise towards which I have been fairly ambivalent.
As the film opens, we see a scene appearing to blend Lord of the Rings with Dr Who introducing us to our all-purpose plot device ‘the ether’- a mysterious fog-like construction that has the power to aid the morally dubious in conquering worlds. To the films’ credit, they don’t hide their powerful weapon on earth as many films have done in the past, but instead Earth seems to have easy access to the realm in which it is placed. I suppose Earth is just in a good postcode for that sort of thing. The next scene after the prologue reintroduces us to our protagonist- Thor; saving worlds with relative ease as the rest of the soldiers in Asgard seem to be completely pathetic. Once the mandatory, attention grabbing action scene is done, we see Thor celebrating his victory and pining pitifully for Jane Foster, his human girlfriend whom he has not seen since the last film. Thor then has an expository dialogue with a character I don’t really remember, and soon after we see that the creators waited four whole scenes before exploiting Chris Hemsworth’s muscular physique, complete with a gratuitous close up shot to satisfy those that way inclined. Following that exemplary act of restraint on behalf of the writers and producer, the plot finally gets under-way.
Enough cynicism, let’s get down to brass tacks. You’ll want to see the film to get the full effect of the Act 2 plot and Act 3 resolution, but I’ll try to cover the basics. I don’t want to give too much, but the rest of the review does contains plot spoilers, so all those who don’t want the plot ruined, stop reading now.
On the whole, the film, in my opinion, is quite mediocre but not without its charm. There are a few funny moments that got me, or if not me, the other members of the audience laughing. These mostly come from the surprisingly good deuteragonist Loki, and not, I want to make this very clear, from Jane’s quirky sidekick Darcy, or her quirky sidekick Ian. The plot is simplistic at best, even if you include Loki’s death which, now make sure you are sitting down for this, is a complete fake out. The standard good vs. evil plot is paper thin, but what can you expect from characters as complex as a map of Antarctica?
As for character, there isn’t much to speak of. Chris Hemsworth does an acceptable job of playing Thor, but it’s quite tricky to bring out a good performance whilst playing the generic good guy hero with all the complexity of a sponge pudding. Thor’s female companion Jane (Natalie Portman), is a bland and forgettable stereotype who could easily be replaced by a ticker tape machine that prints exposition, especially considering she spends most of the second act unconscious. I won’t delve into my antipathy towards female characters that faint and wilt all over the place, especially when we have seen so many brilliant, strong female character leads over the years. Loki, played once again by Tom Hiddleston, is the best actor and character by far, whose personality and witty rapport got even my jaded and cynical soul chuckling. As stated previously, quirky sidekicks 1 & 2 are grating and useless to the plot, so too Thor’s band of team-mates and even, to an extent, his father Odin. These characters’ individualisms are all glossed over, becoming backgrounded as plot forwarding devices.
‘But,’ I hear you ask, ‘is Thor 2 good?’ Well, it’s not bad, let’s put it that way. The cinematography is simplistic, the plot is basically a conveyor belt from incident to resolution and although the final action scene is vaguely interesting, the fights themselves are fairly lacklustre. It’s not all bad, there are funny moments. The conflict between Thor and Loki after the death of their mother is quite well done, but all in all, it’s nothing more spectacular than a time filler for when you and your friends want to see a film but there isn’t really much else on. Overall I would rate Thor: The Dark World a 6 out of 10. Fun, but neither engaging nor ground-breaking.