Thor: The Dark World

Genre: Action

Director: Alan Taylor

Writers: Screenplay by Christopher L. Yost, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, story by Don Payne and Robert Rodat, based on the comic book series by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber and Jack Kirby

Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Christopher Eccleston, Anthony Hopkins, Stellan Skarsgard

Running Length: 120 minutes

Synopsis: Thor: The Dark World continues the big-screen adventures of Thor, the Mighty Avenger (Chris Hemsworth), as he battles to save Earth and all the Nine Realms from a shadowy enemy that predates the universe itself.  In the aftermath of Thor and Marvel’s The Avengers, Thor fights to restore order across the cosmos…but an ancient race led by the vengeful Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) returns to plunge the universe back into darkness.  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 (Natalie Portman) and force him to sacrifice everything to save us all.

Review: It now seems par for the course for superhero movie sequels to outdo their predecessors, but this is particularly surprising for Thor: The Dark World, because the first Thor had already set the bar pretty high. Throw in the fact that the villain (Malekith the Dark Elf) is so bland and spectacularly unmemorable in this outing, it almost seems like an impossible task. However, director Alan Taylor (probably best known for his work on Game of Thrones) manages to deftly balance action, drama and humour, and coupled with a brilliant performance by Tom Hiddleston, manages to one-up the original Thor. While Marvel fans are still going to be getting the most out of the movie, Thor: The Dark World is a definite crowd-pleaser and is destined to do well at the box office.

Although Chris Hemsworth has loads of charisma and the physicality to pull off playing Thor (for those interested, there is a gratuitous “money shot” of Hemsworth’s muscled torso, much like every other movie he’s been in), he is outclassed by Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, who not only gets the best lines in the movie but gets the delivery spot-on. Hemsworth and Hiddleston share a great onscreen chemistry, and the best scenes in Thor: The Dark World are when Loki and Thor team up against their common enemy. The only downside is that the pairing only takes place about an hour into the film, when more Thor-Loki interaction would probably have further improved the movie.

One of the few nits to pick with Thor: The Dark World would be that of the romantic angle. While it’s almost necessary to include a love interest to tone down the testosterone (and perhaps the bro-mance), Natalie Portman sadly proves once again to be the weakest link in the movie, as despite an expanded role, her performance is rather vapid and at odds with her earlier body of work. There exists very little chemistry between Jane Foster and Thor, and though the movie wisely chooses not to focus too much on the romantic subplot, what’s been left in still does not convince.

Although Thor: The Dark World has a somewhat iffy storyline, it is near flawless on a technical level. The CGI looks stunning throughout, and the set design and art direction (especially for Asgard) are incredible. Perhaps the Dark Knight trilogy has led some viewers to expect a dark, gritty look for superhero movies, but Thor happily takes it to the other end of the spectrum, featuring bright, beautiful, ornate sets and costumes for much of the movie (3D is not necessary to enjoy this movie – it did not add much to the proceedings at all). Action sequences are off-the-wall in their choreography, and although the amount of junk science is nothing short of spectacular, Thor: The Dark World is so frenetically paced that one would barely have the chance to think about the way they trashed physics and logic in this film (the denouement is particularly guilty of this).

With an unending number of Marvel superhero movies coming and having gone our way (2014 alone will bring to the table Captain America: The Winter Soldier, The Amazing Spiderman 2, X-Men: Days of Future Past, and Guardians of the Galaxy), it’s getting increasingly difficult to feel enthused about each movie. Thor: The Dark World manages to impress, more so than Iron Man 3, though one does feel some form of superhero fatigue setting in. Remember to stay for the end credits codas, the first one alluding to an upcoming Marvel Studios movie in 2014, and the second one, at the very end of the credits crawl, is at least good for a laugh but largely inconsequential.

Rating: * * * ½ (out of four stars)

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