Thor: The Dark World

Thor: The Dark World posterHave Marvel Studios jumped the shark?

Unfortunately, despite the general success (both commercially and in terms of enjoyment) of their so-called Phase One films, if Thor: The Dark World (aka Thor 2) is anything to go by, then they might just have.

Where their previous films had been entertaining romps with good stand alone stories all with enough moments to link together into the superhero mash-up The Avengers (which admittedly hasn’t stood up well to repeat viewings), Iron Man 3 even started their post Avengers series in fine style, but unfortunately Thor seems to have taken a step away from fun and lost almost everything that made the past films what they were.

The plot, what there is of it, involves the return of dark elf Malakith (a pointlessly underused Christopher Eccleston) attempting to take his revenge on Odin (Sir Anthony Hopkins) and Asgard and get his hands on a super weapon while Thor (Chris Hemsworth) wrestles with loyalty to his life in Asgard and his love of Midgard (Earth) and, more specifically, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) all while Loki (Tom Hiddleston) acts like a petulant teenager, but seems to have most of the fun.

Tom Hiddleston as Loki
Tom Hiddleston as Loki

The main problem the film seems to have is trying to, at once, cater to fans who’ve been through the whole Marvel Universe saga to date, as well as more casual viewers who will be coming to this as a stand alone story and this gives the whole thing an oddly unbalanced feeling.

That is combined with a story that feels simply meaningless as Malekith never really seems to be as bad as Odin tries to make out (though I was left with impression Hopkins didn’t really even understand most of his dialogue) so there isn’t really any point where there is a real, effective, antagonist as the best in the series so far, Loki, spends most of the film locked in a box brooding.

Hiddleston and Hemsworth
Hiddleston and Hemsworth

That said, Tom Hiddleston’s performance stands head and shoulders above the rest as he genuinely seems to be actually acting, rather than just turning up making the actions and saying the words, and you get a sense of the mischief that is the very nature of Loki. While the rest of the film features some fine actors, particularly Portman, Hopkins and Stellan Skarsgard, none show their worth as, for the most part, their roles are simply underdeveloped stereotypes (even more so than in past) and, more so, none really seem to care about being there.

As ever with a big budget blockbuster the special effects do generally look impressive but, in the battle scenes, there are points where the nearest comparisons I could make were Michael Bay’s Transformers and Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel as the characters become totally lost in a pointless, nonsensical, spectacle that loses what little emotional momentum the movie might have had.

With Marvel Phase Two rolling on with Guardians of the Galaxy and Captain America: Winter Soldier in the near future I hope Thor: The Dark World is merely a blip in an otherwise largely admirable series, but it has knocked my previous confidence and excitement in the studio.

Ben Kingsley
Ben Kingsley

The Blu-ray release of Thor: The Dark World does feature one major saving grace in the form of the ‘One Shot’ short film All Hail The King featuring the return of Ben Kingsley in his role from Iron Man 3, this has wit, charm, fun and adventure far surpassing that of the main feature, despite all being set two or three rooms in a prison, and hints at some interesting developments to come for the Marvel Universe – I just hope this is more representative of what is to come from the studio than the over blown, underplayed turkey on the front of the box.

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