It’s strange to think that it’s been over five years since Marvel started assembling their Avengers. Last year’s hero mash-up was undeniably a success, but it is easy to forget that the individual adventures of everyone’s favourite super squad have been anything but super.
The possible exception to this was Kenneth Branagh’s crack at Thor. What could have been a pompous, old-fashioned campathon was actually a family drama of Shakespearean proportions, as powerful as it was downright hilarious. Part of the film’s charm was the perfect casting of Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston as feuding frères Thor and Loki. Hemsworth was the only actor ripped enough to play a Norse god, while Hiddleston gave Thor a genuinely evil and threatening villain, something that has been all but lost from cinema.
What a pity, then, that Thor: The Dark World (it’s a sequel so it’s dark) is not only the poorest film that Marvel have produced, but also the poorest film of the year so far. From the plodding, exposition-heavy opening narration from Oscar Winning Actor The King Sir Anthony Hopkins as Odin (here reading his lines as if he has never seen English before), it is clear that this iteration of Thor is going to be a total bore. This sequel truly represents everything wrong with modern filmmaking: nonsensical plotting: motiveless antagonists; paint-by-numbers CGI action scenes; an inconsistent tone; lazy dialogue and a ludicrous cameo from Chris O’Dowd.
After Odin’s spiel about Dark Elves and some MacGuffin called Aether, we are back on Earth with Oscar Winning Actress Natalie Portman, playing astrophysicist Jane Foster. It is difficult to remember a film where Oscar Winning Actress Natalie Portman has been so noticeably terrible: here she flits between a pining school girl who must collect posters of Thor to a proper official science type who knows about gravity and anomalies and space and stuff. When we rejoin Jane, she is on a date with Chris O’Dowd, who plays the policeman off of Bridesmaids again and makes a joke about sea bass.
These tonal shifts are half of The Dark World’s problems. On the one hand we are being asked to care about the war of the Nine Realms, and some pale-faced Elf called Malekith (Christopher Eccleston, doing nothing more than barking in reverb and sitting in a big chair), and on the other we have Stellen Skarsgård running around Stonehenge with his cock out. There are, thankfully, moments where the comedy works (a moment where Thor hangs his hammer on a coat rail is an excellent visual gag) but that doesn’t excuse the fact that you have absolutely no idea what in Yodenheim is going on.
The incomprehensibility of the whole thing is not aided by the shoddy editing job. You get the impression that this film needs to be an hour longer for anything to make sense. It is clear that The Dark World has a lot to get through, and as a result characters frequently appear out of nowhere as their journey from A to B has ended up on the cutting room floor. The action is therefore disjointed, forgettable and, worst of all, boring. It is bizarre that a good five minutes of the running time is wasted on the funeral of Thor’s mum (it’s not really a spoiler because you won’t give a shit) when it could be spent adding meat to these bare, dull bones.
A large part of the first film’s strength was the tense/tight relationship between Thor and Loki. The writers clearly realise this, and therefore the imprisoned Loki worms his way into the plot for no other reason than that he knows about a secret tunnel. In fairness to Tom Hiddleston, he does his best with awful material, his trickiness adding some psychological depth and marginal levels of excitement. Still, if this is the best Marvel can do for their Norse wonder, it is a very dark world, indeed.