The latest in the Marvel mega-franchise, Thor: The Dark World, is neither as bad nor as good as it could have been. Despite a troubled production history it emerges as an efficiently entertaining addition to the canon, but falls short of the top flight Marvel pics, including its own predecessor.
When last seen Thor (Chris Hemsworth) was taking Loki (Tom Hiddleston) back to Asgard having helped foil his alien invasion scheme in New York. Back in his own world, Thor misses Jane (Natalie Portman), the physicist he fell in love with in the previous film. His father Odin (Anthony Hopkins) thinks he would be better off forgetting her, but Thor doesn’t get a chance to do too much moping, what with the Nine Realms to bring peace to and a new threat involving some gobbledegook about planetary alignment, dark matter and dark elves (led by former Doctor Who Christopher Eccleston).
Alan Taylor, best known for directing various episodes of Game of Thrones, helms the piece with machine tool precision, but lacks the genuine flair Kenneth Branagh brought to the first Thor. Taylor fails to put any discernable personal stamp on his film, unlike the Marvel pics helmed by Shane Black (Iron Man 3), Joss Whedon (Avengers Assemble), Joe Johnson (Captain America: The First Avenger) or the afore-mentioned Branagh. The screenplay is also muddled, lacking the effective simplicity of the fish-out-of-water/lesson in humility narrative arc in the previous film. With signs of post production tinkering very much evident, there are jarring shifts in tone. It also looks as though it has been pared down from a longer cut. Certain plot points are introduced which go nowhere (such as the seeds of a love triangle between Thor, Jane and Sif).
On the plus side performances are decent, visual effects and production design are all very good, and it’s great to see the majority of the film take place on planets other than Earth. There is a good dose of humour throughout, which proves the big saving grace of the film. Also the action packed Greenwich set climax is funny, thrilling and oddly reminiscent of Monsters Inc (that’s a compliment). There are not one but two end credit stings – one during the credits, one right at the end. One sets up next year’s Guardians of the Galaxy and the other… Well, you’ll have to see for yourself.
As with all such films, the real litmus test is what one’s children thought of it. I can report that it passed that test with flying colours, so if you have children, take the criticisms in the above review the necessary pinch (or sack) of salt.