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Film review; Thor 2: The Dark World Print E-mail
Written by Ivan Radford   
Wednesday, 30 October 2013 12:19
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Director: Alan Taylor Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Kat Dennings, Stellan Skarsgard, Christopher Eccleston
Certificate: 12A

"How's space?" "Space is fine."

That's random science intern Darcy (Dennings) to Thor (Hemsworth) after he returns to Earth. It's that kind of throwaway exchange that defined the first outing for Marvel's caped, helmeted, big-haired hero - a campfire legend with enough camp to make it work. The message was clear: DC can have their serious Dark Knights and Men of Steel, but Marvel has a Norse God who walks into New Mexico diners and shouts for ale and horses. The Dark World tries hard to keep up that silly tone - and Thor2nately, for the most part, it succeeds.

We join Thor as he finally brings peace to the Nine Realms - placing him in good stead to inherit the throne from Odin (Hamthony Hopkins). Then, things go wrong, as an army of dark elves pop out of an exposition-heavy prologue to lay waste to the universe with a CGI weapon called The Aether. Which, conveniently, has decided to store itself inside Thor's beloved, Jane.

Alan Taylor takes his time to get things going, spending 30 minutes running around London car parks with Kat Dennings and a naked Stellan Skarsgard. Bizarrely, that's when Thor 2 takes flight: the down-to-Earth bits that show how ridiculous dark elves, spaceships and teleportation wotsits really are. To the people on the Tube - where Thor briefly makes an inspired appearance - it's the kind of thing you'd see in Star Wars or Lord of the Rings. And when Thor hits his stride, that's exactly what this seems like: a mash-up of sci-fi and fantasy's greatest hits. In one sequence where Asgard is attacked by the elven fleet, the ships even sound like TIE fighters.

Things rollercoast along from one familiar bump to the next - a deadly chief henchman here, a double-cross there - for most of the film's sagging middle. That's when Thor makes the inevitable decision to unleash his secret weapon: Loki.

Relegated to sitting in a prison, the freed Tom Hiddleston relishes the chance to dial up the megalomania as Chris Hemsworth's vengeful brother. Their bickering is what made Marvel's original outing so striking (it was an origins story for two characters rather than one), so the writing team of Christopher L. Yost, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely - none of whom worked on Thor - do well to continue his cod-Shakespearean struggle for power. "I wish I could trust you," laments Thor. "Trust my rage," Loki hisses back.

The problem is that Hiddleston is so good that the dark elves pale in comparison. Christopher Eccleston wears the make-up well as their evil leader, Malekith, but even when he squares off against The Hammer, it lacks the frisson of Thor's family arguments.

The sequel tries to make up for it by increasing the menace (and destroying half of Greenwich along the way) but blowing up events leaves you missing the smaller-scale, Lo-ki fun. Chris Hemsworth is fantastic as the lead hero (it takes a special kind of man to pull off a cape and metal breastplates), even washing his topless body for the ladies with irresistable charisma, but it's Kat Dennings and Stellan Skarsgard who give Thor's universe its character.

And that's what missing. Game of Thrones director Alan Taylor shoots everything well enough, but with a plot rehashed from other movies and a lack of unique visual flair - Kenneth Branagh's dutch tilts are sorely missed - The Dark World doesn't always feel like a Thor movie. Compared to the rest of the Marvel stable, this is one of their weakest superhero adventures.

Thank goodness, then, that it's also one of their funniest. Yes, Marvel's campest creation still has his sense of humour, and nods to Captain America, S.H.I.E.L.D. and Stellan Skarsgard's underpants keep you laughing all the way through this Thor-roughly enjoyable ride - even if the track, like my Thor puns, is a tad uneven. The Norse God may not be on Thorm, but Kat Dennings returns to save the day. How's space? Space is fine.