Second Opinion: Thor: The Dark World - Blu-ray Review

Essentially staffed by two blokes who like film, Film Intel writers Sam and Ben sometimes agree. And then, sometimes they don't. Second Opinion is what happens when they don't. Well... that and lots of shouting.
From Sam's original Thor: The Dark World review: 'original, well designed and blisteringly quick'. Three Stars.

'Perhaps director Alan Taylor had too tough an act to follow in bringing Thor back to the big screen after Branagh and Joss Whedon; or perhaps it is us who has been spoiled by a brace of fine directorial talent.'

In only two films, Marvel’s version of the Norse God of thunder went from arguably one of the publishing house’s trickier characters to satisfyingly transfer into one of their most pleasingly established. Kenneth Branagh’s inaugural take on the Asgardian superhero, 2011’s Thor, brought its title character to the Marvel Cinematic Universe in a film which got the unavoidable origins story done efficiently, whilst setting up both Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston as Thor and Loki respectively to go into 2012’s Avengers Assemble with a strong foundation after only one film. The first film of Marvel’s “Phase 2” in crafting their Cinematic Universe, Iron Man 3, embraced the developments seen in Phase 1’s spectacular multi-franchise finale whilst clearly indicating plans to take its title character in some new and perhaps unexpected directions. It’s a shame then that the second Thor, Thor: The Dark World, spectacularly fails to do either of those things.

Perhaps director Alan Taylor had too tough an act to follow in bringing Thor back to the big screen after Branagh and Joss Whedon; or perhaps it is us who has been spoiled by a brace of fine directorial talent. Either way, this is the flattest and least engaging instalment of Thor’s story so far, and the most disappointing slice of Marvel superhero cinema since Louis Leterrier’s woefully misjudged Incredible Hulk. The story offers nothing that hasn’t been seen umpteen times before in the sci-fi and fantasy genres, and is far too reliant on unlikely coincidences and clichéd devices to invest in. There are some entertaining action sequences in isolation, but even these feel too reminiscent of the likes of Lord Of The Rings and Star Wars to help establish the Thor franchise’s mythology as its own.

Hemsworth still very much looks and feels the part of Thor, but for the first time he feels as though he is merely going through the motions of the character rather than actually doing anything with him. It doesn’t help that The Dark World’s script is largely bereft of charm or personality, especially when compared to Whedon’s whip-smart Avengers Assemble screenplay. Taylor largely forgets that much of Thor’s appeal comes from his fish-out-of-water status on Earth. The superhero spends very little time on our planet before the final act, which then sees him largely tied up with the extra-terrestrial threat of dark elf Malekith (Christopher Eccleston). There are a handful of isolated moments of comedy, which do generate real laughs, but the fact that they are so sparsely present only highlights how humourless the rest of Taylor’s film is. Situating much of The Dark World’s action on Asgard is a grave error: Thor in his home territory just isn’t very interesting.

Just as critical to The Dark World’s failure is its mishandling of Loki, arguably now the franchise’s strongest asset even above Thor himself. Hiddleston makes the most of the lacklustre script, but the real crime here is how little we see of him. Sidelined for pretty much the entire first act, things begin to look up when Loki comes into play, with Hiddleston and Hemsworth’s back-and-forth as the warring siblings providing some of the film’s highlights. But just as Loki begins to lift the film’s prospects the character is promptly removed from proceedings once again, leaving you wondering if any of the decisions made when Taylor was making The Dark World were actually thought through.

The rest of the cast are largely forgettable: Odin (Anthony Hopkins) shouts a lot, Malekith says menacing things both in English and Elvish, and Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) walks around in his pants. Perhaps most critically, Natalie Portman as Jane Foster fails to generate any chemistry with Hemsworth’s hero, their relationship never going anywhere or feeling genuine. In fact, none of the characters feel as though they have gone through any form of development by the end of the film. Taylor suddenly realises this in the film’s final moments, giving Thor a speech which comes almost entirely out of nowhere and that has no basis in the film that has preceded it. Whilst there are a smattering of entertaining moments within The Dark World, there’s just far too much here that makes it impossible to enjoy or even care about Taylor’s film, which ends up as Marvel’s first big misfire for a while.





By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.

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