If you happen to be a final year film student, here’s a suggestion for your dissertation topic: movies with colons in their titles should be approached cautiously. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life, GI Joe: Rise of Cobra, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (come to think of it, steer clear of all “Rise of” flicks too). All films that provide standard Friday night entertainment, but fail to linger in mind shortly after exiting your local Odeon. Which doesn’t exactly bode well for Thor: The Dark World…
It’s not that TDW is a bad film, more like a curiously disappointing one. The God of Thunder’s first outing was well-served by a healthy dose of fish out of water humour to go with the hammer-pounding action and lofty Shakespearian dialogue. The comedy is still present in the sequel – and TDW can be occasionally very funny – but this time it feels like it’s there to cover up the film’s inadequacies instead of working to its strengths. You’ll no doubt get a chuckle seeing Thor hang Mjolnir on a coat hanger or catching the London Underground during rush hour, but they always feel like distractions from the main plot.
Although “plot” is actually pushing it – what we have here is more akin to a “mainstream narrative equation”, i.e. character X must go from plot point A to plot point B in order to save character Y. Throw in also some of the dodgiest movie science ever to grace a blockbuster and you’re onto a head-scratcher to rival the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise in terms of logic and continuity.
In fact, the set-up is so convoluted that an opening voiceover is required, courtesy of Anthony Hopkins’ all-father Odin. Something to do with Christopher Eccleston’s Malekith (a front-runner for the year’s Blandest Villain) trying to steal a MacGuffin, fails, gets jailed, breaks out, wants revenge… you know the drill. It’s the kind of outline put together by a focus group, rather than a visionary screenwriter.
Thank god for Tom Hiddleston’s Loki then, who single-handedly steals the show, runs with it and never looks back. Over the course of three movies Hiddleston has managed to breathe life into the God of Mischief and inhabit the role in the same way Robert Downey Jr and Hugh Jackman did with Tony Stark and Wolverine before him, as opposed to Chris Hemsworth, whose ownership of the role of Thor is more down to his physical resemblance to his comic book counterpart. Loki brings a very welcome blend of sass and menace to the table, thus ensuring Thor is never too much of a bore whenever he’s around and he will no doubt be sorely missed when the next Avengers flick hits the screens.
Other minor saving graces are two highly surprising cameos (neither of which are Stan Lee) and the most bonkers final battle witnessed so far in a Marvel film, where director Alan Taylor literally chucks everything but the kitchen sink at the screen. It’s mad, it’s confusing and will have you in stiches for both the right and the wrong reasons. And that is probably the best way to sum up Thor: The Dark World, a disappointing sequel but a hilarious one nonetheless.