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thor-the-dark-world-poster2013

Genre: Action, Adventure

Directed by: Alan Taylor

Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins

The Marvel name is almost ubiquitous in modern cinema, becoming a vestige of hope for the vox populi of comic book fans. By teasing subsequent stories and creating ‘phases’ for the franchise, they have done the unthinkable and brought television to the big screen. While becoming such regular viewing, the Marvel films are consistently ready to shock and surprise and each are greeted with such hype that even the most mischievous super-villains must be enticed.

‘Phase One’ spectacularly concluded with Avengers Assemble (…no, me neither) and this year they were the toast of Croydon with the brilliant Iron Man 3. The carte blanche given to Shane Black was a testament to Kevin Feige’s leadership; he is a man that appears to never be willing to make the same film twice and in this we should rejoice. The modern blockbuster is in worthy hands.

Continuing their plans for world domination, Marvel again throw the hammer down with the Alan Taylor directed Thor: The Dark World. The Game of Thrones alumnus appears to have had the same clean slate as Shane Black and (in a post-credits tease) as James Gunn, and his gritty shooting style grounds the epic story. Much of this style has followed him from Thrones yet appears predominantly influenced by The Lord of the Rings – particularly in the meandering prologue.

Very much in the footsteps of Hellboy II: The Golden Army as well, the film’s prologue unfortunately does its best to undermine any tension in relation to the villain; we know what he wants and we know he’s going to come back and get it. There’s no mystery. No phantom menace. And when Christopher Eccleston’s Malekith finally does re-emerge to seize the mysterious MacGuffin it sadly feels a little familiar. MacGuffin godfather Alfred Hitchcock recognized the importance of what the audience knew and what they didn’t in creating tension and it’s unfortunate that in Thor 2 we often know too much. Even the final scene loses what was potentially a cataclysmic climactic reveal because of an earlier scene.

Other scenes play out much the same way and it’s also like Iron Man 3 that the darker moments are alleviated by some of the funnier moments in the script. Whilst a treat to watch, there’s a danger that these films may begin to tip over into the self-deprecating without doing much to reward even the most die hard of fans.

Where it’s light on emotional beats, Thor: The Dark World excels in entertaining its audience with clever multi-dimensional fight scenes and some wonderful chemistry between Hemsworth and Hiddleston at its heart. The Australian Home And Away actor was born for the role of the Norse God and in a world overpopulated with super heroes he gives one of the more charming performances.

On the other hand, Eccleston will regrettably go down in history with Eric Bana of Star Trek and Michael Shannon of Man of Steel as many of his scenes appear lost in the edit – likely in favour for Hiddleston so as to cement his place as Marvel’s only memorable villain. What seems to have the traces of a genuinely terrifying performance is relegated predominantly to subtitled growling and you can’t help but feel without Loki, Malekith would have something bigger on the inside.

Kat Dennings by some horrendous mistake also features prominently with her Velma-esque irritations. With some regret she’s also given her own sidekick and it’s here things get a little too much. Just as the Sif/Thor/Jane love triangle goes nowhere, there’s the suggestion that a post-Avengers Thor is becoming too crowded, too noisy.

The overwhelming feeling however, is one of excitement and there are enough cameos and references to keep the fandom at bay for another 6 months. Russo also triumphs as Frega, particularly in a Ripley-esque battle with the Dark Elves.

It’s not by accident that I started this by commenting on Marvel’s success, as Thor: The Dark World isn’t admittedly their best outing. Yet their willingness to entertain and surprise cements their place as the guardians of the blockbuster galaxy.

Thor: The Dark World then, in suffering from an almost non-existent villain, in dropping some of its most powerful moments in favour of a laugh, in feeling somewhat familiar and in not quite living up to the surprise impact Thor’s hammer made the first time round, is still a remarkably solid effort from the studio that seems to have a monopoly on the box office. Familiar yet entertaining, it ends on an intriguing shift in the dynamics of the Marvel Universe and it’s enticing to wonder where the franchise will head next. Thwoar…

★★★

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