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Film Review: 'Thor: The Dark World'

Opened: 30 October 2013 (UK) 
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins, Stellan Skarsgård, Idris Elba, Christopher Eccleston, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Kat Dennings, Ray Stevenson, Zachary Levi, Tadanobu Asano, Jaimie Alexander and Rene Russo
Director: Alan Taylor
Producer: Kevin Feige/Marvel
Rating★★★

With his mischievous brother in shackles and not a peep from the bothersome frost giants of his first solo outing, the now wiser and (slightly) older Thor returns for a fantasy tale of epic world-hopping proportions. The story picks up almost immediately from the battle of New York (Avengers Assemble), where he and his fellow Avengers beat down on his kid brother Loki for having his hand in the cosmic cookie jar. 

Thor returns to his home on Asgard a hero and Loki is thrown into prison for life, spared from destruction only at the request of his mother Frigga, played deftly and gracefully by Rene Russo, who brings depth and texture as well as much needed heart to the film. The nine realms, of which Earth and Asgard are two, will soon become aligned and when this happens the villainous Dark Elves plan to use the Aether (an ancient cosmic force) to undo all of reality. A few added complications mean that they don’t yet have the Aether and Thor’s fragile human lady friend Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) gets mixed up in all of this chaos.

Chris Hemsworth and Anthony Hopkins in Thor: The Dark World

From this set up the action moves at a quick pace using levity and light hearted moments to perk up viewers who may have lost interest in the cosmic struggle at hand. One definite casualty of this tact are the humourless and one dimensional Dark Elves who are out of place in a film that is far too self-aware to take them as seriously as they take themselves. With comedy featuring high on the agenda the welcomed return of Jane’s sardonic assistant Darcy (Kat Dennings) is taken too far, ruining what needed to be a purely dramatic finale. Although Thor: the Dark World is a huge step back in the right direction for Marvel movies after the just-for-lols Iron Man 3, the accelerated rise and fall from drama to laughs leaves no time for reflection or tension (with one very notable exception, which I will not spoil for you).

It would though be disingenuous not to congratulate director Alan Taylor on what he has achieved here. Thor: The Dark World presents us with a wondrous tale filled with sweeping mythical landscapes and three dimensional characters that continue to evolve as events take their toll – ironically this can only be said for Thor and his Asgardian brethren because the human characters, with Foster included, are rather flat. Character development is most evident in our eponymous hero, manifesting around his inner turmoil about love, family and responsibility. 

Natalie Portman and Chris Hemsworth in Thor: The Dark World

I'm going with a very respectable three stars for Thor: The Dark World. For fans of the franchise there is a level of detail that the first film simply did not have the time to share. Avid fanboys must stay for the mid credit scene which blows the lid on the biggest plot point of all these interlinked Marvel movies; do be warned however, it looks like a cheap 1970’s Dr Who prologue and I suspect it has been shoe horned in at the last minute following the lame end credits scene of Iron Man 3.  A very end of credits scene rounds the movie off perfectly, with the delivery of a satisfying ending.

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