Thor’s third big screen outing and second feature film The Dark World is unleashed on DVD and Bluray today. Here’s our review of the film first published ahead of the cinematic release.
The Spoiler Free Review
Having recently re-watched Thor, I had no doubt in my mind what I wanted from the sequel The Dark World. It had to be on a grander scale, a more expansive location for scenes on Earth that could compare to the scope, if not the grandeur of the vast CGI landscape that makes up Asgard. You see, the thing that really struck me with the first film was how all of the scenes set on Earth (New Mexico to be precise) were in a very compact and limited area. It makes sense if you’re keeping and eye on the budget. Following the success of the first film featuring Odin’s son and his part to play in The Avengers I fully expected the budget to be a little more accommodating this time around. And it seems that it is.
Asgard is depicted as a lush and grand expansive world, whilst in stark contrast the scenes set on Earth take place in the rich (all be it, mostly grey) tapestry that is my home city, London.
Once more the now familiar cast reprise their roles, Chris Hemsworth is charismatic as Thor whilst Natalie Portman adequately portrays Jane Foster, for whom Thor pines much to the derision of his father Odin, again played by Anthony Hopkins.
Tom Hiddleston reprises his role as Loki with Stellan Skarsgård as Dr Eric Selvig, Kat Dennings as Darcy alongside Thor’s loyal companions, Volstagg, Hogun, Sif and Fandral. In addition to Hiddleston and Hopkins you’ll find a couple of other actors familiar to British fans. Most notably former Doctor Who, Christopher Eccleston, plays the film’s antagonist Malekith, whilst in a much smaller role you’ll find Chris O’Dowd from the I.T. Crowd.
The plot revolves around an ancient race of dark elves who’s reign of terror was ended by Odin’s father who led Asgard into battle and stole away the elves powerful weapon ‘The Aether’ eradicating the elves in the process, or so they believed. True to form, a small number of dark elves lay in stasis until such time as the hidden power source is found once more. The re-emergence of The Aether coincides with the alignment of all nine realms, an event that happens only once every five thousand years, and allows Malekith the perfect opportunity to destroy them all. Needless to say, Thor must re-unite with Jane Foster, take matters into his own hands and face Malekith with the assistance of his imprisoned and disgraced, adopted brother Loki.
One of the wonderful things about the 2008 Thor movie directed by Kenneth Branagh was the slapstick humour and one liners. The Dark World director Alan Taylor takes this aspect to the next level with regular moments that had the audience filling the cinema with laughter. Loki in particular delivers a constant stream of dry wit whilst Dr Selvig prancing around Stone Henge naked provides the visual element.
The action is fast paced with leaps between realms depicted as fluid actions scenes whilst we witness Thor and the dark elves battle in London one moment before shifting to an altogether different environment in another world the next.
Both fans of the Marvel universe and those new to the vast series will find an awful lot to enjoy in Thor: The Dark World. The action, the humour and for those that enjoyed the first film,the familiarity of characters. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable way to spend the best part of two hours and goes a long way to strengthening the Thor cinematic brand. That said, there are a number of worrying similarities between the basic premise of this film and others in the Marvel universe. A great power source that when used by evil can be a terrible weapon? Sound a bit like the tesseract at all? Well, yes is the answer. But maybe that’s all part of the plan? Maybe that’s addressed later in the film?… maybe…
Now… for the spoilers. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!
So, the dark elves are bad, right?
Damn straight they are. A race who pre-date time itself and are hell bent on destroying everything with the power of the Aether. A power source that is liquid in nature and can take on a host body, giving tremendous power to those it inhabits. Odin’s father managed to snatch the Aether from the elves, hiding it deep undergound, and set about wiping the elves out. Except Malaketh and a few of his mates got away and hid until such times as the great power source might be found again.
How was it found again?
You’ll never guess! As the nine realms begin to align, portals appear on Earth allowing objects and people to travel between realms. It just so happens that Jane Foster, now residing in England, happened to chance upon one of these and finds herself playing host to the Aether. Thor, who’s been missing the girl like crazy, decides that her disappearance to another realm is finally the motivation he requires to fulfil his promise at the end of the first film to return to be with Foster.
Thor takes Jane to Asgard, the dark elves attack killing Thors mum, which pisses him off. Odin doesn’t seem to know what to do and closes access to and from Asgard. Meanwhile Thor with the help of his friends set about hunting down Malaketh in a clandestine operation. In order to find a way out of Asgard he must enlist the help of his mentalist, imprisoned brother Loki.
So is Loki good or bad now?
Tough one this. He’s bad, then he softens a bit when his mother dies and helps Thor, then we think he’s bad again because he cuts Thor’s hand off, then he’s good again because it was an illusion to fool the elves and then right at the end he seems to be terribly bad once more. It’s complicated and Loki hasn’t really figured out on which side of the fence he wants to fall. It’s irrelevant anyhow as he’s killed whilst nobly assisting his brother in battle…
What’s Malaketh’s problem?
The Aether is transferred from Jane Foster to Malaketh who is hell bent on destroying everything with it’s power. The once in every five thousand years alignment of the realms forms the perfect opportunity for him to use the power and destroy each and every world. It turns out the perfect location for this to happen is the place where time begins, Greenwich in London. Which is where much of the epic fight scenes take place whilst Thor and co slip through portals into other lands before returning. The resulting fight sequences are quite spectacular with some of London’s iconic architecture being used as props and backdrops.
But Thor wins right?
Well, duh! Having left Jane Foster on Earth once more to return to Asgard, Odin is ready to pass on the throne to the now wise and brave Thor. But he declines on account of his love for the human. Odin gives his blessing for Thor to be with her, in a round-about way and the demi-god exits. But wait! That wasn’t Odin Thor was talking to, it was Loki! He’s not dead after all.
What about the cameos?
There are two of note. Of course Stan Lee raises his head as a patient in a mental home complaining that Dr. Selvig has taken his shoe. The other occurs when Thor and Loki are walking in a scene with extended dialogue. Loki shift his image a number of times, most notably on one occasion taking on the form of Captain Steve Rogers aka Captain America. It’s a brief cameo by Chris Evans.
And there are two post credit scenes?
Kind of. There’s one mid-credit scene which shows actor Benicio Del Torro as The Collector. Thor’s trusted friends take the Aether to the Collector for safe keeping as it seems unwise to keep both the Tesseract and this power source on Asgard. It’s at this point we get the distinct impression that the collector is going to turn out to be trouble. “One power stone down, five to go…” That quote may not be verbatim.
The final scene comes right at the end of the credits when Thor returns to Jane Foster. The pair embrace and the scene cuts to a derelict site seen earlier in the film. A monster that was sucked through a portal earlier in the movie (which we had all forgotten about) chases a flock of birds like a kitten with a ball of wool. Cute.
So what’s the niggle?
There has to be one and it’s a little sloppy. During battle Thor finds himself thrown into Charing Cross tube station. A train is at the platform and Thor asks the best way to get to Greenwich. The woman on the train replies, it’s three stops on this line. It’s a nice comedy moment but I can assure you that taking three stops on the Northern Line will find you quite some way from Thor’s desired destination, though he might discover an interest in cricket if he visits the Oval.
Is it worth buying?
In a word, yes! It’s a fun movie, it feels on a larger scale than the first and has a good mixture of action, peril, emotion and humour.
Thor: The Dark World is available to buy on DVD and Bluray now.
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