By Jessica Delfanti | November 12, 2013
Director: Alan Taylor
Writers: Christopher Yost, Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Rene Russo, Anthony Hopkins, Kat Dennings, Stellan Skarsgard, Idris Elba, Christopher Eccleston
The first Thor film was a surprise. Of all of Marvel’s Avengers films, this seemed the most risky. Thor’s origin story was not set in the historical trappings of Captain America’s World War II, or the flashy scenery of Iron Man’s Los Angeles. Instead, Thor required the glittery Asgard, the stony reaches of alien planets, the rainbow strip of the Skybridge, and the backdrop of the starry universe. However, Thor had important advantages: Kenneth Branagh in the director’s seat, a writing team capable of hitting the tone at every turn, and the introduction of a deliciously evil villain, Loki (Tom Hiddleston).
Unfortunately, the follow up Thor: The Dark World fails to live up to its predecessor. Helmed by director Alan Taylor, with a new writing team, this sophomore slump is dragging, badly paced, and not funny enough when it tries to be.
T:TDW finds its hearty, hairy hero (Chris Hemsworth) in comic battles across the universe, trying to repair the damage from the events of The Avengers. When Thor’s old flame, Jane (Natalie Portman) gets infected by an ancient evil ether (Is it a liquid? Is it a gas? Who knows!) in one of the most conveniently random accidents seen on screen, Thor must… save the world? The ether’s risk are murky: either it will kill Jane, or she can be used as a weapon, or someone else can pull it out of her and use it as a weapon, or Thor just wants an excuse to introduce Jane to his parents, Frigga (Rene Russo) and Odin (Anthony Hopkins).
Regardless of the why, the what is clear: an evil looking alien-man called Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) wants to destroy the universe, and naturally that showdown will put Earth in danger–see, it’s still relevant to us earthlings, even if it’s just for the climax.
Admittedly, the filmmakers try to build some investment in the human side, and some of the best moments are delivered by regular humans Darcy (Kat Dennings) and Dr. Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard), whose humor seems accidentally self aware, each joke a wink at the audience at how superfluous their characters have become.
Still, that is superior to most of the writing around the central characters. Thor, whose straightforward dullness and seemingly simple mind has been used for comedic purpose in both Thor and The Avengers, is now little more than a lunk in a cape. Jane, for her part, is written as annoying and useless, a far reach from the capable scientist of the first film.
Turning its own narrative on its head, T:TDW’s own villain is its only saving grace: Hiddleston’s Loki is easily the best thing about the film. Unsurprisingly, at every opportunity, Hiddleston steals the scene from Hemsworth. Hiddleston is a particularly skilled actor, deftly playing out Loki’s pettiness, his villainy, his desolation and his gloating. Loki feels like the most complete character in the film, and though he is predictable, his twists and turns are fun to follow.
But even Hiddleston cannot save the CGI-packed film from the overly choreographed action and abysmal pacing that leave it aimless and boring until its final, admittedly fun climax. In the end, it seems that Thor: The Dark World, like its title character, has become little more than a shell of the entity that was once so funny, charming, and full of heart.
Rating: 4/10 (extra point because, Loki)