Film review: THOR: THE DARK WORLD, from Built For Speed

The seemingly endless procession of superhero comic cinema adaptations continues with the second Thor film, Thor: The Dark World.  The first Thor film was a passable mythic adventure yarn in which the eponymous Norse thunder God and Marvel Comics legend bashed his way through some gruesome looking fiends in the other dimensional world of Asgard. Exactly what the hell is going on the ridiculous, incoherent, eyeball and eardrum-pummelling sequel is, however, anybody’s guess.

This odd mix of Norse myth and space opera begins with some ludicrous twaddle about dark elves trying to steal a mysterious all-powerful force called the Ether which looks like swirling, gravity-defying red cordial.  When the elves later attack Asgard and London, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and his band of Asgardian warriors are forced to defy Asgard ruler Odin (Anthony Hopkins) in their attempt to vanquish the invaders.  Mixed up in all this is the world’s hottest physicist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) who, this time, is not only Thor’s human love interest and a crusading scientist but also host to an alien power.  Attempting to manipulate and profit from the calamity caused by the invading elves is Thor’s bad seed brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston). There’s also some bollocks about inter-dimensional travel and the nine realms of Asgard aligning all of which add nothing of interest to the story.

This muddled plot is really just a jumping off point for elaborate, noisy, vertigo-inducing, cgi-drenched action scenes where, just as in Man of Steel, bodies and space-ships plough through buildings and where the supposed hero ends up destroying half the city he’s trying to save.   Some of these scenes are spectacular but most are just messy, deafening and as emotionally empty as a computer game.

Thor: The Dark World also features two of the most irritating clichés in modern-day special effects driven films:  the jerky, loping, sinewy CGI dog monster and supernatural forces represented as physical phenomena so that the screen is full of ridiculous cosmic rainbow bridges and gaping wormholes.

Reaching out from the screen and clubbing the audience across the head is the outrageously ornate production design by Charles Wood, who was responsible for Wrath of the Titans, The A-Team and the upcoming Guardians of The Galaxy.  His designs are often cluttered and confusing but he does give the vast, gilded metallic Asgardian palaces an Art Deco look that has some of the visual beauty of Tarsem Singh’s work.

Thor: The Dark World is not only visually confused but tonally as well as it switches awkwardly from po-faced fantasy adventure to quirky comedy. Suddenly, amid the elf battles Two Broke Girl’s Kat Denning pops up to deliver her patented brand of sassy street-wise of humour.   Chris O’Dowd also appears doing his familiar but likeable comedy as a lovelorn goofball hoping to hook up with Professor Jane. Also, for no good reason other than ultra-cheap comedy relief and to reinforce the Hollywood notion that all scientists are nut jobs, a half-naked Stellan Skarsgard reprises his role as crazed professor Selvig.

Given the film’s confused approach it’s not surprising that Hemsworth seems unsure of exactly how to play Thor.  One minute he’s the stern, muscle-flexing hero speaking with the traditional pompous booming British accent in which apparently all mythological figures speak, the next he’s hamming it up in some lame comedy bit.  Fortunately, Tom Hiddleston appears to understand perfectly the character of sinister fop Loki, playing him with a mix of sophistication, relish and genuine menace.  Sadly, one of the most entertaining characters from the first film, Thor’s warrior buddy Fandral (Zachary Levi), who is apparently based on Errol Flynn, only appears fleetingly in this film.

Putting aside the possibility that this film contains references and valuable plot points apparent only to hard core Marvel comics fans, Thor: The Dark World is only going to please those who regard plot and characters as unnecessary obstacles to cinematic violence and destruction.  Those wanting a clearly defined narrative, digestible action, credible characters and a story with momentum will find this film a chore.

Nick’s rating: Two and a half stars.

Classification: M.

Director(s): Alan Taylor.

Release date: 31st Oct 2013.

Running time:  112 mins.


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