Thor: The Dark World (12A)

The adventures of Thor (Chris Hemsworth), the Mighty Avenger, continue as he battles to save Earth and all the Nine Realms from a shadowy enemy that predates the universe itself.

In the aftermath of Marvel’s ‘Thor’ and ‘Marvel’s The Avengers’, Thor fights to restore order across the cosmos…but an ancient race led by the vengeful leader of the Dark Elves of Svartalfheim returns to plunge the universe back into darkness , and not just by asking everyone to put on those murk-inducing 3D specs.

Faced with an enemy that even Odin (Anthony Hopkins) and Asgard cannot withstand, Thor must embark on his most perilous and personal journey yet, one that will reunite him with Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and force him to sacrifice everything to save us all.

Ideally, this sequel to 2011’s Thor and follow-up to Marvel Avengers Assemble ought to be epic and terrifying – beefing up its hero’s stature and the value of his series. Instead, the most alarming sight in the whole movie is 62-year-old Stellan Skarsgård running naked around Stonehenge. The movie doesn’t pack a punch like its processor.

Entrusted to director Alan Taylor, best-known for multiple episodes of The Sopranos, Mad Men and Game of Thrones, it feels lacklustre and without a personal stamp in sight.

This won’t dishearten some avid fan though. The Avengers mega-franchise is the biggest corporate merger in recent film-making history. No one is really allowed to rock the boat, even when it’s a Viking longship cruising through space.

Thor’s nemesis on this outing is not his incarcerated brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston), but the Dark Elves of Svartalfheim, who are just as Tolkien-goes-galactic as they sound, if a bit less enjoyable, and are led by an angry chap called Malekith the Accursed (Christopher Eccleston). Half the movie is spent locating a wormhole which connects Asgard with tourist attractions in the east of London. Watch out for Thor and Malekith sliding down the Gherkin.

The job of explaining everything falls to Odin (Anthony Hopkins), a good bellower in the first movie, but now visibly bored, perhaps because he’s essentially stuck playing a big old Welsh exposition machine. He walks into one scene barking, “My words are mere noises to you that you ignore them completely?” – well, the temptation is there.

Here, when the screenwriters can’t think of anything better for Jane to do, they just have her faint repeatedly. She’s been waiting on Earth for two years for some news of her blond, warhammer-wielding toyboy. “Wars were raging, marauders were pillaging,” he offers her. “As excuses go, it’s not terrible,” she concedes.

Despite its pitfall this movie still includes scenes which remind us why we’re rooting for Thor, perhaps even above his Marvel stable-mates Iron Man and Captain America (though not as much as the Hulk). Chris Hemsworth could hardly be better cast. His hearty charisma is a frequent relief, whether we’re cross-cutting to generic fight scenes on Asgard, or to Natalie Portman, whose astrophysicist Jane Foster remains Marvel’s least useful or credible character.

This follow-up to the popular Norse-superhero blockbuster has a flaky plot and an almost mechanical feel. It’s actually quite sad how many of the first Thor’s assets get garbled in the mix.

I cannot understand why on earth Loki, God of Mischief in a transparent cage for 80 per cent of the movie. The best thing about a perilous villain is seeing them unleashed, ready to destroy anything in their path, not watching them sulk in a luxurious prison cell.

Throw in some blatantly iffy London tube advice – three stops from Charing Cross to Greenwich on the Northern line? Good luck with that! – and you have a confidence-lacking movie, taking shortcuts that fail.

By Ruth Walker
★★★☆☆

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