With the Frost Giants defeated and Loki (Tom Hiddleston) in prison, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is helping to return peace to the nine realms. However, after Jane (Natalie Portman) discovers an ancient force known as the Aether, Malekith (Christopher Eccleston), leader of the Dark Elves, hatches a plan to harness the Aether to return the nine realms to darkness.
The unique thing and the Thor franchise compared to the other Marvel films is that its hero comes from somewhere other than Earth. This presents its own set of pros and cons, but what it does ensure is that it has the opportunity to stand proud from its peers such as Iron Man and Captain America.
Thor: The Dark World takes advantage of other worldly locales more than the first film and it’s better for it as a result. We get to see some of the other realms, albeit briefly, and Asgard feels more fleshed out, starting to feel like a living, breathing world. This is no doubt down to director Alan Taylor who has also directed TV fantasy epic Game of Thrones. We still get a good chunk of the film set on Earth, however; this time in London. This split between the recognisable Earth and fantasy of Asgard is well balanced and adds excellent variety to the film’s locations.
One area where the film really excels is in its humour. Marvel films always have a rich vein of humour running through them but Thor:TDW turns it up a notch. It’s genuinely funny in places, with much of the humour coming from Tom Hiddleston’s Loki. His biting remarks towards Thor are frequent (maybe even a little too frequent) and more often then not will raise a giggle. Thor himself also some amusing moments, ensuring he’s not totally outplayed by his on-screen brother.
And it’s in the chemistry between the two brothers where the film really shines. Chris Hemsworth is a little held back by the nature of Thor’s character but still manages to inject a bit of personality into the role, particularly when he’s so obviously out of place during his time on Earth. Tom Hiddleston was undoubtedly the best thing about the first Thor film, and arguably also in Avengers Assemble, and he’s similarly brilliant here. He manages to perfectly balance Loki’s smarmy yet scared persona masterfully; we see him goading Thor and hatching devious plots throughout, yet we also see a sadness and vulnerability that shows a deeper side to the character.
Unfortunately, this characterisation does not translate to the film’s villain. Christopher Eccleston’s Malekith is a frankly banal enemy devoid of personality or threat. This isn’t Eccleston’s fault, merely that of the character, and is a trend all too common with the recent batch of superhero movies.
Superhero films a ten a penny these days and it’s easy to become jaded by their familiarity and somewhat formulaic nature. Likewise, if you’re not a fan of the genre, there’s little here to suddenly change your mind (well, Chris Hemsworth maybe). However, thanks to some excellent set pieces and laugh out loud humour, Thor:TDW establishes itself as one of the best films in the Marvel series so far.