I enjoyed the first Thor film. Appropriately stand-alone, it had a strong plot, was highly fantastical and had great art direction; basically, it ticked all the boxes for me.
So naturally, I went to see its direct sequel.
Thor: The Dark World
Well, is it actually a direct sequel? I’m not sure. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is growing increasingly tangled, and it’s this that stops me from giving The Dark World as glowing a write-up as I might have given the first Thor had I actually written it up (I’d swear I did, but I can’t find anything).
The Dark World takes place a year after the events of Avengers Assemble, where Thor showed up and made brief mention of his earthly love interest but otherwise ignored her. That’s in stark contrast to the heartache we see at the beginning of this film, as one of his Asgaardian chicks makes eyes at him while he pines for Natalie Portman. (Then again, wouldn’t you be doing the same if you had a shot at Natalie Portman?)
I don’t think you need to have seen Avengers Assemble to appreciate The Dark World, but it might help explain some of the seemingly incongruous changes in situation for some of the characters.
In terms of setting, it’s pleasantly Star Warsy but with the subtle mysticism of the Force replaced by more traditional high-fantasy magical dealings.
The film begins with a battle between assorted marauders and some normal humans that aren’t on Earth, while everyone is shooting blasters and using swords that really wish they were lightsabres (all the mundane-looking weapons seem to secretly be lasers. I don’t remember that from the first film. Don’t get me wrong, I ain’t complaining, just pointing it out).
Then the villainous Dark Elves have legions of stormtroopers that march around in masks more than a little reminiscent of Morrowind‘s Ordinators (identical faces means only one character model for the CGI department to worry about) — and, despite their incredible technology, the Asgaardian grunts still manage to fall from single blaster shots.
Only imposing lead villain Christopher Do-You-Wanna-Come-With-Me Eccleston and his lieutenant get their faces out, which feels a bit cheap when there are so many superfluous bit-part Asgaardians shoehorned in.
Of course, while the Asgaardians are prancing around the mock-Shakespearian seriousness, the Earth-driven parts of the story are delightfully quirky. The dialogue delivered by Natalie Portman’s intern Darcy is superbly ridiculous and constantly raises smiles, neatly deflating any gravitas the other characters and the central plot might aspire to.
While Erik being arrested for wandering naked around Stonehenge was possibly a step too far, gags like Thor hanging Mjolnir up on Natalie Portman’s coatrack provide plenty of more subtle relief. I also found it a nice touch when Natalie Portman ended up going around in faux-medieval Asgaardian getup with a modern jacket over the top. And how Greenwich is the centre of the world. GMT forever!
The plot mostly holds together, though some parts of it are a bit contrived. The convergence of the universe seems to bring with it random perturbations but these random perturbations turn out to be awfully convenient, one initial such perturbation just so happening to lead to the MacGuffin that powers the story.
Loki is appropriately tricksy, with numerous set-ups and tear-downs lending plenty of twists to the proceedings throughout. Still can’t get over the fact that he was Pontus in the Kenneth Branagh version of Wallander.
The finale was very well set-up for a sequel, though the obligatory post-credits sequence fell far far on the wrong side of camp. Were Thor a pristine franchise floating about on its own, as the first film pretty much managed with only the merest nods to the rest of the canon, I wouldn’t worry — but now the Marvel Cinematic Universe starting to bring in some decidedly questionable elements I have concerns about how future films might proceed. As I have just demonstrated with the relationship between The Dark World and Avengers Assemble, the mighty mash-ups may have little regard for the subtlties of the stand-alone arc.
Overall, though, it was a good solid blockbuster. Romance, seriousness, quirkiness, lovely art design, all the boxes ticked.
Gosh, I could really go some Thor Lego right now. How come they made Iron Man 3 Lego and not Thor 2 Lego? Grumble.