Marvel breaks out its box of formulas (passed down from their new overseers at Disney) to create the Chris Hemsworth led Thor sequel in an unashamed tie-over between Avengers films. Let’s not kid ourselves here; the MCU phase 1 films were merely the building blocks for what Marvel (and everyone else) was interested in – getting the Avengers together – but currently only one ‘solo’ film has managed to eclipse that landmark team-up, Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Thor 2 though, for all its extravagant CGI, Mjolnir tossing and collection of bad guys, it is without doubt the weakest film in the franchise, even if it still manages to be fun.
An indestructible and ancient elemental force is accidentally discovered and fuses itself to the hapless Jane Foster. This coincides with the re-emergence of another ancient force in the form of the Dark Elves and their resurrected leader Malekith. But this old foe, which Odin (Anthony Hopkins) defeated long ago whilst liberating the dangerous Aether and hiding it in a mysterious place (only to be found thousands of years later by our protagonist’s girlfriend) has returned to capitalize on the imminent Harmonic Convergence where all 9 realms converge and align, and where the borders separating said realms are blurred. In order to save Jane, Stop the Dark Elves and prevent total intergalactic calamity, through a series of events, Thor will need to turn to his imprisoned and traitorous brother Loki for help.
This all sounds quite ridiculous, but somehow they weave it all together to make it remotely believable.
For fans of the MCU and those who like their superheroes with a side of comedy and sometimes all out mindless action. Or more for the school kid looking to see one of his Avenger heroes in a solo film.
The Bottom Line
I mentioned believable, but only loosely. The advantage of this film is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously, but they somehow manage to balance the ridiculous with some solemn moments as well as some simply kick-ass moments (like Idris Elba’s Heimdal taking down an alien spaceship by himself), to bombard you with action and lots of noise, flying, names you can’t pronounce and general superhero antics to distract you from the fact that the story is so weak.
Sadly, much of the focus is on Foster (Natalie Portman) who is easily one of the most miscast roles in the entire franchise. Her character isn’t quite as cardboard-y as in the previous installment, as Portman at least tries to add a bit of whimsy to her performance, but ultimately she doesn’t add much to the film as a whole – just a vehicle to further the far-fetched plot. Thankfully those elements are offset by the always delightful Kat Dennings in her customary scene stealing sidekick role along with Stellan Skarsgard’s unhinged Dr. Selvig who’s admitted to a mental institution for his (accurate) prophecies of doom. Another negative is that Thor’s colourful team of soldier companions, Lady Sif (Jaime Alexander), Fandral (Zachary Levy) and Volstagg (Ray Stevenson) don’t get much time to shine and are reduced to bit part players. But again the emphasis then falls on Loki as the crowd’s favourite bad guy returns (because it wouldn’t be a Thor film without Tom Hiddleston, ironically). Tom’s performance predictably lifts the latter two thirds of the film out of its formulaic confines by simply being his magnetic self.
I mentioned the Winter Soldier earlier because together, these two films form practically the opposite ends of the MCU spectrum. Thor: The Dark World had a few developmental hiccups (sacking the original director) as is becoming the norm with Marvel Studios offerings but to paper over the plot holes, conveniences, lack of logic, forgettable villains and weak story, they relied on humour and a few good performances with great action set pieces. As entertaining as it is, it’s equally forgettable.