Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Thor: The Dark World review: Welcome return for Mr Norse guy of superheroes

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Trailer: Thor - The Dark World

Thor continues his battle to save the Earth and all the nine realms from a shadowy enemy that predates the universe itself.

PT1M33S 620 349 October 7, 2013

Reviewer rating:

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Reader rating:

None yet.

Genre Action/Adventure, Fantasy Running time 112 min Director Alan Taylor Screen writer Christopher Yost, Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely Actors Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston , Anthony Hopkins, Christopher Eccleston OFLC rating M Year 2013 Language English

Comic-book superheroes have become so angst-ridden in recent years it's a relief to be around one who has hung on to his sense of humour.

Chris Hemsworth's Norse god Thor comes across as a more pumped-up version of James Hunt, the debonair formula one driver that Hemsworth plays in Ron Howard's Rush - except he has a rather more romantic attitude to women.

The interplanetary politics that govern Thor's life are highly complicated.  

At the start of the latest Thor movie, The Dark World, he's still mooning over Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), the Earthling he was forced to leave behind on her home planet first time around because he had to fight a galactic war.

<em>Marvel's Thor: The Dark World:</em> Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and Thor (Chris Hemsworth).

Hammer time: Chris Hemsworth and Natalie Portman team up again. Photo: Jay Maidment

The interplanetary politics which govern his life are highly complicated. To get to grips with it, you have to take in a concentrated infusion of Norse mythology, together with a lot of funny names heavy with consonants. Fortunately, Anthony Hopkins is around to enunciate them. As Thor's father, Odin, he has the job of taking us through the potted history lesson which introduces the film and lays out the state of play.


There are nine realms and Odin sits at the top of them all as monarch of Asgard, a golden kingdom which has become slightly tarnished since our last visit. The first film was directed by Kenneth Branagh, who favoured a high-gloss finish. This one is by Alan Taylor, who comes to the job from TV's Game of Thrones, and he likes his fantasy worlds to look a little roughed-up. Nonetheless, he hasn't skimped on the spectacle.

The sets are vast, the fight scenes relentless and the costumes exotic, mixing and matching Greek and Roman armour, Celtic jewellery and a multitude of variations on the horned Viking helmet.

There are also side trips to Earth, where Jane, an astrophysicist, has moved from New Mexico to London with her colleagues, the increasingly eccentric Dr Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard) and her intern Darcy (Kat Dennings). She and Darcy find themselves in a disused factory, investigating a mysterious incident involving a ''gravitational anomaly'' when she inadvertently releases dark matter which has been buried for eons.

So begins a war between Asgard and its allies, and the evil Dark Elves, led by dour British actor Christopher Eccleston, who is after the dark matter so he can use it to kill off just about everybody. Jane is in the thick of it, joining Thor as he flips back and forth between Earth, Asgard and Iceland's volcanic wilderness, standing in for the Elves' gloomy, tongue-twister of a planet, Svartalfheim.

The pace is frenetic yet the script still finds time for banter - especially when Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Thor's antagonistic brother, is around. When we last saw him, he and Thor were making guest appearances in Joss Whedon's The Avengers - an adventure which left Loki heading for jail after a failed attempt to invade Earth.

When we catch up with him, he's being consigned to a surprisingly plush prison on Asgard. He's been sentenced to life but he's not penned up for long. To his great delight, Thor - against his better judgment - sets him free because he needs him in the fight to come. His gift for sarcasm does much to enliven the dialogue.

Other bright spots involve Chris O'Dowd doing a cameo in a scene which takes him on a bewildering date with Jane, and a London sequence which has Thor, in armour and cape, catching the train from Charing Cross to Greenwich.

The script's attempts to get serious when dealing with his vexed relationship with his father don't work as well. And while there's plenty of fun to be had, Taylor's touch lacks the verve Whedon brought to his fantasy worlds. Thor's bound to be back but let's hope Hollywood's passion for sequels doesn't finish up doing him in.

Twitter: @SandraHFilm
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