Thor – The Dark World begins with annoying exposition and a laboured back story remarkably similar to the first Thor film. This time it is Odin’s father (the Allfather has a father!? I’ll have to look up my Norse mythology) fighting the forces of the evil Dark Elves rather than Odin (Thor’s father) fighting the forces of the evil Ice Giants from the first film. There is some badass fighting and awesome special effects but it is spoiled by stilted voice overs and overacting. Fortunately we are soon back to Loki, Thor and his friends from Asgard.
Following on directly from events in The Avengers, Loki is being imprisoned in the dungeons of Asgard for, among other things, trying to take over Earth. Thor and his band of warriors are off “keeping the peace” across the 9 realms, an activity which generally involves bashing people until they agree that bashing people is bad and agree to stop doing it to other people.
Thor’s friends get a slightly bigger role in this one than the last but they are still very much secondary characters and soon get left behind while the action focusses on Thor, Jane, Darcy and Dr Selvig. Much like in the first film Sif, Fandral, Volstagg and Hogun do make a reappearance later in the film and are pivotal in some of the fighting.
Dr Selvig has gone bonkers (or “totally banana-balls” as Darcy describes him) and moved to England following his run-in with Loki in The Avengers. Jane and Darcy have followed him to London. Jane is moping over the fact that Thor never came back to Earth to see her at the end of the first film and is furious that he came back to join up with the Avengers but didn’t bother to come and visit her. She is neglecting her science and divides her time, not very evenly, between pining over Thor and trying to meet new men in London.
At least they seem to have cast some English people to play the English parts and mostly they are not the usual horrible stereotypes that you get in American films set in England. Of course it isn’t long before Jane and co are embroiled in the ancient fight with the Dark Elves from the opening with Jane going missing and Thor re-appearing just in time to help her out.
We get to see some more of the nine realms besides Asgard and Midgard this time and it is nice to see the different ways in which they are portrayed. The realms all have a nice mix of high technology, historical and magic elements which is an interesting departure from the more usual stark divide between shiny high tech aliens and mystical middle ages aliens. Here you are likely to see people in a middle ages settlement with laser rifles.
The most heavily featured other race is the Dark Elves who have many of the classical attributes of elves but also have spaceships. The Asgardians also mix traditional and high technology with their medieval appearance and laser anti-aircraft weapons. Asgard is more beautiful than ever with its intriguing mix of steampunk, rustic and sci-fi themes.
There is some kind of shoe obsession in this film which is never really resolved. Keep an eye out for the number of scenes where shoes play an important role. On the subject of clothing, Dr Selvig spends much of the time without his trousers on as apparently they restrict his ideas.
Beneath the obvious fight here there is the struggle between Odin’s old style of ruling Asgard with power and iron will and Thor’s new approach which is more about negotiation (but also carrying a big hammer of course). Interestingly Odin’s approach in this film is bloodthirsty and reckless; exactly the kind of behaviour that Odin banished Thor to Midgard for in the first film.
Of course the mystical convergence of the 9 realms centres on Greenwich which allows one of the favourite past times of Hollywood movies: destroying capital cities. The final fight turns into a bit of a comedic brawl through wormholes and skipping between realms and Thor riding the Tube to get to the battle. Jane, Darcy and Selvig get to be instrumental in the final fight, inventing and positioning some McGuffins that can stop the Elves from taking advantage of the convergence to do whatever it is they wanted to do.
The relationship between Thor and Loki is interesting in this one. Neither really trusts or likes the other and you often get the impression that Loki is looking for any opportunity to double cross Thor. When Thor is forced to go to Loki for help he is obviously torn between distrust of his brother and a desire to allow him to redeem himself. Loki’s trickster personality is much more in evidence here on his third outing in MCU and he is often seen using his powers to make people seen things one way when they are actually another altogether.
There’s some really spectacular fighting both in Asgard and on Earth (mainly in Grenwich, London as mentioned above) which is really exciting to watch and the “normal life” stuff, again mostly in London is shot very nicely and used as a nice contrast to the bizarre supernatural beings and events that eventually intrude into it.
This has a much greater impact in my opinion that where the first film tried to do the same thing with small-town America. That might be because I’m much more familiar with London than I am with small-town America but also perhaps because the town in the original was so generic and in the middle of nowhere that it was essentially just there to be a backdrop to the desert and the big fight that was to happen there.
There is a bit of a twist at the end which is really more confusing than surprising but which sets up for some of the events in movies to come but more importantly for things in phase three of MCU.
It was while watching this film that I started to think about how all the MCU movies with sequels get fancy titles (in fact the first Captain America film gets one too) but Iron Man just gets 1, 2, 3. Perhaps this is to emphasise the mechanical nature of Iron Man over the more mystical nature of the other characters. So far Hulk, Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant Man have only had one film each but if they get a second outing in this franchise, I bet they get subtitles and if we get another Iron Man I bet it will be called “Iron Man 4”.