I seem to have misplaced my copy of Iron Man 3, presumably when I moved house, so for now, we’re just going to skip straight ahead to the second film in the Thor franchise, The Dark World.
RELEASED: November 8th 2013
DIRECTED BY: Alan Taylor
WRITTEN BY: Don Payne, Robert Rodat, Christopher Yost, Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely
PRODUCED BY: Kevin Feige
STARRING: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Stellan Skarsgård, Kat Dennings, Tom Hiddleston, Idris Elba, Ray Stevenson, Tadanobu Asano, Zachary Levi, Jaimie Alexander, Rene Russo, Anthony Hopkins, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje & Christopher Eccleston
After his adventure with the Avengers, Thor Odinson returns to Earth, when his love, Jane Foster, is endangered by a primordial force known as the Aether. Bringing her to Asgard, Jane finds herself confronted with the pantheon of Gods Thor calls family. However, Jane’s discovery has also awakened a threat long thought dead; that of the Dark Elves and their leader, Malekith. With the whole of reality at stake, Thor and Jane must seek the aid of Loki, the villain responsible for endangering planet Earth.
After Kenneth Branagh did a magnificent job with Thor, the reigns of the franchise were passed over to Game of Thrones‘ Alan Taylor, and as you can imagine, the series took a more dark and violent turn. In that turn, a lot of the heart and comic-book-y tone was lost, and as a result, the film seems not only directionless but also as if it’s made by people who don’t really understand the characters.
But before we get into all that misery, lets at least attempt to look at some of the positives of this film.
Despite that aforementioned lack of heart, there are some good emotional beats in this film, mostly centering around Thor and his family of Odin, Loki and Frigga. Frigga’s relationship with her sons is particularly poignant, and Rene Russo’s character also gets a kick-ass action sequence to boot.
There are also some decent, subtle, gags in the film, such as Thor hanging Mjolnir up on a coat hanger, being forced to take the London Underground to get back to the climactic battle and a brief cameo by a certain Avenger. Otherwise, though? There are a lot of gags that just fall flat. This is a bizarre film, in that it tries to tell a dark story with serious gravitas, but also tries to go all in on the humour, and most of the time it’s just… not funny.
Furthermore, the character work is a real let down. I said in my Avengers review that character is one of the main reasons Marvel succeeds. However here, it’s floundered. Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston are okay (although the latter does feel a bit off at times), and Rene Russo gets more to do than in the previous film. Odin, similarly, doesn’t see a drop in quality as he is, for the most part, just an expositional character like in Thor’s first outing. Everyone else, though? Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster is not enjoyable at all – she’s unpleasant both in how obnoxious and aloof she is, but also in the fact that pretty much everything in this film is her fault. The chemistry between her and Hemsworth is particularly lacking this time round, and it boggles the mind why, in-universe, the character of Thor would go for Jane over, say Lady Sif, with whom there is far more on-screen chemistry.
Likewise, characters like Erik Selvig and Darcy (Stellan Skarsgård and Kat Dennings, respectively) feel like they have no place in this film, simply being here because they were in the last one.
The biggest fault of this film, however, is Christopher Eccleston’s Malekith. Christopher Eccleston is a good actor. So if you’re going to use him, don’t cover him in make-up, make him speak in a made-up language for the majority of his time on screen, and then cut most of his screen-time. Whose idea was that, seriously? Not only is the actor criminally underused, but as a result, the character is just a bland, blank canvas, waiting to be painted on. He may in fact be the worst villain in all of Marvel’s films (and I’m not just counting the films prior to this one, I’m counting everything up to Black Panther), as you can’t really understand him, nor can you fear him. He’s just a nothing character, and as a result, the entire film suffers.
At times, this film is like Iron Man 2, in that there’s a lot of stuff going on on the screen, but you can’t find the will to really have any emotional response to it. And the rest of the time, that emotional response is one of anger, because every decision made about this film seems to have been the wrong one.
All-in-all, I give it:
Because although it’s pretty awful, there are definitely worse films (and worse superhero films, to boot).