-Review by Paul Ewbank-
The first Thor movie had the unenviable task of introducing the genuine, full on, unironic Norse God of Thunder to the superhero world, and it pulled it off by matching totally straight faced high fantasy concepts like ice trolls and parallel dimensions with Shakespearian level drama and hilarious fish out of water slapstick. The result was as mental as it sounds; a totally unapologetic all-or-nothing blast of camp which might not have been technically the best or cleverest of the marvel movies in the run up to Avengers, but as pure entertainment was hard to beat. Plus it introduced the world to Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, for which I will always be grateful *dreamy sigh*.
So now that The Avengers (no I will NOT call it Marvel: Avengers Assemble, ok? Why? Because no one else does) has proven that people really are buying into the full weirdness of shared continuity comic book style movies, Marvel have basically been given free reign to do whatever they want in the next few instalments. And they’ve taken full advantage of the opportunity with Thor: The Dark World, delivering a movie that’s completely bonkers even by its predecessor standards. Picking up plot threads from both Thor and Avengers, Thor: The Dark World pits our hammer wielding hero against a race of evil dark elves (bet you never thought you’d get dark elves in a Marvel movie) bent on unleashing the power of the Aether and destroying the nine realms. Man, how many of these all powerful McGuffin’s are there lying around? This is comic book land, remember, so probably quite a lot. More than any other movie in the franchise so far, Thor 2 embodies the hedonistic, short sighted view of the comics that inspired it- the kind of mentality that will gladly dig itself into a plot hole later if the end result is something that looks cool now. Whilst this lends Thor some truly unexpected moments, it’s also the movie’s greatest weakness.
Stylistically, Thor 2 plunges headlong into Lord of The Rings style scenery and epic fight scenes interspersed with more ridiculous humour and underpinned by the same bromance/I’m totally gonna betray you relationship between Thor and Loki that was the cornerstone of the first instalment (along with Thor getting hit by cars). Asgard has the same totally unique shiny futuristic meets medieval technology aesthetic as last time, only moreso since presumably they have a bigger budget. That’s probably the best way to describe the movie as a whole really: it’s all the stuff from the first movie, just… more. A lot more. This film is so bursting at the seams with ideas, plot threads and nods to future plots that it’s exhausting to keep up with it all. That means that if you liked the first one you’re on good ground here, but everything is incredibly rushed anda lot of the characters and nuances get pushed to the background. Don’t get me wrong- almost everything that happens on screen is enjoyable to watch and overall Thor 2 isn’t that much worse than its predecessor, but Marvel have come dangerously close to biting off more than they can chew with this one. I could’ve watched a whole movie of Thor ‘restoring order’ to the nine realms by beating the crap out of them, or of Natalie Portman adjusting to life in Asgard, or of Thor and Loki banter, or of Heimdall just being Heimdall for two hours, but by trying to put all this and a whole lot more into one movie it ends up too much. And there’s a fair bit of stuff I could’ve done without. I don’t know how much they paid Stellan Skarsgård to run around Stonehenge totally naked but I wish they hadn’t. All of this is symptomatic of what I fear may be a recurring problem with the post-Avengers Marvel universe: they’re getting carried away with their own success and have lost that little nagging voice at the back of their collective mind which says ‘is this really a good idea?’
You saw it in Iron Man 3 as well. Marvel are bringing the full eccentricity of comic books to the big screen in full force and the results aren’t always pretty. Before Avengers they had something to prove. Now they’re on top of the world and are just putting whatever the hell they want into their movies, whether it’s a massive long segment about some annoying kid, or a terrorist mastermind who’s actually a bum called Trevor with a funny accent, or cameos from semi-famous comedians or every incidental character having some annoying quirk or goodness knows what else. Neither this film nor Iron Man 3 were bad films by any stretch but both teetered on the brink of being just a bit too ridiculous. It’s a fine line and Marvel are dancing all over it. What they need is to calm down a little. Better yet, they need one of their films to totally bomb, to remind them that they’re fallible after all and have to actually take care about what they put in their movies. They’re getting away with their insanity for the moment o the strength of their characters, actors and effects, and let me reiterate one more time that The Dark World is a good movie- funny, exciting and with a couple of genuine surprises. But it looks like things are only going to get crazier from here on in. And I’m starting to get worried.