Thursday 7 November 2013

Thor: The Dark World (2013) - Alan Taylor

The Thor series represents a real clash of opposites: fantasy and science-fiction; Lord of the Rings meets Star Wars; comedy and tragedy, all told with a sprinkling of Norse mythology.  It shouldn’t work, but somehow it does thanks to a screenplay that doesn’t take itself too seriously, resulting in a silly but fun blockbuster.

The plot of Thor: The Dark World (sequel to 2011’s Thor) is the usual hokum about some dark elves, the convergence of the nine realms and a mysterious, evil substance known as ‘the aether’, with Thor and the forces of Asgard left to defend the universe.  At its core, though, is a long distance love story between Thor and his female, Earth companion Jane.  It’s through this relationship that the film provides a healthy dose of realism, presenting plenty of tongue-in-cheek moments like Thor (ridiculously) riding the tube in London.  The script riffs on this cultural collision throughout for plenty of amusing moments to keep us entertained between action scenes, despite some (inevitable) plot holes.  The action scenes themselves are brutal, whilst the various fantastical worlds are rendered in stunning CGI – Asgard especially - and Brian Tyler’s sweeping score ensures a sense of grand drama.

Thankfully, the silliness is complimented by a central pair of actors who aren’t just incredibly attractive, but can genuinely act.  Chris Hemsworth is a burly and charismatic Thor bristling with machismo (despite the gratuitous early topless shot), whilst Natalie Portman proves that Jane is more than just a smoky-eyed damsel in distress.  It’s the supporting actors who impress the most however, with a strong cast comprising the likes of a stoic Idris Elba as Heimdall, a hilarious turn from Stellan Skarsgård as the often nude Dr Erik Selvig, Anthony Hopkins coasting along as Odin, and a comedy cameo from Chris O’Dowd.  Even Chris Evans makes a cheeky appearance as Captain America.

As with so many superhero films, though, it’s the villain who captures the audience’s affection.  Thor: The Dark World is no exception, with Tom Hiddleston’s Loki slithering around the script with Machiavellian grace.  Alongside Benedict Cumberbatch in this summer’s Star Trek Into Darkness, he proves that us Brits can’t be beaten for villainy (in an acting sense, of course).