You can tell when Thor is upset; he puts on his poncho of sadness. There’s certainly plenty of opportunity for melancholy blanket action in the latest Marvel superhero movie, but don’t be mistaken: Thor: The Dark World is a heck of a lot of fun.
Two years on from the first film, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is doing his best to bring peace to the Nine Realms. He’s not doing too bad a job of it, until a pesky celestial alignment awakens a long-forgotten evil from Asgard’s past. Thor is forced into an alliance with his villainous brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) in order to save his people, his friends and the universe itself.
Thor: The Dark World is a greater ensemble piece than most movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the Thor/Loki relationship is at the heart of it. Between them, Hemsworth and Hiddleston capture the squabbling love-hate relationship of siblings and project it onto a godly scale. Take a look at the marketing campaign and you’d be forgiven for thinking this movie had two leads.
Have no doubt; Hiddleston’s been the breakout star of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. From a forgettable villain in the first movie, he’s become an unlikely antihero thanks to Joss Whedon’s superlative grasp of the character in Avengers Assemble. Loki is cunning and strong; he channels his self-hate into megalomania and yet retains a sense of normality his fellow gods lack (think of the “I’m sorry, this usually works” line in Avengers).
While Thor is the most cosmic of the Marvel franchises – at least until Guardians Of The Galaxy lands next summer – the counterbalance is that it is also the most domestic: the set up (last time he crashed into her life, this time she crashes into his) is Three Men And A Little Lady. The intrusion of the domestic into the otherworldly and vice versa is the source of the humour that makes these movies so much fun.
The downside is that those elements that have the least humour and which drift furthest to the extremes of the cosmic-domestic spectrum are the least satisfying. Portman’s character is in a different film to everybody else – a romantic comedy about the guy who never came back – while Malekith the Accursed (Christopher Eccleston) is little more than a plot enabler (much of his backstory having ended up on the cutting room floor).
Marvel is a confident studio that’s earned a lot of trust from its audience. In Thor: The Dark World it again delivers a movie that is exciting, enjoyable and spectacular: that weaves itself into the wider tapestry of its cinematic universe while retaining its own distinct flavour. Because guess what? Being one of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes is a lot of fun.
Thor: The Dark World is in cinemas from October 30