The original Thor was very different to previous Marvel movies. It had a Shakespearean vibe: a more mature and dramatic atmosphere than your typical comic book film. Although The Dark World ditches acclaimed theatre director Kenneth Branagh, it replaces him with Game of Thrones director Alan Taylor, meaning that the sequel should retain some of that medieval charm. The question is: does it?
Thankfully, it certainly does. The Dark World is a very strong sequel, when viewed both in the context of the original movie and the wider Marvel Cinematic Universe. Set after The Avengers, Loki is in Asgardian jail and Thor is bringing peace to the nine realms (quite successfully, I might add). That is until Christopher Eccelston’s Malekith, a Dark Elf bitter after the Asgardians murdered his race, decides to take revenge. Thor and Loki must join forces once more to save the world, etc. etc.
Most of the exposition and plot is handled masterfully at the beginning of the film with a lovely narration from Anthony Hopkins, who puts in a lovely performance as the morally-questionable Odin throughout the film. We cut from this opening voiceover straight into a wonderfully cinematic battle: one of the best I’ve seen in a Marvel film. That resonates throughout the film – gorgeous and engaging action scenes (the film is lovely to look at overall, in fact, with some great CGI) that provide a touch of violence to an otherwise character-driven plot.
Those characters are all very strong though. Chris Hemsworth has developed and added some more depth to Thor, who seems a lot more likeable than before. Natalie Portman no longer seems like a throwaway love interest, and she is fairly integral to the plot. And, of course, Tom Hiddleston steals the show as Loki: a perfect match of wit and anger, with a little less psychopathy than in previous films. We get a sense that he too has grown since The Avengers, and this realistic character development adds extra strength to the film.
Christopher Eccleston, who was rather good in Doctor Who a few years back, is almost unrecognisable in this. A mixture of CGI, prosthetics and makeup means that Eccleston’s acting is reduced to glorified voice acting: something which he is certainly good at, but I would have liked to see a bit more from him. It doesn’t help that Malekith is an underdeveloped villain: his rage is never truly explored, and his motives are quite typical and bland. Much of the plot is like that, going through all the standard comic book motions, complete with a few ridiculously overpowered MacGuffins. However, if you can see past that you’ll get a film that’s more about familial relationships and maturity than anything else, and The Dark World handles both themes quite well.
This is helped by a brilliant script: one that includes several laugh out loud moments. The Dark World is by far the funniest Marvel film, straying dangerously close to wacky at times, but maintaining a Shakespearean atmosphere. It’s worth watching just for a few jokes: the rest seems like a lovely bonus on the side.
Whilst The Dark World is most certainly a comic book film, it’s one that handles things a bit differently. It’s a funny, engaging two hours which blends action and plot together quite masterfully, with the result being a film that is definitely worth your time both as a standalone flick and as an excellent addition to the Marvel universe. At the very least, the tantalising credits scene will get you very excited for what’s yet to come.