Review: Thor: The Dark World - You Want Me To Put The Hammer Down?

So, about six months on from Iron Man 3 we receive the latest offering from the extremely productive Marvel Studios. Thor: The Dark World continues the rampaging adventures of the bulky Asgardian immortal, Thor (Chris Hemsworth). Armed with his hammer and Shakespearean dialect, he ventures across space and various realms in order to take vengeance on the evil Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) and stop him getting his hands on the dark power known as the Aether.

Here’s the deal with Thor: The Dark World. It’s an undisclosed and well-known fact that Tom Hiddleston’s Loki (Thor’s mischievous brother, now imprisoned for his crimes in Avengers Assemble) is terrific. Any scene he is in is made demonstrably better, ranging from witty quips to properly dramatic scenes of anguish or despair.The thing is; he’s not in it much. After a smattering of scenes in the first act he’s given a lot more attention later on but only to an extent and is never really the focus. Which is a shame; because Hiddleston seems to be doing the best he’s done as the God of Mischief and yet suffers from a severe lack of screen-time.
It’s probably good to point out; Hemsworth is still on top form. The Asgardian prince never fails to impress but everyone knows deep down Hiddleston is better at this malarkey. Hemsworth is a fine actor (see Rush) but when you go up against Hiddleston- well there’s not much point at all going up against him in the first place. Besides, there's only so much character development you can have with a big lumbering god who smashes things a lot (no complaining, the smashing things is excellent). The supporting cast all do very well, with standouts from Kat Dennings as the scientific aide, Darcy, who manages to deliver sarcastic wit constantly without ever getting annoying. The Asgardian gatekeeper Heimdall played by Idris Elba (Pacific Rim) receives some more screen-time from before, and doesn't waste a minute of it. The film manages to light up with importance every time his wonderful presence lights up the screen.
The main problem with the film lies in the first act, in that it’s quite mediocre. For the first 40 minutes, the film stutters and stumbles all over the place. It’s filled with overlong voiceover setups, fantasy McGuffins (reminiscent of the Tesseract Avengers Assemble), and science-fiction mumbo-jumbo delivered by Natalie Portman; Thor’s brief romance - Jane Foster. No amount of warp-holes, fights, huge spaceships crashing or father-to-son moments from Thor’s dad Odin (a performance phoned in lovingly by Anthony Hopkins) can save it from mild boredom. It’s only a few fleeting flashes with Loki that ever raise it the first act from anything more than lukewarm, thanks to mainly a weak script. Director Alan Taylor (Game of Thrones) seems to be trying to paint a bleak, grim (or Dark) warland with deep, emotional characters. If this is the case, it seems he’s not too accustomed with the Marvel universe, as these aren't usually the characters that commonly populate it. Setting up inter-character conflicts and problems that never seem to be resolved only add to the confusion and befuddlement of the first third, leaving a vaguely sour taste on the tongue.
It’s only after a ‘significant event’ in the plot do things begin to pick up rapidly. On the hunt for Malekith, Thor teams up with his bro to settle the score once and for all. Which means a lot more Loki. Which means the film becomes a lot better. Within 5 minutes we’re served up with the fantastic chemistry between Hemsworth and Hiddleston, numerous jokes and a hilarious cameo that I shall not spoil due to it being the funniest moment in the film. The zipping chase scenes and archaic dialogue seem a lot more enjoyable, a factor that doesn't seem to drop throughout the film. Although it’s true that it’s very difficult to rescue a film after a flat opening, The Dark World’s trademark Marvel fun that carries it off.
We’re left with a brilliantly emotional middle section coupled with a superbly entertaining landmark destroying, trans-dimensional, loud noises and explosion filled final showdown, peppered with wit and Thor’s brilliant Asgardian mannerisms (or ‘Thorisms’). It's this kind of thing that we sort of take sort granted in Marvel movies but never fully appreciate how much of an impact it can have on the film. Beautiful landscapes, great dialogue and cracking set-pieces are all wasted without the signature fun that we come to expect from these films, and once The Dark World gets going, there's no stopping it. Huge amounts of fun were had in the last eighty minutes, meaning that the sour taste left by the somewhat boring first forty was soon gone.
The villains in Marvel Studios films always fall into three categories: great, bad or fun. Great ones are like Loki, who thrice now was presented a cool, slick and fangirl-inducing baddy who never fails to entertain. Bad ones are like The Incredible Hulk (2008)’s Abomination (by name and by nature).The fun ones include Captain America: The First Avenger’s Red Skull (Hugo Weaving) who ham it up supremely for our pleasure and seem to be having a whale of a time in the process. Christopher Eccleston's Dark Elf leader Malekith falls squarely in the latter. Caked in prosthetics and with a distorted alien voice, he’s undoubtedly silly but still delivers the brilliance that we last saw in GI Joe: Rise of Cobra (an unmistakably terrible film but made watchable for his performance). He may seem dwarfed in the presence of Loki but it was never really the purpose to put him the same league, just to serve as a suitably malevolent bad guy to do battle against Thor. It’s a shame that at points he’s drowned in gobbledegook about powers and hidden darkness that make for little interest or sense. Undeveloped, maybe. Fun, definitely. 
After smashing and crashing its way through the first forty minutes, Thor: The Dark World swings its hammer and soars into the sky, providing blissful entertainment and great fun deftly as it does so. It may not be up there with Avengers Assemble or Iron Man 3 but for what it is, it’s pretty good.

I give Thor: The Dark World 3.5 out of 5 stars:

So what did you think of Thor: The Dark World? Do you think Marvel's on the right track so far with Phase 2?