Thor: The Dark World

The story goes that when Kenneth Branagh was hired to directed the first Thor film he approached it like a Shakespearean play. The sequel to Thor has a new director in the shape of Alan Taylor, who up to now has mostly directed episodes of Game of Thrones. Considering that Thor: The Dark World is a family movie owned by Disney, this means no sex, gory violence and incest, so what does that leave Taylor to play with? The answer is lots and lots of character moments.

For those who care about plot then here it is in the easiest to read form I could manage. The Dark Elves, a race of aliens from the start of time led by Malekith (Christopher Eccelstone), have returned to conquer the known universe once they have found a red CGI effect called the Aether. However Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) finds it first and is taken to Asgard by Thor (Chris Hemsworth) for protection. After an attack by the Dark Elves, Thor must seek the help of his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) to help save Jane and the known universes.

However, due to a lack of development of Malekith and the OTT stakes, Thor: The Dark World feels like a bad Doctor Who end of series two parter. It is all “oh no, if we don’t defeat that bloke the universe will end” kind of thing. Of course we all know that the universe won’t end – especially if the cinema you see the movie in shows you a trailer for Captain America: The Winter Soldier before the film!

None of that matters because the characters make the film so much fun…especially Loki. You get the feeling that when Marvel first edited the film together, they stepped back and realised they needed more Loki so they went filmed some extra scenes. He really is the find of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and his present felt here throughout the film. I would be quite happy to watch ninety minutes of him and Thor walking down corridors and bantering.

The other Asgardians are equally fun but you don’t get to spend enough time with them. Each of them appear and disappear in what feels like a matter of minutes. However, when one of them suffers an unfortunate event, you can feel the pain that washes through the kingdom. Their funeral is one of the most beautiful and moving scenes I’ve seen on a cinema screen in a while.

Sadly the human character don’t have the same charisma as their Asgardian cousins. Natalie Portman never seems to get a spark from her version of Jane Foster, while Stellan Skarsgard’s portray of Dr Erik Selvig verges on offence. While the idea of seeing how a human copes after having his mind controlled by a god is an interesting idea, playing it for laughs wasn’t, especially when all the jokes seem to be about him being naked or not wearing trousers, was the wrong way to do it.

I realise all of this makes Thor: The Dark World sound like a bad film but it isn’t. You probably won’t have as much fun in the cinema this year. It is funny, thrilling and moving, just don’t think about it too much! Pull up the popcorn and check out the brain on the way in the door.