Following its premiere in London, first reviews for "Thor: The Dark World" (November 8) are coming in, mixed so far. Some critics find the film a generic exercise, straight out of the Marvel machine, with too little Loki (Tom Hiddleston), who is locked up in a glass box for much of his screen time. Others praise the film, with Slash Film even going so far as to call it "one of the best Marvel films to date." More below.
The film stars Chris Hemsworth as the blond, hammer-throwing superhero, Hiddleston, Natalie Portman, Idris Elba and Anthony Hopkins. Watch the trailer here.
Most of it pales into insignificance when Loki takes the stage, which isn't often enough given how wildly uneven the sections without him are. Although director Alan Taylor manages to get things going properly for the final battle in London, the long stretches before that on Asgard and the other branches of Yggdrasil are a drag, like filler episodes of Game of Thrones but without the narrative complexity, mythical heft or all-pervading sexiness.
Early on in “Thor: The Dark World,” the latest slab of briskly amusing, elaborately inconsequential 3D entertainment from the Disney/Marvel comicbook factory, an evil Dark Elf announces his sinister plan to “unleash the Aether.” What sounds at first like an arcane euphemism for breaking wind turns out to be just another way of stating what you probably already suspected: The megalomaniac of the month is about to activate the latest all-powerful weapon capable of triggering mass annihilation, necessitating yet another intervention by a popular superhero and his ragtag band of sidekicks. Still, as helmed by Alan Taylor, this robust, impersonal visual-effects showpiece proves buoyant and unpretentious enough to offset its stew of otherwise derivative fantasy/action elements.
It’s actually sad how many of the first Thor’s assets get garbled in the mix. Trapping Loki, God of Mischief in a transparent cage for 80 per cent of your movie isn’t fair on him, the constrained Hiddleston, or the audience, whatever Hannibal Lecter-ish masterplan he’s meant to be concocting. Throw in some blatantly iffy London tube advice – three stops from Charing Cross to Greenwich on the Northern line? Good luck with that! – and you have a confidence-lacking movie, taking shortcuts that fail.
So Thor: The Dark World hits the ground running with fully realized, charismatic and confident portrayals of all the characters involved. It’s defined by Thor being an ultimate hero and Loki being a mischievous villain. That, coupled with plenty of Avengers-size action, laugh-out-loud humor and Marvel Cinematic Universe easter eggs help make Thor: The Dark World one of the best Marvel films to date.
But then, Thor 2 finds its feet and strikes gold. Marvel movies have always had humor to them, and the first Thor itself wasn't short of chuckles. Thor: The Dark World, though, has a long stretch where it has the right to call itself one of the funniest films of the year. Not ironic, unintentional humor either: proper scripted moments, great performances, and at least two wonderful touches that should bring the house down, doubly so if you're of a geek persuasion (in fact, there's a treasure trove for hardcore Marvel fans to uncover throughout much of the movie).
The result is a film that is enjoyable in spots, but haphazard and ultimately unsatisfying. As with "Iron Man 3," these films are increasingly feeling like episodes of TV shows or, perhaps more appropriately, issues of comic books. For all the good gags and eye candy, this ultimately boils down to yet another quest to find a magical MacGuffin that will stop a portal in the sky from opening (seriously, has that become one of the Seven Basic Plots at this point?). And while the hardcore geek crowd may eat that up, the rest of us need these films to distinguish themselves a little more if we're going to have one every six months.