Thor: Not reinventing the wheel but, heck, it’s a lot of fun

thor-2-poster-2THERE’S going to be a point very soon where everyone, if they haven’t already, will have to ask themselves a simple question; How many is too many superhero films? Between DC, Marvel and other developing franchises like Kick-Ass, we are reaching a dangerously high level of saturation. This is the greatest challenge facing Thor: The Dark World; it doesn’t just have to live up to the original film but to the very concept of a superhero movie.

Thor at least manages to define itself as different via a tone that is less superhero fare than grand fantasy and sci-fi. It’s very much akin to watching a 12-rated Game Of Thrones (due to the work of regular GoT director, Alan Taylor), Star Wars and Dune combined. It creates a real living universe filled with bizarre and wondrous creatures.
The effects are simply incredible; one mid-film sequence, which for spoilers’ sake I’ll refer to as ‘boats on a waterfall’, uses space and light in a way that this reviewer has never seen before. It’s easy for effects to become rather hollow spectacles but, in this case, there’s a fine emotional grounding to them.

The performances are of a high level. Many of the smaller roles such as Rene Russo felt underdeveloped but all get some nice moments here and there. Idris Elba and Anthony Hopkins are on hand to provide instant and wonderful gravitas. Natalie Portman manages to convince despite being given a helpless plot line and great dialogue like, “Physics is going to go ballistics”.

That said, we all know that this film was Loki’s to steal. In Tom Hiddelston’s hands, Loki has become possibly the finest Hollywood villain since Alan Rickman in Die Hard. For the first half of the film he is relatively inactive but when he eventually kicks into gear you are reminded why he is so obsessed over. It doesn’t help Chris Hemsworth – not a bad actor in his own right – that most of his scenes with Hiddleston are just the two of them; he simply cannot compare and it highlights his weaknesses as an actor all while elevating Hiddleston.

The film does have some major flaws. The main villains of this segment, the Dark Elves, seem bizarrely unmotivated to be evil beyond the fact that they have a standard plan to destroy everything. Even though the Earth segments can be very funny, it felt like too much time was devoted to their hijinks at the loss of some of the tension in the more serious points. The finale, whilst visually spectacular, does essentially come down to how hard Thor can hit things and, as with the previous “physics going ballistics” moment, it does have a hard time deciding what its central MacGuffin, ‘The Aether’, actually does.

Despite its flaws, Thor is go-for-broke brilliant entertainment. The funny bits are funny, some of the more emotional beats are quite affecting, the score and cinematography are of a high quality and there are some fun cameos that I’m sure fans of Marvel films will love.

I would put this in the top ranks of the Marvel films along with The Avengers and Iron Man. It won’t reinvent the wheel but, heck, it’s a lot of fun. Oh, yes: Thor is at one point shirtless and oiled.