As superhero films go, Thor is formulaic, CGI heavy, by the numbers and pretty terrific. For a non-nerd watching a relentlessly busy film about warring space factions with unpronounceable names, crazy art design and a predictable old chestnut of a story line, it’s an awful lot of fun.
The story’s simple. Odin, the king (Anthony Hopkins) of Asgard, is under threat by a new and powerful enemy the Dark Elves and something called the Aether. Loki falls further from favour and is locked in a stylish dungeon to read for all eternity, leaving Thor to save his people. Meanwhile Jane and her team discovers massive energy disruptions in the earth’s atmosphere which co-incide with the “convergence” of planets that will change the fate of space people. So everything is reaching the tipping point at the centre of the world including earth and space and that’s apparently in London.
With all the earnest hero and war stuff it is delightful to witness Thor boarding the London tube and asking for directions. Light moments come fast and thick thanks in part to the casting of the colourful Kat Denning and to the intentionally schlocky yet lingering closeup of Thor’s muscular body, bathed in pale rising sunlight and glistening just a little from washing.
Captain America the king of earnest shows up for a few brief adrenaline-powered moments that are so wrong they’re right. Stan Lee makes an appearance as an office worker bee. The film has a strong sense of glee and refuses to take itself too seriously, the thread that runs through the Marvel comic book films, thank goodness. Nothing’s worse than CGI, chiseled heroes and doomed maidens with no sense of irony.
Chris Hemsworth is perfection as Thor; regal, quick and “super” but accessible and recognizably human. Tom Hiddleston as Loki takes his trickster game up a few hundred notches; a character as devilishly evil as Loki would do well so have some redeeming qualities. But this ain’t Tolstoy. Together Thor and Loki are light/dark magic, yin yang bros, the top and tail, a fun reinvention of the Cain and Abel story.
Sadly and unexpectedly Natalie Portman as Thor’s earthling love interest Jane Foster is wooden and expressionless especially cast against Hemsworth and Denning. She seems bloodless, listless. But worse, Idris Elba is criminally underused as keeper of the gates. And Stellan Skarsgård is entirely in his undies or naked.
The fights and action scenes are tremendously fun and inventive. These are super heroes at war sand they’re given their full due. The exception is that ridiculous Hammer of Thor’s, half boomerang, half rubber mallet. It would look better in the grip of the Three Stooges. And wait till you see ancient London landmarks that survived two world wars crumble into dust.
This is a blast for non-nerds and my understanding is that nerds approve. And isn’t that Marvel’s raison d’etre? And certainly Hollywood is on its knees thanking God for Chris Hemsworth.
Thor: The Dark World 3D
Written by Christopher Yost, Christopher Markus et al based on Stan Lee’s comic book
Directed by Alan Taylor
Opens Nov 8
Runtime 112 minutes