(An edited version of this was first published in The New Indian Express)
The Marvel universe is all coming together rather nicely for the second time. Not every nut and bolt is perfect but during the first outing of The Avengers and its individual participants, it was clear that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The second run is on and we had Iron Man 3 which was middling but fun and now we have the second film of the Mjolnir wielding hero from Asgard – Thor (Chris Hemsworth). The film may have the word dark in its title but this one is more from the Whedon school of comic book films than Nolan’s. Something fans believe is truer to the essence of comic books.
Directed by Alan Taylor, Thor: The Dark World picks up where The Avengers left with Loki (Tom Hiddleston) back in Asgard but inside a prison. He still maintains the glare in his eyes and the presumptuous demeanor that he carries. Only later do we realize in almost an off hand manner that this is all a facade and these are the moments the film gets right. The rug pulling is done effectively even if the gags seem repetitive in retrospect. Its place in the franchise is repeatedly reinforced by invoking New York at every instance or every time Loki is banished or Jane Foster (Natalie Portman with a meatier role than what she had in the first film) laments her wait since the events of Thor or more importantly, a Captain America special.
The film begins with a prologue on Dark Elf Malekith, Kursed and their destruction by Bor. The film aces the mythology behind the story both at the plot level and the visual effects level. It reminds one a lot of both The Lord of the Rings and the Game of Thrones the way some scenes are set. The location where Jane is infected by the Aether and the world of Svartalfheim have the sepulchral feel that they should. While the extended mourning scenes and some exposition put the breaks, this one is an otherwise blitzkrieg of a screenplay. The problem area is probably Malekith (Christopher Eccleston), a villain not only devoid of most of his face but also lacking in charm and menace. This is where Tom Hiddleston is still good and while he plays second fiddle as the good bad-guy for the most part, Malekith just doesn’t cut it.
It is clear from the evidence in scenes of the final battle and even from how it wears its comic book aspirations that this film has its tongue firmly in its cheek. It is also the way Whedon likes it. What more, Thor: The Dark World also has the better Stan Lee cameo.