Some ingredients for making a ‘Thor’ sequel: one copy of ‘The Lord of the Rings’; one DVD of ‘Hellboy 2’; one complete set of ‘Masters of the Universe’ dolls; one footballers’ hairdressing manual from 1983; one ‘Idiot’s Guide to Norse Mythology’; and one retrospective rock album: ‘The Very Best of Yes’. This is a deeply silly, extremely noisy and sometimes impenetrable action movie that’s drowning in CGI, wild overacting and mullets. And it’s enormously entertaining.
We pick up the story shortly after events in 2012’s ‘The Avengers’: hissable horned villain Loki (Tom Hiddleston) languishes in Asgard’s deepest dungeon; bulging hero Thor (Chris Hemsworth) battles to reunite the Nine Realms; and Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) is in London studying dimensional anomalies and dating Richard (Chris O’Dowd). But it’s not long before an ancient enemy arises: this time it’s the dark elves, a gang of unpredictable intergalactic Tolkien re-enacters led by Christopher Eccleston in facepaint.
Most of what worked in 2011’s first ‘Thor’ works again: Hiddleston is campy and treacherous, Hemsworth is puppy-dog keen and there’s a nice line in knowing jokery clearly inspired by Joss Whedon’s script for ‘The Avengers’. But the first film’s shortcomings reappear too: the realm of Asgard looks like a gold-plated chocolate-box nightmare, Anthony Hopkins looks bored as uber-God Odin, and Thor’s gang of forgettable divine sidekicks do little but get in the way.
It’s when the action gets going that ‘The Dark World’ scores points over the original. This is a grander, pacier film crammed with sprawling prog-rock landscapes, masked elf armies and giant spaceships over Greenwich. And if the wormhole-hopping battle scenes do get a bit eye-frazzlingly and brain-bendingly convoluted, the best advice is just to buckle up and go with it.