D: Alan Taylor / 120m
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins, Christopher Eccleston, Stellan Skarsgård, Kat Dennings, Idris Elba, Jaimie Alexander, Zachary Levi, Ray Stevenson, Tadanobu Asano, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Rene Russo
Another sequel to Avengers Assemble, rather than to the first Thor movie, this opens with a prologue that introduces us to the Dark Elves, evil creatures who want to see an end to the Nine Realms (if you’re not a Marvel fan, just go with me on this). Their leader Malekith (Eccleston) plans to use the Aether, a swirling mass of energy that will allow him to do this when the realms are in alignment. Thwarted by Odin’s (Hopkins) father, Malekith is forced into hiding, and the Aether is hidden “where no one will find it”.
Fast forward five thousand years (how often the realms are in alignment) and Malekith returns to do his worst. Meanwhile, Loki (Hiddleston) is imprisoned in Asgard, Jane Foster (Portman) is unhappy that two years have past since she last saw Thor (Hemsworth), and Thor is busy bringing peace to the Nine Realms by fighting anyone who stands in his way. Alerted to strange phenomena in a deserted warehouse somewhere in London, Jane stumbles across the Aether and becomes its host. With Jane’s life on the line, it’s up to Thor to save both her and thwart Malekith’s evil plans. But in order to do so he’ll need help…
This third outing for Thor is huge fun from start to finish, with spectacular set-pieces, humour that ranges from subtle to broader than Volstagg’s (Stevenson) pectorals, gravitas courtesy of Hopkins (as Odin) and Russo (as Frigga), further explorations of the fraternal bond that chafes between Thor and Loki, and the best cameo from another Avenger… ever. The romance between Thor and Jane is given more space – which is a good thing otherwise Portman would have remained sorely under-used – while the accepted jealousy that Sif (Alexander) feels towards Jane is handled effectively. It’s the quiet moments such as these that offset the action sequences so well, and while those sequences are directed with accomplished flair by Taylor, it’s the ongoing character developments that Marvel are getting right each time. At the heart of the film , though, is the relationship between Thor and Loki, here given added depth by their having to work together to defeat Malekith; the interaction between Hemsworth and Hiddleston is a joy to watch. Hiddleston has a ball (again) as Loki and grabs all the best lines, while Hemsworth continues to mature in the role he’s made his own. Of the supporting cast, Elba, Russo and Dennings shine, while Eccleston makes more of a villain whose sole motivation seems to be ‘destroy everything’.
Taylor handles the various twists and turns of the storyline with experienced aplomb – can we stop mentioning he worked on Game of Thrones now? – and while the script by Christopher Yost, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely has its fair share of plot contrivances, they don’t detract from the enjoyment provided by this latest instalment in Marvel’s plans to dominate the cinema box office. There’s also some great location work at Greenwich (three stops from Charing Cross on the underground – really?), and fantastic production design courtesy of Charles Wood.
Rating: 8/10 – top-notch episode from Phase 2 of the Marvel Universe that also helps set up the forthcoming Guardians of the Galaxy; bold and more confident in every way. And by the way, note to Marvel: find some way to give Loki his own movie – okay?