I may or may not have fallen asleep the only time I attempted to watch Marvel’s Thor on DVD but based on my enjoyment of the sequel I will put this down to my own lack of sleep rather than blame the film. I have however seen (Marvel[‘s]) (The) Avengers (Assemble) so wasn’t completely without backstory as I went into Thor: The Dark World this week. What you need to know before the film begins is that Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is from the kingdom of Asgard, has a massive magical hammer, and is in love with an Earth-born scientist called Jane Foster (Natalie Portman in red wellies). Thor’s father is Odin (Anthony Hopkins) king of Asgard and his evil adopted brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is in prison for doing all manner of naughty things to New York.
In Thor: The Dark World Jane is looking for an AWOL Thor and in doing so comes across some evil magic goo that threatens her life and draws the unwanted attention of dark elf (seriously) Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) who has plans to use the goo to destroy the universe because what else is an evil guy going to do? With his true love’s life under threat Thor takes Jane back to Asgard and is forced to team up with Loki against Odin’s wishes to save absolutely everyone in the Universe. Cue lots of fighting in the fantastical world of Asgard and also on Earth… in Greenwich of all places.
While the film opens with a slightly exposition-heavy sequence, and takes itself a little too seriously when focussing on just the Asgardians in Asgard, as the plot moves on and we get to see more of Foster’s team and the irrepressible Loki things become much more fun and far less serious. Yes, the core of the film is about a dark elf trying to destroy the universe but the various set pieces and dramatic moments are nicely punctuated with moments of comedy provided by Hiddleston, Kat Dennings, Stellan Skarsgård, and good old Chris O’Dowd. For a film that looks more like a fantasy adventure than a superhero film to have such a great sense of humour is a real relief and had it been a little more poe-faced I doubt it would have been watchable, certainly not enjoyable.
The other pleasant surprise that Thor: The Dark World presents is that none of the film takes place in America. With the Avengers franchise being such an American product it was nice to see a film in the series that alternated between Asgard and London without ever feeling the urge to cross the Atlantic. It is rare to see the climactic scene of a major Hollywood release take place in Greenwich and seeing Thor utilise some of London’s trademarks will provide plenty of amusement (and confuse anyone with a basic knowledge of the London Underground).
As much as Thor: The Dark World want to impress you with its stunning visuals, world-ending plot, and explosive action it takes very seriously the task of entertaining its audience. I am not a diehard fan of Marvel’s output and if we’re honest with each other (and I hope we are) I was dreading the screening a little bit. I need not have feared as the result was a delightfully silly and resolutely epic film that goes to show what a piece of pure entertainment should look like.