They missed a golden opportunity for a great gag in Thor: The Dark World. There's a scene early on where Jane Foster (Portman) is having a lunch date with Chris O'Dowd – it's clearly a first date – and her assistant Darcy (Dennings) walks in with a gadget in her hand and complains that she can't get it to work. Now, O'Dowd clearly should have piped up with the line: "Have you tried turning it off and on again?" But he didn't. See? A missed opportunity.
Which is a puzzle, because the makers of Thor: TDW are clearly going for the big yuks – it's probably got the best laugh-to-action ratio of any of the Marvel films so far. And the jokes (including some truly sidesplitting sight gags) are certainly needed, because the plot itself is pretty pedestrian.
It's another superhero-saves-the-universe-in-peril film. There are these Dark Elves, see, led by the evil Malekith (Eccleston) who were defeated centuries before by an ancestor of Odin's (the king of Asgard, played by Hopkins). They've been biding their time, waiting for the perfect moment to get their revenge. With the help of a powerful energy source called Aether, and with the nine Realms (including Earth) about to align, the Elves seize their opportunity. And so it falls to Thor (Hemsworth), with the help of his slightly naughty brother Loki (Hiddleston), to once again save the day.
Thor: TDW seems pitched squarely at the teenage boy market – the film is chock full of special effects, eye-popping stunts, demonic monsters, bizarre worlds and spaceships. Lots of spaceships. In among all this is the handsome god Thor, trying to juggle the woman he loves, the brother who wants him dead and the father who wants him to take over the throne. It's enough to make him hang up his hammer.
Of course, he doesn't. He makes good use of Mjölnir to mete out his mighty justice as he flits between Asgard, Earth and the elven Dark World to put an end to Malekith's scheme and once again save Asgard, Earth, and with Jane (who has somehow, inadvertently, absorbed the Aether thanks to a dimensional rift). And – shock, horror – helping him to save all these worlds is none other than Loki.
It's all comic book stuff and nonsense, but it's all great fun too – made all the more so by the lashings of humour, as well as the wonderful relationship between Thor and Loki (Hemsworth and Hiddleston have clearly become great mates off set as well as on). Eccleston's story seems a little undercooked, but he's an effective foe even under layer upon layer of make-up (inluding a nifty pair of Spock ears). It's director Taylor's first feature film after a long career in TV, most recently working on Game of Thrones. He seems more than comfortable helming the big action set pieces, but the tonal shifts throughout give the film a slightly schizophrenic feel.
Still, thanks to great performances all round – particularly Hemsworth and Hiddleston – plus some strong emotional beats and plenty of laughs, Thor: TDW manages to keep Marvel's Phase 2 well on track.
EXTRAS ★★★½ There's an audio commentary with director Taylor, producer Kevin Feige, co-star Hiddleston and cinematographer Kramer Morgenthau; a gag reel (3:30), some of which can be seen in the clip below; six deleted and extended scenes (7:49); the two-part featurette A Brother's Journey: Thor & Loki (31:39), an in-depth look at how Hemsworth and Hiddleston developed their characters; the featurette Scoring Thor: The Dark World With Brian Tyler (5:21); the featurette Exclusive Look at Captain America: Winter Soldier (3:35); and the Marvel One-Shot: All Hail The King (13:51), which is all about the further "adventures" of Trevor Slattery and stars Kingsley (of course) as well as the wonderful Scoot McNairy ... plus a terrific surprise cameo.