“Cue the awakening of an ancient race of albino elves bent on returning existence to its former glory – which just so happens to be eternal darkness.”

Thor: The Dark World
by Matt Allen

Since the release of Marvel’s Avengers Assemble (to give it its full UK release title), the challenge for the studio has been to keep up the same high quality that had been set during its ambitious team-up event. After the disappointing Iron Man 3 and before the slightly more enigmatic Captain America: The Winter Soldier we are served up the second helping in the Thor series: The Dark World.

With the bifrost fixed and the nine realms on the brink of peace things should be looking good for the future king of Asgard (Chris Hemsworth). Cue the awakening of an ancient race of albino elves bent on returning existence to its former glory – which just so happens to be eternal darkness.

In a change of scene from Kenneth Branagh’s first installment, Alan Taylor – of Game of Thrones fame – brings the grimy aesthetic that has become synonymous with his work on the hugely successful HBO series. The title promises a darker world for the mighty Asgardian and in that sense it certainly delivers. While there is still a healthy element of comedy present – Stellen Skarsgard is excellent in this respect – this film has evolved from the often slapstick, fish-out-of-water premise of the original and explores much weightier themes.

The highlight of this film is, as expected, Tom Hiddleston’s Loki. Taylor and the team at Marvel have resisted the urge to bowl straight into the Thor/Loki team-up that was teased so well in the trailers. Instead they take their time and ensure that the brotherly truce is organic to the plot and fully justifiable.  Then, when the God of Mischief is finally let off the leash, the banter is amped up and the action really begins.

Other returning characters well worth a mention include Anthony Hopkins giving another superb performance as the no-nonsense King of Asgard Odin and Idris Elba’s Heimdall who is thankfully given an opportunity to step out from the sidelines for a moment and get his teeth stuck into the action. The less said about Kat Denning’s shrill hipster the better but hopefully if we all just ignore her she’ll stop making that annoying sound and drift away into obscurity.

For the finale it is off to London again and, as is the trend these days, our great city gets destroyed for the umpteenth time this year. It’s at this point that Christopher Eccleston’s Malekith finally gets more to do than just gargle in Dark Elvish and look menacing as the two battle it out in an inventive fight sequence that even manages to pull off some of the biggest laughs of the film without detracting from the action.

As usual, the Marvel team have found original and enjoyable ways to exploit their heroes’ abilities on screen. This is a great sequel in that the plot feels like a natural continuation of the story set up in the first film and not a gratuitous installment that has been crow-barred into a franchise.

3.5 star rating