There’s a brief moment halfway through Thor: The Dark World‘s overwrought climax set around London’s tourist spots where the Asgardian thunder god himself, in full sparkling cosmic regalia, boards the Northern Line in Charing Cross and impassively asks a perplexed passenger the rightful path to Greenwich. “Three stops from here,” the female peasant trembles, obviously awe-struck by the mass of almighty beef in front of her. Now, if you’ve been paying attention (or you actually give a fuck where Greenwich is), you’ll find out that three stops from Charing Cross on the Northern Line will get you to either Elephant & Castle on the south and Euston on the north. Greenwich, ladies and gentlemen, perches on the far east of London. Perhaps a detail that’s far too trivial, especially to our celestial visitors, but to us Earthlings, it matters quite a lot. Of the millions spent making this Thor sequel, it doesn’t cost any dime to make that little fact accurate. I’m no purist, I occasionally hang my logic at the door whenever I go into a blockbuster fodder, but this sparks my bile, fed by the notion that Marvel can work their magic and CGI-blitzkrieg, hopefully fast-paced and blinding enough to make your forget about your own common sense. This specific moment significantly encapsulates Alan Taylor’s balderdash sequel to Kenneth Branagh’s barnstorming predecessor – here transforms into an immensely overblown movie that trades visceral logic and dramatic weight for running gags and multidimensional space mumbo-jumbo. I’m not saying Thor should go the vérité route. But if the three writers employed by Marvel (hello Christopher Yost, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely) can’t be arsed to find out where Greenwich actually is, then how can we trust the entire final product?
And so suspend the best parts of your rationality (and good taste) as The Dark World zips fast and loose into the myriad inter-galactic realms, pulling along The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Star Trek and even sci-fi romp Jumper behind its wake, indecisively swerving from comedy, bland drama, an even duller romance and the leftover funny bits of the Avengers Assemble. Taylor, he of Game of Thrones fame, has a light-footed approach but this could very well be directed collectively by the Marvel Board of Executives, lifting the tone from Avengers and Iron Man 3 because, hey, it worked in the box-office! If Taylor has left any signature stamp then it’s barely recognisable compared to Branagh’s precursor, which had a defiant Shakespearean fingerprint that made Thor a standout in the Marvel canon. The sequel is obviously constructed to provide us an amusement park ride, and while it’s thrilling in a few parts and epic in delivery (a standout Viking funeral, for instance), the over-all final effect is that of unremarkable familiarity. You’ll know as soon as Anthony Hopkins first speaks out in the film’s prologue, his voice weary in exposition, The Dark World has entered into a hinterland of derivative pulp.
Thankfully, half of the humour here worked just fine. Chris Hemsworth shoulders the show with a cocksure swagger as usual, and Tom Hiddleston very nearly pulls the rug from every player, continuing his brand of oleaginous yet damaged villainy with a lot more depth than half of the entire characters here combined. The movie is at its best, recovering its lost cinematic spark in Thor and Loki’s collaborative effort in smuggling Natalie Portman’s frankly boring Jane Foster, now doped with this dark, mystical mucus called the “Aether”, which the Christopher Eccleston’s monodimensional Malekith, an overlord of some bumhole in the cosmos, is pursuing to destroy the universe or something. Because fantasy/sci-fi villains are all hellbent in wiping out all human existence, particularly starting with London since New York has been pretty much obliterated by the Avengers last summer. And when the other half of the humour kicks in, it ends up as insufferable cheese served to supposedly make us laugh at some Londinium architectural jokes. Look, Thor and Malekith sliding down the Gherkin. LOLs! The wormholes get the blame, too, where most running gags take place. I seriously don’t think walking into a wormhole is actually funny. Getting lost in the middle of nowhere scares the living shit out of most people, let alone walking into a wormhole. Especially in Greenwich, which for some reason is concentrated with hundreds of wormholes. Let’s hope the Marvel folks don’t get lost on their way around. Remember, you can bullshit your way around Asgard, but Greenwhich isn’t three stops away from Charing Cross.[separator type=”space”] DIRECTOR: Alan Taylor | CAST: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins, Idris Elba | SCREENPLAY: Christopher Yost, Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely | DISTRIBUTOR: Walt Disney Pictures | RUNNING-TIME: 112 mins | GENRE: Action/Adventure/Sci-fi | COUNTRY: USA