Directed by: Alan Taylor
Written by: Christopher Yost, Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston
How do I accurately convey how good Hiddleston is in this silly, perfunctory, but surprisingly watchable follow-up for the Norse-god comic book film? I would watch a hundred of these stupid sequels, one right after the other, as long as Loki was in them. Just stone-cold being himself.
Loki is so many different things in “The Dark World,” the weird plot of which I won’t even bore you with: he’s a bad guy, he’s a good guy, he’s a plot device, he’s a wild card, he’s the comic relief, he’s the moral and emotional center, and the most human character in the movie. While Natalie Portman does her best impression of a human black hole as the extremely boring Jane Foster, Loki injects a dose of virile energy every time he steps on the screen. While Kat Dennings fires off one-liners of various quality until our ears bleed, Hiddleston devastates us with a single wordless shot of him grief-stricken in a destroyed prison cell. The movie never settles into ponderousness simply because Hiddleston is there.
Hemsworth, as much as I like him (and I do think he’s underrated as an actor), just can’t capture the screen in quite the same way. It’s not really his fault. Thor is a difficult comic book character to pull off- it’s hard to frame that faux-Shakespearean dialogue in a way that doesn’t seem ridiculous- and Hemsworth does an admirable job. But Thor’s the hero- his motivations are clear and his virtue is true. Loki has thousands of motivations, many of which conflict with each other, and the good he does have is often subsumed in myopia and selfishness.
In other words, he’s just like the rest of us. And you can’t compete with that. Not even with an badass hammer that flies through the air.
Both Rene Russo and Anthony Hopkins reprise their roles as Thor’s parents, because screw you, Hopkins has an Oscar, he can do what he wants. In second place behind Hiddleston in the Thor Awesomeness Competition is Idris Elba as Heimdall, the guardian of the magic bridge between worlds who takes down a freaking spaceship all by himself. And Christopher Eccleston is the villain, but he’s soooo boring, and why can’t Loki be in more scenes?
Thor: The Dark World clips along at a good pace, with a few OK fight scenes, and one really terrific chase scene. Much of the movie takes place in Asgard, which was beautifully realized in the first film and continues here. Asgard is a mix between Rivendell from “Lord of the Rings” and a grown-up version of a Lisa Frank cartoon, a combination which sounds seizure and/or vomit-inducing, but actually reads as dreamy and mildly unsettling. Best of all, the movie retains the same fascination with magic as science and vice versa, and the idea that we know only the barest fraction of what’s going on in our reality.
And there’s another message, halfway rebutted by our hero, but never quite losing its ring of truth: that while a human being’s life seems momentous, it could not be more insignificant when beheld by the universe.
Loki, of course, is the one who says this. And that’s not surprising- like I said, it’s Hiddleston’s “Dark World.” We just live in it.