The first Thor film was my second favourite of the Marvel Phase One films (my favourite obviously being Avengers). It was a really solid character based story with almost Shakespearean themes of jealousy, flawed heroes, redemption and falls from grace. It had a superb cast with not one dud performer in the entire ensemble and it was beautifully directed by Kenneth Branagh.
But mostly it was funny. Hysterically, pants-wettingly, quote it to your friends for weeks afterwards funny. “This drink is delicious,” *smash* “ANOTHER!” will be in my personal lexicon of jokes forever.
It wasn’t without flaws though. For a comic book movie it was severely deficient in action. Our hero is without his powers for most of the film and when he finally gets them the climax is perfunctory and disappointing. It also introduced a ton of awesome and interesting characters, Sif, The Warriors Three, Heimdall (The most awesome thing Idris Elba has ever done) but due to time constraints didn’t really do a lot with them.
Why am I talking so much about the first Thor in a review of the sequel? Well because I am pleased to report that this new film fixes those two problems from the first one. There are a lot more action scenes and they’re much better done. The climactic battle which takes place in multiple universes all at once is particularly inventive.
Also we get more Warriors Three this time and a LOT more Heimdall.
It’s just a shame that they forgot to include all the stuff that made the first film great.
Brilliant humour? Eh, there are a few gags I liked but they’re less frequent than the first film and less hilarious this time around.
Superb cast? Well everyone returns but, Stellan Skarsgard is reduced to doing some frankly embarrassing physical comedy and Anthony Hopkins clearly showed up on set for like half a day blitzed off his face. He could not care less about this and you can almost smell the apathy coming off him. I’ve never heard a worse reading of the word “hah” before in all my life.
And poor Christopher Eccleston has nothing to do as evil villain Malekith. Nothing. At all. His motivation is, he existed in a time before there was stuff and now he is mad that stuff exists. That’s kind of neat in a broad cosmic sense but it makes for a really dull villain. I am mad at everything is not psychologically compelling and even a thesp of Eccleston’s character struggles to do anything interesting with this character. It doesn’t help that he has maybe 4 scenes in the entire film as well.
But the biggest thing missing is the Shakespearean character drama. Thor had a great arc for the lead character. He’s an arrogant jock who learns humility and is redeemed. Toss in the conflict with his brother and you have some really meaty character stuff to hang the punching and hammer throwing on.
This time around though, they just forgot to give Thor an arc. He starts the film as a pretty decent guy, a hero in Asgard and the other nine realms and he ends the film as a pretty decent guy and a hero in all nine realms. He doesn’t have a dip, he doesn’t look like he’s lost and has to return from disaster he just travels the story in a straight line. There are some gestures at a love triangle with Thor, Sif and Jane but they amount to nothing. And there’s a speech between Thor and Odin at the end where it’s implied that Thor has learned a lesson about being the king and recants his responsibility preferring to be a hero. But we never see anything prior to this scene related to those themes at all. It’s as if the film is full of shadows from an earlier draft that got edited out so we could get more Loki.
Which brings me to Loki.
Who is delightful.
Tom Hiddleston’s Loki is the absolute highlight of this film. Every second he’s on screen just elevates it utterly. He’s like the jam in some otherwise bland rice pudding. He’s funny, charming, complicated and unlike Thor he actually has a character arc and changes and grows over the film.
Unfortunately he’s only on screen for maybe thirty or forty minutes and he isn’t the main villain this time. Which is fine, he just doesn’t have a natural role in the story and whilst he’s the best thing in it it isn’t his story. But you can tell that the feedback at every stage of production was “needs more Loki” and they’ve forced so much of him in here that it’s been detrimental to the arcs for other main characters like Thor and Malekith.
Whilst this has been a pretty negative review I don’t want you to think that I hated Thor. I didn’t, it was fine. I was perfectly happy whilst watching it, the action was good, it had decent jokes, Loki was excellent, it wasn’t terrible. But it just felt a little thin, like a stew that’s too watery and needs more meat and vegetables.
Which is two culinary metaphors in one review. I must be hungry.