By Radiya Jamari (14A03B) and Lu Jinyao (14A01D)
Additional reporting by Huang Sihan (14S06D)
In the aftermath of the obliteration of the Bifröst Bridge in Thor, the eponymous hero (portrayed by Chris Hemsworth, The Avengers) presently appears to be battling the Svartalfheim, led by warmonger Malekith (Christopher Eccelston, Doctor Who). Malekith seeks an ancient weapon of mass destruction, the Aether, which is inadvertently awakened by Thor’s mortal scientist girlfriend, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman, Star Wars). In attempting to save the Nine Realms from darkness and evil, Thor reunites with Jane and his much-despised adoptive brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston, The Avengers).
Although more of DC Comics fans, we have to concur that Marvel Studios has successfully continued the momentum of Thor while simultaneously creating a solid standalone “Phase Two”. This second instalment delves deeper into the relationships of the characters and the storyline from the first, notably the Thor-Loki brotherhood complication. From trivial squabbling over the manoeuvring of the Dark Elf spaceship to Thor’s heart-wrenching mourn over Loki’s (fake) death, Thor: The Dark World gives further insight into the strength and nature of the sibling bond between Thor and Loki, reinforced by the superb acting and chemistry by Hemsworth and Hiddleston respectively.
Yet, it also engenders questions about Loki’s ulterior motives. Loki’s enigmatic character is amplified in this sequel due to his vacillation between good and evil, unlike the first instalment where Loki was evidently the villain. His seemingly altruistic act of sacrificing himself for Thor, and his quiet grief over the death of their mother (Rene Russo, Thor) gives an alternative perspective to the villain’s character, and also serves as a glimmer of hope that he might not be entirely evil. That hope, however, is emasculated in the final scene, when it is revealed that Loki’s martyrdom was all part of his plan to replace Odin (Anthony Hopkins, The Silence of the Lambs). Given Loki’s sarcasm, menace, lack of moral rectitude and charming good looks, it is no wonder he is the scene-stealer and fan-favourite. While his character development has been relatively well-executed, in the words of Rolling Stone, there was simply “Not enough Loki.” Such an ironic, heroic villain definitely deserves his own movie — or at least, more screen time – perhaps in the next sequel, as suggested by the unfinished business during the final scene.
The lack of screen time for Loki also points towards another flaw in the movie: too many subplots, leaving little room for character development. The Dark Elves and Malekith remained in the backdrop, severely lacking in critical development. Despite the initial infodump, their motivation remains unclear — destroy the universe, make it dark, or replace the Asgardians? Unlike Loki, the black hat of the first Thor, who staged a Shakespearean-like tale of brotherhood rivalry and betrayal, Malekith is little more than an arbitrary representation of a villain necessary for every superhero film. The same goes for Thor’s gang – the Asgardian warriors Sif, Fandral and Volstagg are clearly skilled fighters, but that’s as far as their characters go. Their dynamics as a team was evident, but perhaps more could have been shown about the individual characters. For example, Sif’s jealousy and the Sif-Thor-Jane love triangle was hinted, but not expanded.
Commendable, however, is the portrayal of the female leads. Frigga’s self-sacrifice, proving herself not only a queen but also a true Asgardian warrior, represented one of the most tragic and momentous scenes in the film, elevating her role and significance in the plot. Although Jane Foster was pretty much still the damsel in distress, she did play a major role in stopping Malekith by applying her Physics/Astronomy expertise in the final battle. We also saw more of Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings, 2 Broke Girls), Jane’s unpaid intern, who had her own love story unfurled, and was no longer just comic relief. Sif, as usual, was the embodiment of girl power, shining as a knight in her battles at Alfheim. Although the cast was still dominated by males, this superhero film definitely gives more limelight to the female characters as compared to other superhero films.
Thor: The Dark World definitely also checked the ‘Humour’ box. The star of the show, of course, Loki, continued to amuse the crowd with his wit (“Well done, you just decapitated your grandfather.”). Even Thor, the solemn good guy, had a few funny fish-out-of-water scenes, like when he hung the Mjölnir on the coat hanger upon entering the flat. Seeing Dr Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård, Pirates of the Caribbean) lecture enthusiastically to a group of institutionalized mental patients also provided a good laugh for the audience. Without trying too hard, the humour added just the right amount of spice to the movie.
Essentially, Thor: The Dark World makes a stellar attempt at building on the foundations of the first Thor, as well as The Avengers. Due to the unfocused plot and poor character development, though, it passes off as a rather insignificant opening act of a more exciting sequel to come — preferably with more attention on Loki. It may not be a movie you will remember for life, but still worth a catch for some action and thrill during the school holidays!
(PS: Here’s a tip: Stay for the credits.)