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Review: Thor: The Dark World is silly and it knows it

Last updated on: November 08, 2013 19:21 IST

Chris Hemsworth in Thor: The Dark WorldYou'll be hard pressed to find another hero so totally, awesomely Super, insists Raja Sen.

It might seem absurdly obvious, but sometimes we forget that comic book movies just need to be comic.

We've made the caped crusader a dour hero, sucked the joy out of Superman, and -- in our quest for grit and edge -- made superhero movies that appeal to film festival juries more than they do our inner eight-year-olds.

Thank all nine heavens, then, for Thor, that most old-school of heroes, for staying true to the technicolour spirit and giving us a movie that refuses to take itself too seriously.

Because -- despite Sir Anthony Hopkins strutting around as gruff as can be -- Stan Lee ain't Shakespeare, and Thor as a character works best when he's being handled cheekily.

In the comics, for example, his very lettering is different: an ornate vintage-style font setting his words apart from other contemporary speakers around him. His finest moments in The Avengers, for example, came when Robert Downey Jr's Iron Man ribbed him relentlessly, and the new Thor film understands this very well indeed.

Which is why Thor: The Dark World might indeed come with epic Tolkien-y voiceovers and involve funerals for crucial characters, but it is a film that sniggers at the pomposity of its own accents -- even when the men mouthing the lines possess voices as extraordinary as Idris Elba as Chris Hemsworth. 

Everything does culminate in a climactic city-splitting skirmish, naturally, but even this battle is treated with humour we hardly dare to expect from the genre.

Set in London, the fight drops combatants onto the slippery peak of Norman Foster's 'Gherkin' building, and they struggle for grip and gravitas while stockbrokers in stiff-collared shirts look on, bewildered.

A particularly brilliant interlude is found next when Thor is suddenly teleported into the middle of a London Underground tube station, and has to take a train ride to catch up with the villain. He stands next to a girl, a girl made dizzy enough by his blonde godly charm to feel the need to steady herself on his chest, and the hammer-wielder permits himself a self-satisfied

smirk. And this is in the middle of the climactic war, that part of the superhero movie where most of us have learnt to sit back and not expect too much. 

Much of this devilry can be attributed to Tom Hiddleston, who plays Loki with such majestic superciliousness that he irresistibly conquers the screen every time he's around. It is a delicious performance, all smug and cool and witty and always, always knowing more than the characters around him, and the audience watching.

Considering, in fact, that he was the principal villain in both the first Thor movie and The Avengers, Hiddleston may just be the mightiest antagonist in all of superhero cinema. Here, he manages to bring a surprising poignance to the character from between his acerbic hisses, his lines cutting sharper than the dagger he carries. 

Hemsworth, who we last saw in Ron Howard's remarkable Rush, seems to get more assured with each screen outing, and his Thor now looks ready to rule as many realms as he chooses. There is a danger of that flawlessly noble character turning into a uni-dimensional one, but Hemsworth imbues the character with just enough cluelessness and hubris to elicit our affections. A god he may well be, but he's a god who didn't call his girlfriend up for a couple of years. 

And so while Thor is plagued with the weight of silly science and ponderous, unnecessary exposition, there's a goofiness to the proceedings that makes it a brisk watch.

Director Alan Taylor might have helmed great Game Of Thrones episodes before, but this is blissfully far-out, a Wild Wild Westeros, if you will, and the lunacy isn't limited to Loki's shapeshifting and his lines. There are scientists who work best without their pants, mothers who know when to take charge, gods who hang their hammer on a coat-rack and, in Natalie Portman's Jane Foster, the prettiest astrophysicist in all the universe, who turns to mush when she hears her man, um, "explain things."

So raise a mug of mead to the glorious Thor. It puts the lark in malarkey, and it's as good for a laugh as any big screen excursion has been, this year.

Oh, and sit through all the credits for two scenes you wouldn't want to miss. Schadenfreude and Thor might not go together, but you'll be hard pressed to find another hero so totally, awesomely Super.

Rediff Rating: 

Raja Sen in Mumbai