The best thing about the first Thor film was the relationship between Thor and Loki. Everyone knows now how good Tom Hiddleston was as the trickster god but I think Chris Hemsworth's performance in the lead role was rather overlooked; Thor's love for his brother and anguish over his betrayal seemed genuine and that was what made the emotional core of the film work for me. The rest of the film, all the fighting and the swooshy cosmic stuff and the shiny Asgard gubbins was all good, but it played second fiddle to the central family dynamic and the strong performances that made the characters seem real, despite being spangly space gods.
Thor: The Dark World is even better than the first film because that core relationship between Thor and Loki is still there and is still as convincing as before, but all the other bits and pieces are much improved. For some reason -- probably the UK filming, if I'm honest, as it's been a long time since we were the first choice location for blockbuster movies -- I was concerned that this movie would seem cheap in comparison to Marvel Avengers Assemble An Unecessarily Long Title For No Explicable Reason or the first Thor but the new film looks spectacular. Everything looks bigger, better, more colourful and more, er, well it's difficult to explain. Thor 2: Thor Harder doesn't look like Jack Kirby's Thor or Walt Simonson's Thor, but it has that same sort of feel to it, of wild invention and big ideas thrown at the screen; it's the best bits of Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and Hellboy 2 shoved in a blender and made into a delicious visual smoothie. Some boring old fuddie-duddies might quibble over the scifi dark elves and how they're not much like Simonson's but I rather liked them with their funky cloaked B-Wings, Krull-esque laser guns, and impassive porcelain masks.
The Jane Foster Gang is as fluffy and unimportant as it was the first time around but the light comedy moments the group of dysfunctional scientists provide are a good contrast to the more earnest Asgardian drama elsewhere; sometimes that contrast is a bit jarring but it's a film about a big space Viking hitting cyber-elves in the face with a magic hammer so I can forgive some inconsistency in tone and it's easier to forgive when the jokes are in fact funny. I was a bit disappointed that early hints of an impending confrontation between Jane and Sif fizzle away to nothing, and despite some initial promise, Christopher Eccleston is little more than a bloke in a rubber suit for most of the film; it's so disheartening to see him being mediocre in all these post-Doctor Who genre productions when he was so good as the Doctor.
Anyway, weak villain aside, Thor II: The Final Thursday is not only much better than I thought it would be, but is quite a bit better than the first film too. I wasn't grinning like an idiot or jumping in my chair like I was while watching Whatever The Avengers Film Is Called This Week but I was not only entertained but often impressed. I give the film four lightning-licked Mjolnirs out of five.