Plot: After years of strife throughout the Nine Realms, peace has finally come thanks to the valiant efforts of Thor Odinson (Chris Hemsworth). That peace is quickly threatened when a great evil awakens in the form of Malekith the Accursed (Christopher Eccleston). Now with the Nine Realms threatened by an ancient force known as the Aether, Thor must do the unthinkable: team up with his deceptive brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) or else everything he holds dear will perish.
Going into Thor: The Dark World, I had a bit of unease in my stomach. I am a staunch Marvel fanatic and have loved every movie prior. However, early reviews for Thor’s next journey weren’t exactly kind. Some were absolutely scathing in fact. While I had complete confidence that I was going to love The Dark World, there was a nagging little creature in my mind saying that the critics could be right. Critically the movie is closer in ratings to The Incredible Hulk on Rotten Tomatoes and is in dead last when you compare it to the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe on Metacritic. But after walking out of the doors of my local theater, that “nagging little creature” was completely destroyed. I’ll even say that Thor himself brought the mighty hammer Mjolnir down to destroy my unease. To put it simply, I had nothing but smiles in the end. Thor: The Dark World is an action packed movie that is visually stunning and surprisingly humorous while also having an extremely two dimensional villain.
Chronologically, The Dark World takes place a few years after The Avengers. I’m assuming Tony Stark’s story in Iron Man 3 was resolved at this point too. Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) has relocated to London, England with her intern Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings) and Dr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård). Jane is trying to move on after Thor never returned to her following the first Thor film and we first see her on a blind date with a man named Richard (Chris O’Dowd). A lot of the film’s humor surrounded these regular people, specifically Darcy and Selvig who isn’t doing too well following his brainwashing by Loki in The Avengers. The first time we see Selvig again is him running away from cops at Stonehenge and completely naked. Darcy’s role is more expanded in this film as she actually contributes to solving the world ending conflict, but she still is the full comedic relief at heart. This was one of the better performances by Dennings overall.
Most of the movie takes place on Asgard which is completely opposite to the New Mexico setting of the first film. Asgard looks even better this time around and the change of focus allows us to get a lot more scenes with Odin (Anthony Hopkins), Frigga (Rene Russo), and the Warriors Three in their natural habitat. Hopkins especially looks like he just having a lot of fun playing the All Father, using his impeccable acting to give Odin a commanding power like no other. Hemsworth also proves why he’s still the perfect man to play the God of Thunder as we see a much more mature Thor this time around. His adventures in New Mexico and New York have made him a “new” man with serious talk of him becoming king soon. As for Loki, he’s permanently imprisoned for his attempt at taking over the Earth with a Chitauri army. When it comes to the Gods on Asgard, Loki is the most hilarious of them all with Hiddleston as the scene stealer whenever he’s around. He even uses his magical trickery to briefly gallivant around as Captain America, giving Chris Evans one of the greatest cameo appearances I have ever seen. Don’t worry, Thor still has his moments where his cocksure attitude shines, showing that this young God still hasn’t completely grown up.
The action is as jaw dropping as usual, which is good considering it’s about half the movie. This is where director Alan Taylor brings in his own personal touch using his experience on Game of Thrones as a guide. Thor’s first scene is in the midst of a ferocious battle on the realm of Vanaheim. His simplistic “Hello” in the face of a giant rock golem was perfect and exactly what we would expect from Thor. Volstagg (Ray Stevenson), Fandral (Zachary Levi), and Sif (Jaimie Alexander) had more expanded roles in this film too and their fervent dedication to Thor was truly great. Plus, the film doesn’t focus nearly as much on the love triangle between Sif, Jane, and Thor as much as one would expect with a sequel. The battles get better and better as the movie goes on with a realm jumping final conflict between Malekith and Thor capping it off. Loki himself kicks some major ass well so fans of the God of Mischief have a lot to love.
In regards to the villain Malekith, there’s no going around the fact that he’s as paper thin as they come. Christopher Eccleston is a fantastic actor (Whovians remember him as the Ninth Doctor), but the unbelievable amount of makeup makes him completely unrecognizable in terms of both talent and appearance. Malekith’s trusted lieutenant is a Dark Elf named Algrim who becomes the last Kurse, and is played by Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje. Akinnuoye-Agbaje played fan favorite Mr. Eko on Lost and he is even more unrecognizable due to a giant outfit and CGI. Malekith’s main motivation to destroying the Nine Realms is his desire to bring about darkness. But he doesn’t do that for any particular reason, it’s just in his nature. The conflict becomes personal for Thor when Malekith attacks Asgard and brings death to their doorstep, but other than that it really boils down to Malekith is evil and Thor is good when explaining why they fight.
Also, as much as I loved Loki in this movie as a character, I’m beginning to wonder how long it will be before everyone realizes that he will trick them EVERY TIME. Seriously, how gullible and trustworthy are these all powerful gods? Loki dies during the movie which leads to Thor becoming an unending source of rage but even the most casual fan knows this is obviously a trick. He’s even done it before! Remember when Loki “died” at the end of the first Thor? Loki’s a trickster and he always will be.
Lastly, I’m still freaking out at the mid-credits sequence. Now I don’t want to spoil this for anyone by saying what happens, but I will say this. It is our first actual look into next year’s Guardian’s of the Galaxy and what could possibly be the main conflict in Avengers 3 when that inevitably comes. Guardian’s is probably my most anticipated film of 2014 and even this slight tease was enough to get me excited. If you’re a comic fan like I am, you really got to see this for yourself.
In more ways than one, Thor: The Dark World upends its predecessor. It has more action, more humor, and it looks so much nicer. The only major downside for me was how it takes such a major step backwards in terms of the main antagonist. I know they couldn’t have made Loki the villain again but when you have a man like Tom Hiddleston knock it out of the park with his past performance there is no way you can top him. Well, perhaps James Spader’s Ultron can do this in Avengers: Age of Ultron in 2015. In all seriousness though, someone find a way to bring Loki back. I don’t care if it’s Thor 3 or a Loki centric film that Hiddleston could totally carry. Loki right now isn’t coming back for Age of Ultron but you know how these people like to keep cameos secret. I digress, The Dark World is one hell of a fun ride that is worlds better than many critics say it is. FOR ASGARD!
Rating: 8.5 lightning strikes out of 10