Last time we saw the god of thunder in his own standalone picture was back in 2011. And despite the Thor universe being less grounded in reality than any superhero movie we’ve seen before, Marvel Studios stood their ground, took a chance on the character, and raked in a respectable $449.3 million worldwide at the box office. And Marvel hopes to see the character continue to grow in Thor: The Dark World. Far removed from our other favorite Avengers, The Dark World brings the best of science fiction and fantasy together to give Marvel fans one grand adventure.
Thor: The Dark World takes place one year after the events of The Avengers. Loki (Tom Hiddleston) has been imprisoned on Asgard and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) travels throughout the Nine Realms to bring peace and order. Since New Mexico two years prior, Jane (Natalie Portman) has been a sulky, sad panda. Left on Earth without a glimmer of hope, Jane is unaware that Odin (Anthony Hopkins) has banned Thor from seeing her. But strange sequences of events will bring the two love birds back together when Jane stumbles upon a 5,000 year old relic containing Aether (pronounced ether) – a red matter that has little explanation or reasonable cause to feel entirely threatening – that was thought to be once lost in the darkest depths of the universe hidden from great evil that lies in wait, the Dark Elves.
Leader of the Dark Elves, Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) is hell-bent on revenge against the Asgardians who brought light to the galaxy when there was only darkness. Stripped away of their precious Aether, and thought to have been annihilated by Odin’s father, the Dark Elves have been awakened by the Aether that has been reactivated due to the Convergence, an event where all Nine Realms are aligned. The Convergence begins causing gravitational disruptions to reality, opening portals to each realm that creates excessive convenience toward the end of the film. Utilizing the only means necessary to stop the Dark Elves from shrouding the universe in complete darkness, Thor must team with Loki, betray his father, and find a way to rid the Aether from Jane that has inhabited her body.
Puts the scope of the first movie to shame doesn’t it? And it has got to be one of the nerdiest properties to his the big screen in a long time. We’re talking about elves with spaceships here, battling against Norse gods, who receive help from humans who fight with science. As a sequel to Thor, The Dark World is an incredible improvement compared to Iron Man 2 to Iron Man. Not only does The Dark World expand the Thor mythos by tenfold, providing fans a better tour through the kingdom of Asgard and the Nine Realms, but it also strips itself from all of the S.H.I.E.L.D. plot lines that bogged down the first film, thus allowing our hero his moment in the spotlight. There are also thrilling aerial dogfights, battles in other realms introducing new races, loads of coherent scientific jargon, and stronger comedy beats. It’s as if Star Wars had a three way with The Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones.
As a sequel to The Avengers it integrates more fluidly than Iron Man 3, and it has a greater impact to the story than just one character. In Iron Man 3, Tony Stark’s psyche was considerably compromised, but everyone else seems to have gone about their business as if New York didn’t happen. Within The Dark World, New York is mentioned a handful of times, Eric Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard) has been affected by Loki’s touch, Thor’s Earth comrades are actually mentioned, and the fandom of The Avengers is apparent among the humans. Surprisingly S.H.I.E.LD. only has a slight mention, which kinds of feels silly with how involved the organization has been.
Darker, funnier, and more action packed than the first film could even imagine, The Dark World tends to get lost in its tone of voice. Everything is so magnified that it is pulled in so many different directions it doesn’t know what it wants to be. With almost every serious moment and every battle sequence a gag or a joke disrupts the tension. And regardless of how funny it may be, because this movie is really hilarious, it ruins the intensity that is trying to be established within each scene. The Dark World is also very simplistic. There are hardly any meaningful themes or lessons for our characters to take away.
Director Alan Taylor (Game of Thrones; The Sopranos; Mad Men; Sex in the CIty) keeps the pace and story moving very well, but it is within the writing where there could have been too many hands in the cookie jar. The story was written by Robert Rodat (Saving Private Ryan; The Patriot) and Don Payne (Thor; My Super Ex-Girlfriend), and the screenplay was written by Stephen McFeely and Christopher Markus (the duo that wrote The Chronicles of Narnia Trilogy and Captain America: The First Avenger) along with Christopher Yost (The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes). A very diverse bunch of writers, and it could be this diversity that may have given the movie its tonal A.D.D.
The cast does a stupendous job fitting into their Marvel characters again. Tom Hiddleston steals the show of course while Hemsworth continues to prove he is a a strong leading man that can maintain your attention through his acting and not just his muscles. Everyone else basically picks right back up where we left them. No big character developments happen aside from Thor and Loki. Dr. Selvig is a bit over the top, caused by Loki’s mind control, and it can be a bit distracting.
But if there was one thing that irked me yet again is that we have another Marvel movie with a boring villain played by a decent actor who is given very little to do. It’s as if everyone is too afraid to write a villain that could upstage Heath Ledger’s Joker. Loki has been the only interesting villain out of all seven films thus far. Malekith’s mission to obtain the Aether is all well and good, but his purpose is too one-dimensional. Eccleston does fine, but I wish he was given more of a character to work with than just a shell of a role. It could have been any race, any character, much like the aliens in The Avengers. Also, the music; we need to establish memorable scores for our heroes. The music is not terrible, it’s fine, but Iron Man seems to be the only hero with a score that you can relate back to the character and works in future films.
Thor: The Dark World is the most important card in the deck for Phase 2 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Marvel Studios needs The Dark World to succeed commercially to prove they have what it takes to launch unfamiliar characters into the mainstream and turn them into likable franchises that can go beyond one picture. Continuing the trend of creating a compelling, visually stylish, and completely enjoyable film from start to finish, The Dark World should have no problems catapulting Marvel to unreachable heights and solidify Thor as a bankable character for future films. Looking past its faults, Thor: The Dark World pulls out another successful win for Marvel as one of the most entertaining times you will have this year at the movies.
Oh, and don’t see this in 3D. It looks fine, it’s not dark or anything, and there is slight depth beyond the screen, but it’s completely underutilized and brings no extra benefit.
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Thor: The Dark World was directed by Alan Taylor, with a run time of 112 minutes. The film has been rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, and some suggestive content. (Watch the trailer here)
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