Thor has returned and better than before. Thor: The Dark World aptly takes the original concept and improves upon it with a nice mix of increased action, further character development, and great touches of humor.
Thor: The Dark World begins with Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and the Warriors Three in the middle of a battle. Since the destruction of the Bifrost, the Nine Realms have been at constant war and it falls to the Asgardian heroes to restore peace. While Thor strives to bring peace to other realms, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) has been brought back to Asgard in chains and sent to the dungeon to rot—though he is still visited by his mother, Frigga (Rene Russo). Back on Earth, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and Darcy (Kat Dennings) are investigating strange phenomena that is very similar to what they witnessed when Thor first appeared. All is well until Jane stumbles across dimensional lines and discovers an ancient weapon, taken from the Dark Elves after they were defeated by Thor’s grandfather thousands of years ago. The phenomenon that Jane is studying turns out to be a convergence of the Nine Realms, which the surviving leader of the Dark Elves, Malekith (Christopher Eccleston), plans to use to return the world to darkness. Really, it’s just another day in the Marvel Universe.
Between Thor and Thor: The Dark World there was a change in directors. While Kenneth Branagh was a capable director, I’m not sure that an action movie based on a comic book was really best suited to his Shakespearean training. The Dark World was directed by Alan Taylor, who can count six episodes of Game of Thrones as part of his considerable directing portfolio. Taylor brings a different feel to the film with stronger action sequences and a greater sense of adventure. It certainly helps that The Dark World has an extra twenty million dollars in its budget—thanks, no doubt, to the success of The Avengers. That extra money shows in the addition of several locations, most of them in the various realms, as well as a much expanded Asgard.
Each of these locations has its own fight sequence, and some have more than one. For my money, the best fight scenes are the opening flashback battle with the Dark Elves, and Malekith’s assault on Odin’s palace. Both were fantastically imagined, especially the Dark Elves. With a few exceptions, most of the Dark Elves wore masks that completely obscured their faces and made them appear to be mindless drones. Unfortunately, the fight between Thor and the Kursed didn’t really work for me. I had been looking forward to it for a significant part of the movie and, with the exception of the very end, it came off as lack luster.
With all the increased action, one might think that there would be less time for character development, but this is simply not the case. One of the things this film does well is to make use of existing characterization. Both Thor and Loki were in The Avengers, so The Dark World doesn’t try to cover the same ground. Instead, it takes what is already there and expands upon it. Loki is a particularly interesting character this time around. For obvious reasons Loki despises Odin, but he still maintains an odd affection for Frigga, his adopted mother. Even though he attempts to hide his feelings, he is often driven to act on these feelings. Loki will always be a difficult character to get a good handle on, purely based on his nature as the god of mischief. His motivations are constantly hidden and shifting. This time around—more than either of his two previous appearances on the big screen—we really get to see this changeable and mysterious nature in action.
After the events of Thor and The Avengers, Thor demonstrates that he has also changed, showing that he has maintained his new found maturity. So often movies like this become repeats of the same plot: prideful character is humiliated so they can learn the error of their ways and then rise up to beat the bad guy. Audiences love stories like this, but when the same character keeps doing the same thing in every movie, it gets old.
I also really enjoyed seeing more of one of my favorite characters, Darcy. While a fairly minor character in the first Thor movie, Darcy got more screen time this time around, adding to the film’s humorous elements.
The Dark World builds tonally off of The Avengers and is full of humor that helps keep the movie from being too dark. There is no one scene that is designed purely for humor, but there are little one and two line jokes and sight gags throughout the whole film that manage to prevent a fairly dark film from getting lost and becoming a real downer. While certainly not as clever as a Joss Whedon script, there are plenty of well developed sequences that lead to amusing payoffs. One setup in particular involved throwing trash and other random objects, especially shoes, through a dimensional rift and watching them reappear from another rift. Sometimes these objects don’t reappear, but of course they are discovered later in the movie.
My only serious complaint about the movie is with the last scene. While the acting was good and the scene itself wrapped up the movie nicely, it looked like utter crap. It looks as though the scene was shot during reshoots, against a green screen instead of a full throne room set, and was they rushed through post-production in order to meet the release date. No other part of the movie has this issue and in fact, I was very impressed with the visuals up until this point. With the constant change in location there is great potential for some of the lesser used places to not look as good, and this was just not the case.
Overall, I’m very pleased with the way Thor: The Dark World turned out. It was both a self-contained story and also helped to advance the overall Marvel Universe storyline. Without giving too much away, I was also very excited about the Easter Egg at the end of the credits. It’s a great setup for next summer’s big Marvel blockbuster. I give Thor: The Dark World four Death Stars.