We return to the Marvel Cinematic Universe with Thor: The Dark World, the second standalone entry for the hammer-wielding god of Asgard. This time, director Alan Taylor steps in behind the lens, taking us even further into the world of Asgard than Kenneth Branagh did with the first film. Taylor’s film may give us more time in Asgard, but I felt that Branagh’s film had steadier footing and was more in control of its story.
Many years ago, Thor’s grandfather, Bor (Tony Curran), and the rest of Asgard’s army fought against a Dark Elf named Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) in order to prevent a dangerous weapon known as The Aether from getting in Malekith’s hands. After defeating Malekith’s army, Bor hid the weapon where it could never fall into the wrong hands again. Or so they thought, as Malekith just happened to slip away with some of his army in tact.
In the present, we see that everyone is still recovering from the events of The Avengers that took place in New York. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) helps his comrades, the Warriors Three, battle across the Nine Realms to maintain order, while Loki (Tom Hiddleston) returns to face imprisonment by his adoptive father, Odin (Anthony Hopkins), for his actions on Earth. Meanwhile, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) is now in London, along with Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings), who recently discovered an area with odd energy patterns, which is perfect for their research. As it turns out, the laws of physics in said area have gone screwy because the alignment of the Nine Realms is nearing. While exploring in the area, Jane is pulled through a portal to where The Aether is being kept, and it both makes her its host and awakens Malekith because of the sudden activity. While on watch, Asgard’s gatekeeper, Heimdall (Idris Elba), notices Jane’s disappearance from his sight, calling Thor back to earth to investigate, and this is where the fun begins.
Although things start of rather slow and sluggish, Thor: The Dark World hits its stride once Loki is back in the picture. Thor’s plan to defeat Malekith can’t be done alone, so he calls for a little help from his untrustworthy brother, which puts things right into Marvel’s wheelhouse. Tom Hiddleston’s charismatic performance is a scene-stealer, providing the right amounts of comedic wit, along with a little flair of the dramatic when needed. Without him, this would be a very different film. He steals every scene from Thor, to the point that you have to remind yourself that this is Thor’s film, not Loki’s.
Fans who were disappointed by the first film’s lack of Asgard will be in heaven. Kramer Morgenthau and Charles Wood (the Director of Photography and Production Designer, respectively), make this world shimmer and pop out at you, almost like Marvel’s interpretation of Game Of Thrones or Lord Of The Rings. It’s wonderful to look at, and you practically feel at home.
While Asgard looks great, the plot’s development while we’re there is disappointingly thin. Aside from a touching scene with Thor’s mother Frigga (Rene Russo), I didn’t feel quite as captivated with the surrounding characters of Thor’s world this time around. Thor and Jane’s romance is just lacking something. What’s also lacking, surprisingly, is Malekith, who is quite a disappointing villain. We know his motive, but aside from that, the character isn’t drawn out or extended in any compelling or interesting fashion. Christopher Eccleston does well with what he’s given, but I can’t say that the role will be remembered at all beyond this film. But this is how I felt throughout most of the film: a lack of strong defiant character arcs and development in pursuit of trying to get more laughs out of the audience.
If you like the comedic aspect of the Marvel Universe, you will be snugly at home here. It delivers quite a few comedic moments, although it pushes it a bit too far with grating one-liners from Kat Dennings’ Darcy Lewis. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) felt greatly misused, only appearing for a few gag laughs here and there until they finally find good use for him.
The real question is, does Thor: The Dark World entertain in the fashion of a Phase 2 feature in the Marvel Universe? Yes, and no. While it’s not my favorite entry, I did have a good time watching it. Chris Hemsworth is once again pitch perfect as Thor, and Tom Hiddleston is just in his own league. Put those two together, and you got some incredible sequences (one such scene will certainly have fans talking for a while, and rightfully so). You got some impressive set pieces, quite a bit of humor, and some surprises along the way. It could have made better use out of its villain, but it manages to get by, even so.
Be sure to stay after the credits for a mid-credit scene and a post-credit scene. The former takes us one step closer to the Guardians Of The Galaxy, and was even directed by James Gunn, the upcoming film’s director. The end of Thor: The Dark World also interestingly sets things up for the third Thor film, which has many possibilities.