Thor: The Dark World
Perhaps the most interesting thing about this recent slate of Marvel movies, dating back to the first Iron Man movie in 2008, is that much like in the comics, a superhero universe has been created. Each film acts as a piece of the larger story arc. They feed off one another, superhero cameos abound and past events are referenced. It’s smart, of course, because it compels you to see all of them; but unlike comics where you only have to wait a few weeks for the continuation of the storyline, in films you have to wait months, maybe years. The first Thor movie (starring Chris Hemsworth as the title character) was released more than two years ago, and the mega blockbuster The Avengers, from which Thor: The Dark World also picks up, hit theaters in summer 2012 (practically ancient history in the digital age). Luckily, for those of us with bad memory, The Dark World stands well on its own godly merits.
Whereas Thor felt more like an extended trailer for the The Avengers, The Dark World feels more at home as a standalone story. It opens with the God of Thunder cleaning up the few loose ends still rippling through the Nine Realms after Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Thor’s mischievous brother, attempted to royally fuck shit up in the two earlier aforementioned films. Peace is at hand, but an older threat is looming. The Dark Elves, led by Malekith (Christopher Eccleston), are in search of the Aether, a weapon that dates back to before the creation of the universe. Malekith eyes the convergence of the Nine Realms as the perfect time to unleash the Aether and return the universe back to darkness. The problem is, he can’t find it.
Back on Earth, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) is trying to readjust to regular life. She’s trying to date regular guys, but, you know, after you and the God of Thunder hook up, it’s kind of difficult to lower your standards for mere mortals. She’s pining for Thor, and really, who could blame her? When she discovers an anomaly in Earth’s gravitational field, she sees it as a sign that her Asgardian hunk has returned, but when she goes to investigate, she encounters the Aether, and it infects her body.
Luckily for her, Thor catches wind of this and scoops her off to Asgard, where the God of Thunder’s papa Odin (Anthony Hopkins) just wishes his son would find a nice Asgardian girl (in this case kickass warrior hottie Sif played by Jaimie Alexander), get hitched and accept his responsibilities as Odin’s heir to the throne.
Thor ain’t having it. He loves Jane and wants to help her. Things get more complicated when Malekith senses that the Aether is in Asgard, and after a vicious attack upon the realm that results in the death of a loved one, Thor must resort to treachery in order to save Jane and the whole universe. To do so, he must break his brother Loki out of prison and commit treason, but, hey, that’s all in a day’s work for a superhero.
This is a fun movie, and much more engaging than the first in the series. Hemsworth not only physically embodies the role but now seems more comfortable with it. Though it may not be a very deep character, here in his third film in the role, he seems a lot more at home as the haughty—and somewhat bratty—wisecracking god. Portman, too, has a lot more to do as Jane. Instead of being just the googly-eyed love interest, she’s more a part of the intrigue and firmly ingrained in the plot. Hiddleston is great once again as the maniacal Loki. He plays the character so straight-faced and charming, it really is difficult to discern when Loki is lying or telling the truth. The interplay between he and Hemsworth as the two enact their plan to defeat Malekith is pretty hilarious and a pretty realistic portrayal of sibling rivalry—even though both are gods and all.
There’s plenty of humor, too, though most of it comes from extraordinary characters placed in ordinary situations, such as when Thor hangs up his hammer Mjölnir on a coat rack upon entering Jane’s London flat.
Overall, it’s a fast-paced an entertaining film. Surprisingly, The Dark World is most lacking in exciting battles. There are plenty of action sequences, but most of them are sprawling battle scenes with many moving parts. While they strive to give the film larger scope, they’re not as thrilling as those in The Avengers. When we do get down to some Thor boss-fight fisticuffs, it seems over too quickly. You can’t try to upstage Thor in his own movie, bro. It’s just not cool.