Marvel keeps the streak alive with Thor: The Dark World. Here are my thoughts…
Set some time after the Battle of New York as seen in The Avengers, The Dark World begins with a quick introduction to the origins of the Dark Elves and their aspiration to use an ancient power known as the Aether to plunge the Nine Realms into utter darkness again. Loki (Tom Hiddleston) has been relegated to a prison cell; meanwhile, Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Sif, and the Warriors Three have been busy setting things right in the aftermath of Loki’s two temper tantrums from Thor and The Avengers. Odin (Anthony Hopkins) is clearly struggling to reconcile his disappointment in Loki and his expectations of Thor, who is carrying the weight of nine worlds on his shoulders while fretting over the longest long-distance relationship in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. On Earth, Dr. Foster (Natalie Portman) and company have made their way to London, where Jane has made weak attempts at moving on with her life while still searching for a way to get to Thor, stumbling into a discovery that puts the wheels of this affair in motion.
Jane finds the Aether, the Dark Elves try to recover the Aether, Thor hits things really hard with his hammer, and Loki makes fun of Captain America’s tights.
I’m beginning to worry that the Marvel films will begin to crumble under the weight of their own internal success. Iron Man 2 had this problem in the form of easter eggs. Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D. is suffering from it in the form of witty, “wink-wink” heavy dialog. While Thor 2 avoids these pitfalls mostly, the need to remind characters and viewers that important stuff happened in another movie is already getting old (see Iron Man 3). Don’t misinterpret my complaint, the events of The Avengers are extremely important in understanding the current state of affairs on Asgard, but I did feel too much time was spent reminding the audience why Odin, Thor, and Loki don’t see eye-to-eye and why Loki spent the first half of the film in a well furnished cell. There are supposed to be more pressing matters to deal with, like Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) and his super soup. Sadly, Malekith isn’t much of a baddie. The guy’s main henchman, Algrim/Kurse (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), is a better villain here than his master, and that is just wrong.
Thankfully, Thor’s character arc is the glue that holds things together between the amazing set pieces. While the first film is a test of Thor’s character and willingness to see his own shortcomings to become something more, this film is a test of Thor’s wisdom and his worthiness to be a king. His motivations are partially selfish, but he is only one to correctly and consistently identify and attack the threats facing Asgard and other realms. He does this despite great personal loss, a stubborn and hurt father, and distrust of his brother. However, Loki surpasses Thor every time he appears on screen. The character development afforded to Loki is quite great and well acted once again by Hiddleston. I got the impression that Loki’s arc was supposed to be more subtle, but Hiddleston being Hiddleston and Loki being Loki and Hiddleston owning Loki as he does, this facet of the movie is the most apparent and fun to watch.
Portman’s performance as Jane Foster is uninspired and kind of drab, which is even more noticeable against Hiddleston and Hemsworth in the third act. Hopkins’ Odin is restrained and mostly on point; the brothers and Odin are never together in the same room, so the complex family dynamics that drove the first film are lacking. The action is great and the pacing is much better than the first film; However, the sense of danger is lacking. The balance in comedy and drama is much improved, but there is also more of both all around compared to the first movie, for better or worse depending on how you feel about Kat Dennings.
Overall, I very much enjoyed this movie, I do recommend it. It certainly has it’s problems, which I think are best summed up in saying that this movie is simply more of what a fan of the first film – and the Marvel films in general – should expect. Also, as is now customary for Marvel’s movies, stay for all the credits.