After The Avengers, Marvel raised the bar from what we can expect from comic book films in the future. This has obviously added pressure on Marvel’s stand alone films, who have to now meet those high standards set by The Avengers and provide an entertaining film with a captivating plot and character moments. Thor: The Dark World, brings the action and its fun characters but when characters are just going through the motion of the plot, there is only so much fun that is to be had.
The plot of Thor: The Dark World is extremely generic. An unknown and unexplained evil object was hidden a long time. I literally mean unexplained, like the film does not even attempt to explain how the object works. All you know is that it’s called the Aether and it could end all the worlds in the nine realms. Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) stumbles upon the object and awakens the evil dark elf Malekith. What happens next is predictable, Malekith and his army hunt down the Aether, which is now infused with Jane. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and his unlikely ally Loki (Tom Hiddleston) have to protect her and stop Malekith from using the Aether.
Malekith is supposed to be this big bad threat but he and his army mostly feel like walking CGI. Christopher Eccleston plays the dark elf Malekith but he is just reciting his lines; going through all the necessary paces. This is not Eccleston’s fault, he and his army are buried under all of that CGI and makeup that would make giving any kind of great performance hard.
The sequel also wants to give every single one of its characters a chance to shine. So much so, that characters flex their muscles in a scene or two and then fade into the background, coming up only when needed. But when these characters are given their moment, their scenes are both important and exciting.
However, then you have scenes where characters like Thor and Odin are connecting plot lines but other times Thor: The Dark World is fun and exciting. Even through all of the action and grandstanding you have moments like Thor crash landing on a British Underground platform and asking for directions back to fight Malekith. He boards a train and as the train lurches forward, a woman falls onto his chest. He smiles knowingly. It’s moments like these that make Thor: The Dark World a joy to watch.
Also I found the humans more enjoyable than the Asgardians. Kat Dennings shows off her comedic chops more in this film than she does in 2 Broke Girls. Natalie Portman, who for the most part serves as a plot device, is given more to do this time around than just spout scientific lines and admire Thor. Her opening date with Chris O’Dowd’s character is such a blast to watch. Even Chris O’Dowd for the two scenes he’s in, steals both of them. Stellan Skarsgård is super naked and super nutty as scientist Erik Selvig. The Asgardians, on the other hand, give grand speeches and give sullen looks but they do provide some crazy good action.
Actually all of the action in the film is spectacular and that has everything to do with Alan Taylor coming on board as director. You can see why, the producers at Marvel wanted him. He brings the grittiness I’ve come to expect from Game of Thrones. Unlike Kenneth Branagh, Taylor rushes you into battle. The battle in the prologue reminds me of the prologue in The Fellowship of the Ring.
Thor: The Dark World is a much better film than Thor. The highlight of the first film was Tom Hiddleston as Loki. The second time around it feels like more of an ensemble performance (I did manage to write this whole review without fawning over Loki). You see the character development in both Loki and Thor. You enjoy these characters as if they were real people and you marvel (excuse the pun) at the spectacle on screen. It shortcomings lie in its plot and weak villain. If it just made me more concerned about the end of the world, it claimed to be at stake, then maybe I would have loved it more.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fine addition to the Marvel franchise but after all the superhero films from both Marvel and DC, you can’t help but to find it lacking in certain regards. You will have fun watching Thor: The Dark World, the level of that fun depends on if you can ignore its mediocre/paint by numbers plot and villain.
Score: 6.5 out of 10