Thor: The Dark World Review

Posted: November 10, 2013 by moviebuff801 in moviebuff801's Movie Reviews

By: Michael “MovieBuff801” Dennos

Confession time: The Avengers in fact isn’t my personal favorite of all the movies set in this “Marvel Cinematic/Shared Universe,” or whatever it’s called, so far.  Sure, last year’s record-breaking behemoth of a blockbuster has its fair share of entertainment value, but I must also confess that, to me, it pretty much feels more of the same from the studio, just with more than one superhero.  Assuming I haven’t lost you by this point, I was more fond of Thor, the 2011 Kenneth Branagh-directed first solo outing of the Norse God of Thunder with big muscles and an even bigger hammer (okay, well maybe not THAT big).  I can easily say that what captured my interest the most about Thor was its universe and the inherent mythology.  Now comes the second installment, Thor: The Dark World, and one of the key things about this movie’s success is we get to spend more time and have more fun in said universe, and like all successful sequels, it does a good job of upping the ante.

Quite a bit of time has passed when we pick up the action in The Dark World; two years, in factIn that time, Thor has been busy keeping the peace within the Nine Realms while trying to unite them, dispensing justice on the battlefield when need be and helping keep Asgard a peaceful nation amongst itself.  That peace is threatened, however, by Malekith the Dark Elf (Christopher Eccleston), who is after a source of unimaginable dark power known as The Aether, which has the ability to (what else?) destroy worlds.  As it so happens, back on Earth, a sudden and unusual occurrence where objects have begun to defy the laws of physics inside an abandoned London factory leads the investigating scientist on-site, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) a.k.a. Thor’s long-distance love interest, to be transported to The Aether and get infected by its power.  Wouldn’t you know, Thor comes to Jane’s aid and takes her back to Asgard with the intention of ridding her of The Aether’s grip, but they both soon become entangled in Malekith’s plot to recover the long-lost Aether and use it to (what else?) destroy worlds.  But in order to stand a legitimate chance of defeating Malekith, it requires Thor to enlist the help of his vengeful bastard from a basket brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston), who’s not quite over the whole “you were the favorite brother, you stopped me from enslaving Earth” issue.  A shaky alliance, to say the least.

The first question to answer is just how good of a sequel is Thor: The Dark World?  Very good.  In fact, I’d say I enjoyed it about the same amount as I did the first film (again, I’m a pretty big fan of that one).  I’d also say this is the better of the Marvel sequels this year, which is funny because while I would say that Iron Man is my favorite on-screen Marvel hero, Thor is proving to be my favorite Marvel movie franchise.  Unlike Iron Man 2, the quality between the first two entries in this particular solo franchise is maintained surprisingly, and thankfully, well.  Everything that worked so well in Thor keeps working just as well, if not more so, in Thor: The Dark World.  I attribute this to the simple fact that now that we have the obligatory “origin movie” out of the way, we can now really get to the even better stuff.

Perhaps the element that works best about this movie is the character dynamics.  Since this story takes place in the wake of all of Loki’s previous mayhem, we finally get to see how everyone back on Asgard reacts to what he’s done, and this is particularly strong in the broken family unit between Thor, Loki, Odin (Anthony Hopkins) and Frigga (Rene Russo).  The strength of the performances come equally into play here, as the toll of Loki’s betrayal permeates every scene related to it.  Tom Hiddleston, of course, turns in another fantastic performance as Marvel’s best on-screen villain to date, and the character’s evolution here is quite interesting to see unfold.  Without getting too much into spoilers, there’s a scene near the middle of this film where Loki has to react to a piece of news he receives, and the way Hiddleston plays it, and his next scene afterwards, is really effective.  Chris Hemsworth once again commands the role of Thor, and even though he’s very much the straight arrow out of all The Avengers, he’s still a pretty compelling character.  The chemistry between Hemsworth and Hiddleston this time around is ramped up a lot, and whenever the two share the screen, you can’t tear your eyes away.  Natalie Portman even gets a chance to shine brighter as Jane, which she definitely takes advantage of.  On the other hand, Malekith is one of the most bland comic book movie villains to come around in quite a while, and Christopher Eccleston’s acting does little to help the fact that the character just lacks any real menace or personality, despite the dire consequences of his endgame.

Thor: The Dark World also excels in having a more epic sense of scope.  Despite the first film’s relative lack of said factor, I still very much liked Kenneth Branagh’s work there, and was at first hesitant to see another director take over the reins this time.  However, Alan Taylor is a more than worthy successor who uses his opportunity to play in this vast sandbox of a universe in the most exciting way possible.  Everything about The Dark World is just bigger, especially the action sequences, which easily outdo anything on display in the first film.  And the best part is we never get bored, because Taylor and his screenwriters weave in character interactions to the action which help these scenes stay exciting and fun.  What I like most about the Thor mythology is that it’s decidedly more fantasy-driven than the other Marvel franchises, and Alan Taylor takes full advantage of that in this film.  Where he sort of falters is the balance in tone.  Just like the first film, there’s a healthy mix of action and humor, sometimes even in the same scenes, but I found there to be a few occasions here where transitions between each felt jarring and awkward.  I’m mainly thinking of two scenes in particular where some very serious things happen and the film really plays up the drama of those moments, and yet the very next scenes in each case go for comedy relief.  Not the best use of structure there. Mr. Taylor.  Other than that, Alan Taylor proves to have been a wise choice.

Overall, Thor: The Dark World is another highly entertaining trip to the realm of Asgard and is a sequel worthy of its predecessor.  In quite a few ways, it may even be better than the first, but one thing’s for sure: I’m very much looking forward to The Avengers 2 and the inevitable Thor 3 — especially after the way this movie ends.  What a ride.

***1/2 /****

  1. CMrok93 says:

    Good review Michael. It was a fine movie, especially given the fact that it’s a stand-alone superhero movie, and after the Avengers, it seems like we’re a bit too spoiled for something like that to work. But somehow, it still did.

    • moviebuff801 says:

      Thanks. Yeah, it does indeed work as both part of this ongoing “series” AND as a standalone film. I would also say it’s the best Marvel sequel since Spider-Man 2. Not as great as that movie, but still a sequel that maintains quality.

  2. hmm i haven’t seen this one yet, but i know the first film struggled with multiple tones as well. but i think that’s their point. also glad to hear natalie seems to have a meatier role here.

    • moviebuff801 says:

      To be clear, I didn’t have a problem with the overall tone balance in either of these films…but in this one, there WERE at least two instances where the sudden transitions between each felt off.

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