I’m one of the few people out there who really loved the first Thor movie. It was flawed, to be sure, but it’s one of my favorite Marvel films to watch over and over again. With Thor: The Dark World, it not only improves upon everything I loved about the first, but somehow manages to be provide some of the most fun I’ve had at the theater all year.
The Dark World takes about two-years after the original Thor, so around a year after the events of New York in The Avengers. Thor has been living in Asgard once again, traveling through the Nine Realms to restore the peace that was destroyed during the events of the previous films.
Chris Hemsworth gives in another great performance as the God of Thunder, and his evolution throughout his three films is really impressive, especially since he brings something new to the table with every subsequent appearance. Thor is a more likable hero than he’s ever been before, and it’s really great getting to see him flex his acting muscles (pun definitely intended).
While it might have the subtitle The Dark World, this movie is quite the opposite of ‘dark’. In fact, this is easily the most lighthearted superhero film Marvel has put out yet, often mixing exciting action set-pieces with a perfectly timed catchphrase. It creates a refreshingly fun experience, one that is immensely enjoyable to watch, but it does go a bit overboard.
I really loved the humorous banter and repertoire among the many characters, and the theater I was in erupted with laughter on more than one occasion, but things got a little too tongue-in-cheek during the film’s final climax. With that one exception though, this is easily the funniest Marvel movie yet, and that’s actually a good thing.
What makes Thor: The Dark World so entertaining, however, is its cast. While the plot is pretty bare-bones, its the characters we’ve come to know and love that make it all worth it. I don’t think I will ever get tired of seeing Thor and Loki do what they do best, and The Dark World‘s plot is pretty much a catalyst for these two to steal every scene they’re in.
Tom Hiddleston has somehow been able to give Loki a new layer of depth with every appearance, and The Dark World is easily his best performance yet. Seeing Hiddleston explore Loki’s many inner conflicts and personality quirks is great to watch, and he’s such a scene stealer that I suspect it’s only a matter of time before he gets his own film.
One of the things that made the first Thor so fun for me was its all-star cast, and for the most part, that remains true here. Anthony Hopkins’ Odin is fantastic, and it’s nice seeing him do a little more than pretending to sleep for two-hours. I also loved seeing Rene Russo get an extra dose of screen time as Thor and Loki’s mother Frigga, and she has more than just one memorable scene.
However, not everyone gets their time to in the spotlight. Sadly, Lady Sif and the Warrior’s Three are once again shamefully left on the outskirts, and they have even less screentime in this movie than they did in the first Thor. This was one of my biggest complaints with the original, and it’s frustrating to see such a great group of characters given so little to do.
While The Dark World’s primary villain is a naturally creepy guy, he doesn’t get to do much except look and talk really menacing. He gets the job done, but when his entire plan rests on a super-destructive-end-the-galaxy device that’s barely explained, it’s hard to feel intimidated by him outside of the way he looks. Christopher Eccleston does his best, but without any real depth to work with he’s not really memorable.
With that said, when the movie gets into the many, many action set-pieces you’ll suddenly forget about the movie’s shortcomings. Director Alan Taylor orchestrates the fights with an extreme care for detail, giving every confrontation a smooth flow that gets better and better as it goes on, often ending in an explosive final act that tops everything that came before.
The choreography is crisp and exciting as well, and the action often comes at you so fast that you barely have time to catch your breath before your thrust back into the fray. And that’s one of the reasons why The Dark World is just so fun to watch. There’s always something happening and you never feel bored or overwhelmed by the sheer amount of energy that this movie throws at you.
Despite the simplicity of the plot, it really does a fantastic job at carrying you from scene to scene, and it brings our characters across numerous dimensions and realms giving the film an extraordinary amount of visual acuity that insures that you’re never stuck staring at the same locale for too long.
I do wish, however, that the same amount of attention was given to Thor’s romance with Jane Foster. While she’s isn’t nearly as drab as she was in the first movie, she still serves primarily as a plot point and her relationship with Thor feels slightly tacked on.
Natalie Portman does a fine job with what she’s given, and to be fair she has a lot more personality here than she did before, but once again it’s Jane’s co-workers who steal the spotlight from her. Both Stellan Skarsgård’s crazy scientist Erik Selvig and Kat Denning’s adorably sarcastic Darcy who eat up every line they’re given and give off some of the best one-liners of the movie.
Another thing I loved about The Dark World is how it ties itself into the overall storyline of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While we’ve had some mixed results in this regard, such as we saw in Iron Man 2, this movie strikes that perfect balance between reminding us what came before and setting up the future.
Thor: The Dark World isn’t a perfect movie, but I’d be lying if I said it hasn’t already become one of my favorite Marvel films. It’s everything a superhero movie should be; fun, action packed, and endlessly entertaining. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, as some similar movies do, and it delivers one of the most exciting experiences of the year.
If you’re already a superhero fan, chances are you’ve seen this already. But if you’re at all on the fence about giving it a shot, I can’t recommend it enough. It rights all the wrongs of the original Thor, and is sure to please fans of all kinds. And just a friendly reminder, stay until after the credits. This is a Marvel movie after all.