Thor: The Dark World Review
Posted by Terry Lewis on 11.08.2013
Thor makes his post-Avengers return as Marvel releases Thor: The Dark World in theaters today! But is the film worth your time? 411's Terry Lewis checks in with his full review!
Chris Hemsworth - Thor Natalie Portman - Jane Foster Tom Hiddleston - Loki Anthony Hopkins - Odin Christopher Eccleston - Malekith Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje - Algrim/Kurse Rene Russo - Frigga Idris Elba - Heimdall Jaimie Alexander - Sif Ray Stevenson - Volstagg Zachary Levi - Fandral Tadanobu Asano - Hogun Stellan Skarsgard - Dr. Erik Selvig Kat Dennings - Darcy Jonathan Howard - Ian Chris O'Dowd - Richard
Each to their own but I have been far from impressed from the recent occurrences in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Agents Of SHIELD is stuttering to find it's feet somewhat and I really didn't rate Iron Man 3 in the context of moving forward the MCU after the amazing support and amount of interest created after The Avengers. Thank Odin then that Thor: The Dark World is the comic book films of the year in an almighty thunderstrike of action, story and character.
Before the universe began, the Dark Elves attempted to plunge the Nine Worlds into darkness using a weapon called the Aether. They were defeated by the Asgardians, with their leader Malekith (Christopher Eccleston, Doctor Who and G.I. Joe: Rise Of Cobra) swearing revenge, as the Aether was hidden away. A year after the events in The Avengers, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman, Black Swan) slips through a portal and bonds with the Aether and returns back to Earth, prompting the Asgardian God of Thunder Thor (Chris Hemsworth, Rush) to reunite with his lost love. Malekith and the rest of the Dark Elves reawaken and plot their takeover with the Aether in the rare alignment of the Nine Worlds. The only man who can help Thor stop Malekith? His disgraced brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston, BBC's Henry V).
We definitely see a great evolution of Thor in this film compared to his first outing. From a childlike warmonger, we now see a much more mature God of Thunder willing to give his foes a chance to redeem themselves before he brings the hammer down, whilst pining for his love Jane. This could be tricky to pull off yet Hemsworth is the kinda actor you need for this situation. Two completely different characters almost in both big screen outings of Thor yet you can tell personality wise they're still the same. He's a damn good actor, both capturing the essence and look of our favourite Asgardian. Seriously, the guy's in shape for it. Look at his topless adonis like physique in a near needless scene for the ladies. Guy's got grapefruits for guns!
If you wanted more Loki this time round, you maybe left disappointed. He spends half the film in his prison cell. Yet when he's out and about, Hiddleston tears up every scene he's in another magnificent bastard performance. The interactions he has alone with Hemsworth are worth the price of admission alone and Hiddleston shows he could handle a Loki movie if they wanted to do one. He's given a chance to show off some more human (or Asgardian?) qualities to show that all is not lost for our favourite God of Mischief.
The first thing you take away from Thor: The Dark World is how expanded and filled out all the characters and setting are now. Instead of Asgard being just Odin's throne room, their trophy room, the rainbow bridge and Bifrost locale, we see our heroes actually walking around and interacting with the area establishing it as a location where people live and breathe. Fans of the Warrior Three will be happier with their character expanding roles this time round and Sif (Jaimie Alexander, The Last Stand) actually gets to pine for Thor like in the comics. The Nine Worlds get expanded on a bit more as we see glimpses into some of them with the standout being the titular Dark World.
It's all down to the new director on board Alan Taylor. All that work on Game Of Thrones pays off handsomely as the various plot threads and characters all come along nicely whilst the scene setting works. I've read in numerous interviews that Taylor was keen to expand on the world of Asgard and it's inhabitants and rarely do we ever see a statement fufilled like this in a big Western Hollywood production. The best part of it all is that the ridiculously expansive cast (just see my cast list above!) all get enough screentime to make an impact. Even Thor's mum Frigga (Rene Russo, The Thomas Crown Affair) is expanded from her four or five lines to the point where what happens to her over the course the film actually means something.
Whilst the cast is balanced enough, there's a couple superfluous characters here that could easily be cut out entirely. Darcy (Kat Dennings, Two Broke Girls), Jane's intern, gets a love interest in geeky Ian, all for the purposes of giving her an expanded role as comic relief. Now I love Dennings – she's freaking hilarious as a comedic actress – but if that's all they could do for her here, then what's the real point of her being in the film? Top Irish comedy actor Chris O'Dowd turns up playing himself pretty much as Jane's date in some awkward moments. I like him too but he has 10 lines tops in a fairly useless role. Possibly the most interesting character after The Avengers in Dr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo) gets relegated to a comedy gig, despite being on this dark journey as Loki's slave and nearly causing the end of the world. By the way, what the hell happened to the guy's accent?! Massively all over the shop with some Scandinavian mixed in with his American drone from Thor and The Avengers.
In fact, they're definitely not needed as there is some fine comedic beats throughout The Dark World like Thor offing the stone giant in the first round in the film's opener for example. All the character comedy moments work well with some awesome highlights like Loki chastising Thor for his flying of a dark elf ship and Thor taking the London Underground. Oh and you won't believe who turns up for a quick cameo!
Whilst some were disappointed with Thor's relative lack of action, there can be no complaints here. They're all hard hitting and expansive across the Nine Worlds, thanks to the plot mechanics. The throwdowns Thor and Malekith have do genuinely shake worlds in more than satisfactory combat. Perhaps Kurse should have gotten a better shake of Mjolinir but it's awesome to see him get one over Thor in physical combat. There's plenty of decently paced minor skirmishes to appease you before the main event at the end and cool effects like that upside down floating truck too.
Without too many Possible SPOILERS, we get a resolution for Thor constantly jumping back and forth to Earth with Odin's blessing. There's a lovely finale if they don't decide to do a personal Thor 3 story, yet there's plenty of potential with what happens to Loki. We get a delicious tease for Guardians Of The Galaxy, which makes sense since that's going to be a harder sell than the next outing from the MCU in the next Captain America. Overall, if you're on the lookout for what's next, you won't be disappointed with the number of plates that are beginning to spin here, without it diluting the self contained story in Thor: The Dark World.
I'll be honest, I was losing faith massively with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. After the massive amounts of interest generated by The Avengers in characters from the Marvel Universe, I was afraid it was being wasted and Marvel Studios were bottling it with what comes next. Not so here at all. Taylor has put in so much effort in establishing Thor's role in this post-New York MCU with The Dark World and clearly has an affinity for the world he's improved with plenty of nods to some comic storylines and we even get one or two glimpses of the World Tree.
My only other gripe is the slightly weird sci-fi feel overall. Thor is more of a fantasy character yet we see Asgardians running around with laser rifles and gun turrets when they weren't seen in the first one at all. I got think fair enough to the dark elves and the raider armies we have at the start since we've not seen these people before, either by “oh they've been hidden away” or we simply haven't been to this world they inhabit before. Sure they've already given us the “science and magic is the same” excuse but it doesn't ring true of the world of swords and questing fantasy we expect from before. I feel like we're more in a Star Wars movie in this territory. It won't dilute your enjoyment at all (we have BLACK HOLE GRENADES dammit!) but it's a head scratcher of an inclusion.
The 411: Easily the best superhero film of the year, Thor: The Dark World is bigger, badder and better than it's predecessor and balances that difficult scale of telling it's own story whilst pushing on the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Some dodgy character inclusions aside, the return of Hemsworth and Hiddleston would be enough to sell most people on this film but the fact that Taylor has added the layer of icing in the expansion of Thor's universe and Asgard itself makes this superhero outing delectable. Essential.