Thor: The Dark World Review 
Posted by Jeffrey Harris on 11.08.2013
The Mighty Thor returns for his second solo-film outing. Does this sequel surpass the first Thor or is it a disappointment? Jeffrey Harris checks in with his official review.
Directed By: Alan Taylor Written By: Christopher Yost, Christopher Markus, and Stephen McFeely. Story by Don Payne and Robert Rodat. Based on the Marvel comics and characters. Runtime: 112 minutes MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
Thor - Chris Hemsworth Loki - Tom Hiddleston Jane Foster - Natalie Portman Malekith - Christopher Eccleston Odin - Anthony Hopkins Sif - Jamie Alexander Darcy Lewis - Kat Dennings Ian Boothby - Jonathan Howard Erik Selvig - Stellan Skarsgard Algrim/Kurse - Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje Frigga - Rene Russo Heimdall - Idris Elba Volstagg - Ray Stevenson Fandral - Zachary Levi Hogun - Tadanobu Asano Eir - Alice Krige Bor - Tony Curran
The Mighty Thor (Hemsworth) returns to the screen for his second solo film outing. In Thor: The Dark World, our favorite hammer-wielding Asgardian starts the story on a conflict-quelling mission. In the wake of the Bifrost Bridge’s destruction in the first film, skirmishes have broken out across the other realms of the universe. The first scene features Thor coming into the fray and battling a Kronan, a rock-like creature whose history with our titular hero dates back to Journey Into Mystery Issue #83 in the 1960’s.
With the Bifrost now repaired, the uprisings quashed, and Loki imprisoned for the events of The Avengers, Thor has proven himself as a warrior and benevolent champion of the innocent. His father Odin (Hopkins) is all but ready to name Thor as the new king of Asgard, but Thor still longs for the lost love of the mortal physicist Jane Foster (Portman) of Earth. Odin makes some very strong suggestions that Thor forget about her and instead get with the formidable Sif (Alexander), but Thor cannot help himself.
Meanwhile, back on Earth or Midgard as it is also called, Jane looks to be trying to move on from Thor, spurned by his not coming to see her when he was in New York not long ago. She even goes out on a date with Chris O’Dowd. Jane quickly dodges that bullet by stumbling upon a type of cosmic anomaly in a remote warehouse in London. What she’s found is a veritable portal that bridges Earth and a secret chamber that holds a dangerous power that could annihilate the entire universe, dubbed the Aether. The amorphous element embeds itself within Jane. The action inadvertently awakens a long dormant, ancient and malevolent race of enemies to the Asgardians, the Dark Elves, led by the evil to the core Malekith (Eccleston). Malekith wants to use the Aether to plunge the universe back into darkness where the Dark Elves were able to rule.
In general, the problems I had with the first Thor was that at times it felt very small-scaled and claustrophobic. The Asgard sets looked tiny and came off as they were enclosed in small-stages. For Thor’s first trip to Earth, I was also rather underwhelmed that he’s stuck in a small town in New Mexico the whole time. Director Alan Taylor succeeds well in opening up the world of Thor. Now the film looks suitably epic as a world revolving around these characters should. We see a lot more of Asgard, and Thor is not contained by a small, remote, dinky town. Now he gets to interact with a glitzy, metropolitan city like London, which leads to some of the more amusing moments of the film.
Thor has come a long way from the first film. He no longer desires the thrill of battle and has become a more compassionate, thoughtful person. In many ways, he’s the leader and man his father wants him to be, but what Odin wants (abdicating the throne to Thor) may not be what Thor wishes. While I miss some of Thor’s trademark catchphrases, I really enjoy Hemsworth in this role and how he emotionally and also physically encompasses this character. He really looks like Thor made flesh.
The story and overall scale of this film is much larger than that of the first one as well. The Dark Elves are, especially their attack bruiser in Kurse (Akinnuoye-Agbaje), are more than a match for the Asgardians. In one of the film’s most impressive sequences, they effectively attack Asgard and almost lay waste to the Realm Eternal. While I enjoyed Iron Man 3, despite its flaws, for this film Marvel executed a much more satisfying comic book superhero adventure and thrill ride. I think the Iron Man movie franchise ultimately suffered in that Robert Downy Jr.’s performance as Tony Stark was so powerful, that he didn’t have any worthy foils onscreen. Hemsworth as Thor, has much more interesting and cooler antagonists to interact with in his films as well as his supporting cast. The action and fight scenes are much grander and interesting than Thor. This interesting mix of sci-fi and fantasy was a lot fun. The designs for the Dark Elves’ technology and their ships look amazing onscreen.
Loki, once again masterfully played by Tom Hiddleston, is an integral and enjoyable part of the story. I especially enjoyed the fingerprints that were all over the story from one of my favorite writers, Christopher Yost. Yost is a longtime Marvel Comics writer and also writer of many of our favorite cartoons. He was co-creator and story editor on The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, and some beats in the film look directly inspired by the show (and the comics as well). But Yost now working on live action films is especially exciting noting his exceptional credentials. Loki is in a position in this story where Thor is forced to work with him, and Loki’s divided loyalties provide some fun and satisfying surprises.
However, at 112 minutes, the film runs a little too lean, even shorter than the first film’s 114 minutes. As a result, a lot of the more interesting supporting characters suffer. I like Jane Foster, and I really don’t mind the comedic relief antics of Kat Dennings as Darcy. But as a result, some of those antics give us less of say Sif and really Malekith. As a villain, Malekith is a menacing and powerful character, but at times he feels like he’s in the background too much. The story sets up things like a potential love triangle between Thor, Sif, and Jane that unfortunately does not really go anywhere. To be fair, this does not ruin the film, but it appears that some really juicy bits were likely left on the cutting room floor.
Besides Darcy, who the movie pushes a little too much at times, the comedy and amusing moments are perfectly placed. Two of the best ones come in the form of some amazing cameos, which I will not spoil here, but you will know exactly what they are when they happen.
The movie is a good middle adventure and does a great job of continuing the saga of this Marvel Cinematic Universe. Based on events from this film, I'm very optimistic for where future Thor stories might go as well as the more cosmic areas of this universe.
The 411: Thor: The Dark World was a satisfying, wild, comic book superhero adventure. The scope and scale of the world has been massively overhauled and opened up compared to the first solo-outing for Thor. The story does at times feel a little disjointed with some subplots that could have been explored further, and a villain that could've been a bit more active. But otherwise, this was a far more fun, epic, and heroic film than Iron Man 3 with much higher stakes. Remember to stay after the entire credits for two additional scenes. Until next time, make mine Marvel!