With Marvel’s first phase in the Marvel Cinematic Universe already completed, and having already set the second phase on the right start with Iron Man 3, we now venture back to the Nine Realms in following Asgardian Avenger Thor on his continued journey. It’s been two and a half years since his first solo venture, and having been directed by Shakespearean thespian Kenneth Branagh, it was a fun, kitschy, and suitably, refreshingly theatrical spin on the modern superhero film.
Flash forward to present day, where we are now witness to Thor: The Dark World. A product of much built up hype, as well as several production problems including reshoots, Thor: The Dark World, now under the directorial eye of Alan Taylor, is a beefed up adventure that rarely lets up. Just as the original Thor played like a big-budget Shakespearean play under Branagh’s direction, Thor: The Dark World can be seen as an extended episode of Game of Thrones under Taylor’s direction, albeit with less focus on politics, and more focus on action packed thrills.
Two years after The Destroyer incident in New Mexico, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) has spent much of her time searching for Thor (Chris Hemsworth), and while investigating strange happenings in London, unleashes and becomes infected by the element of Aether, a powerful source sought after by the ancient evil of Dark Elves, led by Malekith (Christopher Eccleston). Eventually, Thor returns to earth to retrieve Jane, and eventually discovers how Malekith would unleash the full power of the Aether. From that point, it’s constant and powerful action, and even a little bit of suspicion, as to defeat this enemy, Thor has no choice but to turn to his deceptive brother Loki (Marvel Universe MVP, Tom Hiddleston).
In the original Thor, Marvel did a wonderful job at integrating the character, and his universe, into the continuity of the cinematic universe without it feeling at odds with the tones of the other Avenger entries, placing a very human focus on the character so that the fantasy based elements weren’t out of place, something that would successfully carry over into The Avengers. Now with that world firmly established, Marvel decides to go all out with the character, increasing the scope of the Nine Realms, and this is where Alan Taylor, a longtime director for Game of Thrones, comes in most handy.
Unlike the first Thor, much of The Dark World’s running time is spent on Asgard rather than on earth, which was a very wise move. Much like the original, Thor: The Dark World’s best scenes take place in Asgard. The tone of the film is still as reliably campy as ever, and the acting is still all around solid. A lot of the movie’s strengths come from the terrific interactions between the stars. Chris Hemsworth’s and Natalie Portman’s chemistry is much stronger this time, we get more great scenes featuring Anthony Hopkins, Idris Elba, and Kat Dennings, and as always, Tom Hiddleston’s Loki steals the show. Loki has always been the most interesting character of the Marvel universe, and he still proves as deceptive and sneaky as ever, with much of the best moments being when we’re not sure whether or not Loki will betray the trust of Thor.
However, that’s not to say this movie is perfect. As much as I appreciate the characters, I found myself underwhelmed by certain elements of the script, such as the very black-and-white and exceedingly simple villains, as The Dark Elves are among some of the least interesting Marvel antagonists. I also take some issue with Brian Tyler’s score, which is quite catchy, but occasionally gets over played to the level of annoyance. However, if action’s what you came for, you’re gonna get plenty of that. By the sheer size and power of these action scenes alone, not to mention how much of a rush they are, you’re going to get your money’s worth. From the epic battle sequences in the Nine Realms, to the Dark Elves invading Asgard, all the way up to the movie’s stirring climax in Greenwich.
Overall, Thor: The Dark World, while not the best entry of the Marvel Universe, is still a more than worthy entry, and one that continually adds to the exciting build up to The Avengers: Age of Ultron, particularly when one of Thor’s Avenger pals makes a brief cameo, and then later in the classic post credits scene staple, which ought to be more than enough to get anyone pumped for the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy movie.
**** / *****