The original Thor was an adequate enough superhero feature, but it had the misfortune of being terribly unmemorable. The film spent little time in the wondrous Asgard, choosing instead of transport Thor to a dusty New Mexican desert where he would wear flannel and play the Tarzan to Natalie Portman’s Jane.
It did a decent job of presenting Chris Hemsworth’s Thor as a cocky, arrogant ass who actually starts his origin story as a superpowered behemoth, rather than slowly growing into one. But only now in Thor: The Dark World is the potential of his character being realized on the back of his supporting role in The Avengers.
Thor isn’t quite the brash bastard he used to be, even if he does have his little quips in combat as he cleans up the nine realms in the aftermath of the Tesseract’s destruction. Eventually, he remembers that he’s been the world’s worst boyfriend, and goes back to Earth to find Jane when she disappears from the all-seeing Heimdall (Idris Elba)’s radar.
“THOR, YOU MUST RETURN JANE’S TEXT MESSAGES.”
Turns out Jane’s accidentally fallen through dimensions and gotten herself infected with the Aether, a mysterious floating gas/liquid that has the potential to turn the entire universe into darkness incarnate. Centuries earlier, a race of Dark Elves fought the Asgardians to do just that, and now with the Aether finding a new host, they return to try and finish the job.
Thor: The Dark World takes place mostly on Asgard, or a few other scattered realm planets. Earth is mostly used for comic relief as Dr. Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard) runs around naked trying to stop the coming apocalypse and Darcy (Kat Dennings) attempts to wrangle Jane away from dimension-hopping.
Thor has a surprisingly deep cast, and each subcharacter is given their moment to shine from Fandral (Zachary Levi) to Volstagg (Ray Stevenson) to Sif (Jaime Alexander) to even Thor’s mother (Renee Russo). Anthony Hopkins is really the only one who doesn’t seem like he’s having fun, though I’m guessing Natalie Portman wasn’t either as she’s practically comatose from the Aether for a solid half of the movie.
“I think an Oscar entitles me to more than ‘sidekick girlfriend-in-distress’ roles.”
Hemsworth is still the perfect Thor, physically and personality-wise, though I’m not sure how much depth there is to the character. In three films now, all of his scenes are constantly being stolen by Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, who starts out imprisoned in this film but manages to go from villain to hero and back again, and has nearly all of the film’s best lines and moments to himself.
The film moves well and never feels dull for more than a moment or two. The problems arise in the larger plot where it’s never quite clear what it exactly means to “cover the universe in darkness.” Is it just really dark after that? Does it kill everyone by extinguishing all stars? Why do these elves want all this darkness anyway? It’s one of the most vague superhero movie threats ever to appear on film, and haphazard solution of Erik Selvig building a few crutch-shaped beeping electronic devices to stop the most all-consuming threat in the history of the universe is techno-babble deus ex machine at its worst.
But it’s strange, despite the complete nonsense of an overarching story, the film works on a fundamental action blockbuster level with great characters, good flow and a climactic fight scene spanning nine full dimensions that gives the incredibly creative finale of Iron Man 3 a run for its money. It’s very well done, and better than anything that came before it in the film, allowing the audience to leave on a high note.
I don’t know how many more solo adventures Thor has in him, and at this point, I’d be much more interested in a Loki feature, but The Dark World definitely improves on its predecessor, and that’s a step in the right direction.
4 out of 5 stars