Thor: The Dark World is now in theaters, which signals the arrival of the second Marvel Phase Two movie, and the continuation of Thor’s solo films. Nearly the entire cast from the original Thor return to confront a new threat to the nine realms – Malekith and his Dark Elves. The opening of Thor: The Dark World (T:TDW) provides a Cliff’s Notes recap of what this troublesome realm is about, and how Malekith and his Dark Elves almost encapsulated the known universe in darkness. Thanks to the intervention of Thor and Odin’s ancestors, Malekith’s forces were defeated, and his universe ending Aether substance is forever hidden by the Asgardian army. Little did they know though that Malekith and one his ships escaped to sit and wait until the time was right to strike again.
After the prologue, T:TDW quickly transitions back to modern times and the happenings of Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), who is struggling in the dating scene thanks to her love for Thor. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) has been absent in Jane’s life since the end of the original Thor thanks to Loki destroying the bifrost bridge. There was a little event that happened in NYC that Thor had to deal with that prevented him from visiting Jane too, and he also had to bring order to the nine realms, further preventing him from keeping his promise to her. It’s safe to say that life as the God of Thunder isn’t well suited for dating girls from Midguard, but try explaining that to the utterly brilliant and witty Jane Foster.
After a few comical scenes pulled off perfectly by Portman, Jane and her comedy relief compatriots head off to investigate a strange anomaly in London that is reminiscent of the odd readings they encountered before Thor made his first arrival on Earth. Sure enough they find what they were looking for, but in the process Jane gets sucked into the Dark World and eventually ends up getting infected with the Aether that Malekith once tried to use to bring darkness to the universe. Once she returns to Earth, her beau from Asgard greets her, but they quickly find out that she’s not normal after she zaps a group of policeman with a surge of energy. Sensing trouble Thor wisps her away to Asgard for some treatment.
Now that the Aether has been released Malekith and his remaining forces awake from their slumber and lay siege to Asgard. All sorts of chaos ensues in Odin’s realm, and the true start to Thor: The Dark World kicks off. Through desperation Thor must reach out to his mischievous brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) for help as he rots away in a prison cell for his crimes against the universe. Once Loki, Thor, and Lady Sif and the Warriors Three team up, the true awesomeness of this film begins to shine.
Hiddleston’s Loki is without a doubt the best part of T:TDW, thanks to his mastery of the character, and his honed acting skills. He continues to make this villain lovable even with all of his committed betrayals against Thor, Asgard, and Earth itself. Without Loki I’m not so sure if this film would have packed enough twists, turns, and excitement to keep fans engaged and entertained. He provides for more than a few big moments and surprises, and during one scene in particular Loki even manages to make you feel for him thanks to Tom’s acting chops. Loki’s true intentions can never be determined until very late in the film, and while he didn’t completely play the villain role, he still managed to steal the spotlight from Malekith.
Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) just never manages to ever feel like the threat that the film’s writers wanted him to be. He’s too calm with his demeanor to ever feel like a universe ending badass, and quite frankly his threat to fulfill his pledge to bring darkness to the universe felt empty. He just wasn’t menacing enough to ever make me feel like he was a true challenge for Thor and the nine realms, so I never bought into him as the lead antagonist.
This definitely played into the fact that T:TDW doesn’t feel like it has a clear beginning, middle and end. From start to finish this movie never feels like it made its way through all three acts clearly. The middle act, typically used to build relationships and moments that lead into the climax, just never realized itself, making Thor: The Dark World feel like it only had a start and finish. Regardless of all of the turmoil taking place on Asgard and Earth I never felt like anything was in peril. To a degree this is to be expected in a comic book film, but many other Marvel movies have at least tricked you into feeling like the heroes may not win the day, so it was kind of disappointing to not experience that same feeling in T:TDW.
Even with its lack of fear, Thor: The Dark World still manages to entertain thanks to its witty cast, big budget action sequences, and Loki. Stellan Skarsgård as Erik Stelvig provides some of the film’s funnier moments, but Portman, Hiddleston, and Kat Dennings (Darcy Lewis) all bring the laughter in more than a couple scenes. The film’s action looked intense and in-your-face while viewed in 3D, and while Malekith and his evil plans never felt genuinely threatening, the character and his Dark Elves still provided for some rad looking bad guys.
Thanks to Loki’s inclusion in the film most of its negative aspects can be overlooked. Tom Hiddleston truly is a genius and knows exactly how to play that character, and his scenes with Chris Hemsworth’s Thor are by far the best in the movie. If you’ve been keeping up with the Marvel movie universe there’s definitely no reason to not go and see Thor: The Dark World. It’s not the best comic book movie of 2013, but it’s also not a movie about real life, which is just fine for us geeks.