From the breathtakingly picturesque view of space from Asgard, the elaborate detailing in the fictional realm’s architecture, to the expertly-rendered lighting effects, Thor: The Dark World has it all.
Apart from the visual treat, the film is also a commendable sequel, hinging on the success of its predecessor by bringing in familiar faces, as well as expounding on unfinished subplots from Thor.
Set in the cinematic Marvel Universe, Thor: The Dark World returns roughly a year after the events of The Avengers in an action-packed blockbuster to round off a superhero packed year that featured the likes of the Man of Steel and the claw swinging savage, and it doesn’t disappoint.
Starting off in a similar vein to its forerunner, the film opens with a narration of an ancient war. Here we’re introduced to the Dark Elves and their battle-hardened general Malekith the Accursed (Christopher Eccleston), sinister looking humanoids wishing to engulf the world in darkness using a weapon named the Aether.
Of course the Asgardians storm in to ruin the party, seal off the Aether and slaughter the pesky creatures, but Malekith and his lieutenant, Algrim the Strong (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) manage to escape alongside a small force. Left without the most of his army and the Aether, Malekith swears painful and lasting damnation on the Asgardians.
Fast forward to present day Asgard, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is still (thankfully) the snide, arrogant and pompous trickster we knew and loved from The Avengers.
He still thinks the throne of Asgard is his birthright, and resents Odin Allfather (Anthony Hopkins), his father and king, for passing him over as successor. One heated discussion later and Loki’s led down into the cells to (presumably) whittle away the rest of the 5,000 years of his life.
Jump to Vanaheim (one of the Nine Realms), and we’re reintroduced to Sif (Jaimie Alexander), Volstagg (Ray Stevenson), Hogun (Tadanobu Asano) and Fandral (Zachary Levi), the intrepid foursome now valiantly defending the Nine Realms from Marauders (token enemy forces). While the Asgardian troops were putting up a strong front, their diminishing numbers made the fight look ever so futile under the crushing waves of combatants.
Cue the entrance to Thor; the hammer slinging and muscle bound superhero played by Chris Hemsworth. Thor quickly dispatches the entire army and the troops return to celebrate. Here we find out that he’s still pining for Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), his love interest from the first film.
Meanwhile on Earth, Jane’s trying, in vain, to reconcile with not having Thor around. We find out Darcy (Kat Dennings) is much more vocal now and Dr Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard) has completely gone bonkers.
While searching for gravitational anomalies in the hope of finding Thor, Jane is unwittingly dragged into the Aether’s location, where the host-hungry substance immediately assimilated itself into Jane. Complications ensue with the resurgent Dark Elves invading Asgard, the death of the Queen of Asgard (Rene Russo) and the grief stricken Odin.
Thor: The Dark World promises action, and it definitely delivers on that note. The film’s filled with smashing rocks, exciting escapades (Thor and gang’s spectacular flight from Asgard) and heart-stopping fights between Malekith and Thor, in which both seemed equally matched, needing only a single mistake to spell certain death for either of them.
Praise has to be given for the acting of the stellar cast, who seemed to have elevated their game. Tom Hiddleston’s portrayal of the sneering, biting and sarcastic Loki is now subtly laced with vulnerable aspects, yet the character he contrives still reeks of ambiguity. Oscar and Golden Globes-winner Natalie Portman’s effort as the headstrong and impulsive Jane is also definitely a step up from her more subdued interpretation in the first film.
Between Hiddleston and Hemsworth, both fully comfortable in their roles by now, was also a memorable exchange of quick-witted banter (“Look why don’t you let me take over, I am clearly the better pilot.” “Is that right? But out of the two of us which one of us can actually fly?”) and emotionally-laced scenes. For such a dark movie, humor is abundant, ranging from the downright crude (Dr Selvig running around naked) to the more nuanced (Thor hanging his hammer on a coat hanger).
Marvel buffs hoping for fan service will also be satisfied, with a scene of Loki transforming himself to look like Captain America, a reference to another one of the franchise heroes.
With all the factors that make the film tick, it regretfully suffers from a weak plot, instead choosing to depend on the action, humor and romantic subplot to sell tickets. This has been a notorious characteristic of the franchise so far, and the latest installment still serves up jarring plot holes (such as Heimdall, the all-seeing gatekeeper of Asgard, who inexplicably fails to foresee the Dark Elf invasion).
The film’s also littered with convenient but implausible devices, such as how the cave in which Thor and Jane ended up taking refuge in turns out to be a bridge to Earth.
Character motivations of key characters, such as Loki, left much to be desired as well. While he does help Thor with his plan to extract the Aether from Jane, and also seemingly sacrifices himself to save his rival sibling, we find out later he has another agenda of his own. Whether he will ultimately reform or redeem himself is still anyone’s guess, opening the possibility of another sequel.
Director Alan Taylor could still be considered a relative newcomer to the world of film, and although his television work boasts of an impressive back catalogue (The Sopranos, Mad Men and Game of Thrones to name a few), his accomplishments on the big screen were unheard of before Thor: The Dark World. Nevertheless, his experience directing Game of Thrones has helped him to push forth the visual appeal of his action film debut.
“Ken’s (Kenneth Branagh) movie was very successful, it brought together an amazing cast, I think focused what could be a huge rambling mythology on very intimate family relations—brother vs. brother and father and son—and that was all brilliant. The only problem I had with his movie was, the look of it felt too shiny and sort of brand new. I understand the choices, it was basically because the Asgardians and that take were very much a futuristic alien race that we mistook for gods.” He said in a recent interview with Collider.com.
“When I came in I was in love with the Norse mythology, I was in love with grounding it more in a kind of Viking, Medieval look. There’s a history and weight and stuff like that and Marvel seemed to have an interest in that as well.” The director of the Emmy winning HBO series continued.
Given its relatively minute shortcomings, Thor: The Dark World has all the elements of a terrific superhero movie. After the lackluster reviews of Iron Man 3 and The Wolverine, Thor: The Dark World delivers where it counts, presenting a commendable effort that’s witty, scintillating and thrilling at the same time.
Movie Name: Thor: The Dark World
Rating: 4 out of 5
Release Date: Oct 31, 2013
Runtime: 112 min
Director: Alan Taylor
Main Actors: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston