I’m one of the few folks I know who liked the original Thor. It’s not the greatest Marvel film out of the dozen or so available, but I dug its Shakespearean vibe (two brothers fighting for a throne, secret bloodlines, star-crossed lovers, etc.) and hammy nature even if most folks won’t think the same. After Thor’s character got a bit of fleshing out during the events of The Avengers (turning Thor into the second best thing in Avengers after The Hulk), Thor: The Dark World looks to expand out even further in Thor’s second solo effort.
Now with a change of director, change of cast, and change of tone, does Thor: The Dark World bring the hammer down? Or does it have a bad case of hammer toe? Read on for the answer!
Thor: The Dark World
Director: Alan Taylor
Release Date: November 8, 2013
Thor: The Dark World follows Thor (Chris Hemsworrth) after the events of Thor (and technically, The Avengers) as he’s currently trying to ease the turmoil of the nine realms of Asgard after the destruction of Bifrost (rainbow bridge) in the first film. When Jane (Natalie Portman) finds a super weapon known as the Aether, the Dark Elves, an ancient race that existed before Asgard, led by Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) seek out the weapon so they could destroy the universe. Can Thor and his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) work together peacefully so they can stop the Dark Elf?
By the summary, it might seem the fantastical nature of the setting and characters might be too dense to work, but after The Avengers big success, all of this stuff is easier to swallow. In fact, because of the success of the previous two movies with Thor, Thor: The Dark World is far more confident in displaying the fantastical nature of its plot. I should explain. You see my main problem with the first Thor was its lack of Asgardian action. It took place primarily on Earth, leading to clunky and overused “fish out of water” plot points and comedy. Thankfully by throwing itself completely into Thor’s comic mythos and focusing more on the relationships of the Asgardians, Dark World is freer to play around with great looking set pieces.
Remember how the biggest action scene in Thor took place in a small town where Thor had to worry about destruction? That’s not the case anymore. In Dark World, we’re taken to about four or five befuddingly named places where Thor faces the likes of elves, rock giants, and then more elves. Basically, Dark World has a better grasp on action scenes. Whether that’s reflective of Alan Taylor’s new direction or the lack of Earth scenes, action just seems to flow better. The finale in particular has such a splendid blend of action (and even a little corniness) that it manages to surpass its predecessor in one swoop.
Now that Dark World has a better setting and action, how does the cast handle it? With hits and misses unfortunately. Dark World‘s biggest flaw seems to be its forced comic relief. While the Earth is delightfully ignored for the brunt of the film, when its characters are involved, the film nosedives. Much like in the first film, Darcy (Kat Denning) is just a chore to sit through. Kat Dennings just never does more than insert an unfunny one-liner into every scene she’s in (or ever tries to be more than Kat Dennings always is). Given the sheer volume of them, it’s more than likely some of them will hit their mark, but most of her jokes are unneeded and forced. And Natalie Portman? She’s as wooden a damsel as she always was.
At this point, Chris Hemsworth has both the look and feel of Thor down. No one else can play him. With Dark World, Hemsworth is allowed to explore Thor’s emotions a bit more than he did in Avengers. Rather than just anger, or cockiness, her gets some real people feelings like grief, distrust, and a coyness that only comes with experience. He doesn’t nail it completely, but Hemsworth’s made big strides in the right direction. Eccleston as Malekith is fine although the villain doesn’t really do much other than be a cold, emotionless bad guy. At least Tom Hiddleston gets to do things.
Dark World is more Loki’s journey than anything, and it works well here. Although Hiddleston’s Loki straddles too close to being too “quirky” at times, Loki’s actions at least make sense. While his dialogue at times feel forced (he too suffers from “one-liner machine” syndrome), Hiddleston has nailed Loki’s coy brand of evil. You’ll most likely enjoy Loki more than the star of the show, but that’s really how it’s always been. At least Thor is beginning to form a personality.
While Thor: The Dark World has a better handle on action, it’s unfortunately struggling with the little things. Some of the CG looks rougher than it should, the bigger spectacle does lead to some worryingly shot sequences, and it’s trying way too hard to get a laugh out of you. It’s not just Kat Dennings that spouts jokes, almost every character in the film has to crack wise. It’s debilitating in a sense that the audience isn’t allowed to soak in a scene’s natural humor without a character explicitly shouting “ISN’T THIS FUNNY?!?”
Although it does alleviate a few of my doubts. If someone were to watch the first Thor, and somehow skip The Avengers, you can jump right into The Dark World. Sure The Avengers is referenced several times (and in one amazing cameo), but it’s not necessary to enjoy the movie as the events of the film aren’t completely reliant on the past. It’s like Thor doesn’t have the time for petty Earth problems since he has to save the whole universe. It’s nice. Oh and stay after ALL of the credits.
At the very least, Thor: The Dark World is a good (if not stupid) time. A good step in the right direction (got to give it credit for trying, right?). If the heavy handed dialogue, wooden Natalie Portman, and joke bonanza don’t get to you, you’ll be fine just looking at folks getting hammered.