Thor: The Dark World

Cast:
Chris Hemsworth as Thor
Natalie Portman as Jane Foster
Tom Hiddleston as Loki
Anthony Hopkins as Odin
Christopher Eccleston as Malekith
Jaimie Alexander as Sif
Zachary Levi as Fandral
Ray Stevenson as Volstagg
Tadanobu Asano as Hogun
Idris Elba as Heimdall
Rene Russo as Frigga
Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as Algrim / Kurse
Kat Dennings as Darcy Lewis
Stellan Skarsgård as Erik Selvig
Alice Krige as Eir

Directed by Alan Taylor

Summary:
If you liked the first “Thor” movie, you’ll enjoy “Thor: The Dark World.” The lead characters return in fine form and there is a lot of great humor, but poor 3D and a few story missteps keep it from being great.

Story:
Two years after the first “Thor” film, Jane Foster wonders why Thor hasn’t returned to visit her. While his absence does distract her, Jane continues with her physics research by investigating a strange anomaly in London. There she unexpectedly discovers a portal to another dimension. It turns out that once every 5000 years, the Nine Realms align and the barriers between them are thrown into disarray. While accidentally crossing through one of those dimensional rifts, Jane is infected by an ancient evil power that intends to use her as a host to escape from its prison.

As the infected Jane returns to London, Thor unexpectedly arrives. He realizes Jane is in trouble and takes her to Asgard for help, but little does he know that the arrival of the evil force in our world has reawakened Malekith, a Dark Elf intent on destroying the Nine Realms and essentially rebooting the universe in his own way (like the DC New 52 – zing!). Thor and Asgard are soon under assault by Malekith and his forces, but our hero may have to turn to an unexpected ally to save the Jane Foster and the universe – his imprisoned brother Loki.

“Thor: The Dark World” is rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, and some suggestive content.

What Worked:
One advantage of a sequel is that the story can jump right into the action without having to spend a lot of time on establishing characters and world building. That’s the case with “Thor: The Dark World.” We’re immediately thrown into a battle and see Thor being Thor, Sif kicking butt, and all sorts of Viking action with a sci-fi twist. The movie then switches to modern day London and we meet again with Jane Foster and Darcy. And it all seems perfectly natural. It’s really satisfying to see the fantasy, sci-fi, and superhero genres blended together so successfully and have that world populated by characters we know and love. It’s like visiting with old friends you haven’t seen in a while and hitting it off again.

The cast all return again in fine form. Chris Hemsworth remains a perfect Thor and he’s becoming as identifiable with the role as Hugh Jackman is with Wolverine or Robert Downey Jr. is with Iron Man. He plays the role with the right mix of humor, action, drama, and heart. Natalie Portman is also good as Jane Foster. We get to see her ‘meet the parents,’ but with the added twist that they are Odin and Frigga. Kat Dennings steals the show as Darcy Lewis along with Stellan Skarsgård as Erik Selvig (who is still dealing with the ramifications of having been Loki’s puppet in “The Avengers”). Fans of Idris Elba will be happy to see him in a bit of action as Heimdall. The same goes for Rene Russo as Frigga. The only significant new addition to the cast is Jonathan Howard as the intern Ian Boothby. He perfectly plays off of Darcy and the two add a lot of comic relief. I hope to see him again in future sequels. But the real scene stealer remains Tom Hiddleston as Loki. It takes a while for him to appear on the screen, but when he does he dials up the energy in the storyline. Fans of Hiddleston and Loki should be quite pleased with what he’s given in this sequel.

As you’ve come to expect from Marvel movies, there are not one but two credits bonus scenes after the film. Be sure you stick around for both of them. Fans of the comic book will also be happy to see one of the rock aliens known as Kronan in the movie as well as more nods to Norse mythology. Those in the know will find them to be cool Easter Eggs. Also look for a Stan Lee cameo as well as a cameo by another Marvel superhero that’s absolutely hilarious. I won’t spoil it here, but it was one of the highlights of the film. But that does lead to another thing that works well in this film – the humor. There is a lot of death and destruction that happens (after all, it is called “The Dark World”), but it is perfectly balanced with a lot of humor as well. We see Darcy, Ian, and some kids playing with the interdimensional portal in a way that has payoffs later in the film. We see Erik Selvig lose his mind in a most spectacular and public way involving a lack of pants. Then there is the big finale where the torn barriers between the Nine Realms play comedic havoc with Thor and Malekith as they do battle. Overall it’s just a lot of fun to watch.

What Didn’t Work:
“Thor: The Dark World” does have a few problems. First of all, the 3D was pretty bad on this film. In the opening battle scene, the action was filmed so close that everything was just a big blur. Then when there were scenes taking place on the Dark World, everything was so lowly lit that, when the image was combined with the dark 3D glasses, the screen just looked muddy. I’m now a firm believer that if you intend to release a film in 3D, you need to film it that way. You can’t use a shaky camera, low light, or other things you see on a 2D production or even on TV. It doesn’t work.

As for the story, there are a few issues there as well. There are two occasions where Thor just randomly shows up. For example, after two years of waiting for Thor to return, Jane Foster turns around and he’s simply standing there in the middle of a parking lot. It was rather abrupt and unceremonious. Later in a battle scene, we go for a long period of not seeing Thor at all to him randomly appearing at a critical moment. Where was he? What was he doing? Conditioning his hair? The main character’s appearance needed a little more thought than just “Thor arrives.”

As for the characters, the new villain is a tad dull. Yes, he’s scary looking and menacing, but when you put him up alongside Loki you can tell he doesn’t quite measure up as a villain. He needed more personality and motivation than he had. I also felt that the love triangle with Jane, Thor, and Sif could have been played up a bit more. It was touched on in the film, but I felt like it was a strong point in the story and should have had a bit more emphasis. Jane is a mortal who will die. Sif is a warrior and an immortal. Both women love him. There’s a lot of potential in the storyline. Maybe they’re saving it for a sequel.

Some of the story felt a little repetitive as well. Yet again we see Heimdall and the Warriors Three having to defy Odin and help Thor in order to save the day. There are a couple of other moments that felt repetitive as well, but I can’t discuss them without getting into spoilers.

On another front, there was a little language in this film. For example, Thor and Jane are zapped to Asgard and Darcy yells, “Holy s**t!” It was disappointing to me because the theater was filled with a lot of young children. This movie is rated PG-13 so the film is not only allowed it but it is expected, but it was completely unnecessary. Ironically, Marvel wouldn’t even print that in a Thor comic, but they’ll do it in a movie which many more kids will see.

Finally, there’s the mid-credits scene that fans have come to expect. In it, we get our first glimpse of “Guardians of the Galaxy.” Without spoiling too much, everything about it was odd. We see Sif and Volstagg on an errand that has nothing to do with what just happened in the film, and even then it seems unlikely considering what they hand off. Then the character that is revealed is just a bizarre one to use in order to introduce audiences to “Guardians of the Galaxy.” It would be like introducing people to “Star Wars” by first showing them Bib Fortuna. Rather than making audiences say, “Cool! I can’t wait to see that!” the reaction is more like, “What the heck was that?” Without the context of the rest of the story and universe, it doesn’t stand well on its own. I think it was a real misstep in trying to build hype.

The Bottom Line:
Simply put, if you liked the first “Thor” film, then you’re going to enjoy “Thor: The Dark World.” It’s a fun adventure well worth seeing on the big screen, but probably in 2D.

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