Picking up some time after the events of The Avengers, Thor is just wrapping up restoring order to the Nine Realms when an ancient evil, the Aether, finds its way inside Jane Foster. This event awakens Malekith and his remaining Dark Elves in an attempt to reclaim his ultimate weapon (the Aether) as Thor brings Jane to Asgard in an attempt to save & protect her.
This second entry is directed by Game of Thrones veteran Alan Taylor, and he and Marvel dive right into the science fiction/fantasy of the world. From a world building standpoint the fresh coat of paint on Asgard and its Nine Realms really opens things up as the art design and effects make the world feel even more fully realized. I love Asgard, and watching the first Thor I was hoping for the sequel to focus more on this world and The Dark World doesn’t disappoint.
The story and character have regressed in the sequel though as The Dark World never really settles into a grove. That’s not saying the film isn’t fun, I was never bored, but something just kept the film from ever elevating to greatness. The only character that shows much growth beyond Thor is his mom Frigga and Rene Russo takes full advantage of the opportunity. The Warriors Three are barely background players and all of the fun banter and the relationships among them is completely jettison. Sif gets the most time from Thor’s crew, but she is forced into a forced romance and gets to do little more than being scornful towards an intruding Jane Foster. Malekith is a fine villain, but we get the bare minimum from him and he becomes second fiddle to the “will he/won’t he” betrayal of Loki. Loki’s scenes even feel a bit off and a lot of the humor around him, and the film as a whole, don’t really come together till the final act. The Earth stuff is also marginalized, but where that provided much of the first film’s humor, and I kind of miss it here. Yes, I enjoyed the more Asgard-centric setting, but they lost something in the transition.
Part of this might have been forcing Loki into the story a bit more than was necessary. I love Tom Hiddleston’s Loki as much as the next guy, but a lot of his scenes don’t feel organic to the story they are trying to tell. I like where they are leaving things for a possible third Thor film, but I don’t know if they needed as much Loki as they included to get his part of the story in place for the sequel.
The cast is still great across the board, I just wish everyone would have gotten a little bit more to do. The romance between Thor and Jane feels a bit more natural than the first film with Natalie Portman and Chris Hemsworth continues to have great chemistry. Kat Dennings provides laughs every time she’s asked to, Chris O’Dowd is funny in his few scenes, but I did miss a bit of the fish out of water fun in the first film. Idris Elba, thankfully, gets a bit more to do in this film as Heimdall, but for every expansion in character others seemed to get rolled back as I touched on above. Zachary Levi seems wasted as he was brought in to replace Fandral, Ray Stevenson only has a couple lines and Tadanobu Asano is left behind in the first scene. Jaimie Alexander has to feel the most slighted her though as she seemed primed to break out after the first film and is quickly pushed aside in this sequel.
Thor: The Dark World has great effects, the action is fun and the film never bores, but it never makes that leap to the top tier of Marvel films. I loved the sci-fi/fantasy world Asgard has become, but I wish we had gotten a better story with a bit more focus on Thor rather than the set up for film three surrounding Loki. Still, Marvel fans will have plenty of fun as there is a lot to enjoy, I just wish the Thor franchise took a step forward with The Dark World instead of one step forward and one step back.
Thor: The Dark World is a B