Spoilers ahead! Please do not read if you do not want to see spoilers for Thor 2.
Thor: The Dark World is not aimed to please critics, but plays directly into the hearts of fans. It’s funny, suspenseful, and a good movie if you try to understand the bad guy’s motive. It also gets about 200% better if you don’t try to understand the conflict and just go with it.
TDW picks up where The Avengers left off- Loki taken back to Asgard by Thor to await retribution for his crimes. Thor is running around the Nine Realms, trying to fix the mess his adopted brother caused when he tried
to destroy Earth again. And that’s where a lot of what you will understand about the plot ends. The writers seem to have focused on writing as many scenes as possible that would make a fangirl squeal in joy and horror- shirtless Thor, close-ups of Loki’s face, painful major character deaths, and sending Jane to Asgard so you can live vicariously through her character.
Chris Hemsworth as Thor is still a great casting choice physically, but unfortunately his character is still a bit dry and two-dimensional. He has a few humorous and emotional moments, and my whole theater enjoyed his obligatory shirtless scene, but a lot of his dialogue sounds a bit too stiff and forced. There were too many moments where I focused on the acting more than his character, but in the end his charismatic portrayal of Thor makes up for it. Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), the astrophysicist who is fated to be Thor’s soulmate (a choice that makes for fantastic debates, because Jane is going to live to maybe 90 years old while Thor will live a few thousand years, so Marvel should consider following the comic books and giving Lady Sif a chance at more than a few longing glances if they keep making Thor movies), has been teleported miraculously away from Earth to another world, where a floaty-liquidy red weapon substance called the Aether latches on to her. The Aether, apparently, will restore a dreaded evil darkness to the world with the help of the Dark Elf Malekith. Think Peruvian Instant Darkness Powder, but with more death and destruction.
This stuff was introduced in the first thirty seconds with a quick back story that was supposed to explain everything. The aforementioned Malekith, played by the usually wonderful
Christopher Eccleston, just made it worse. He was such a generic evil character. His motive was simply that he didn’t like how things were alive in the universe, and the take-over-the-world plan is hard to understand. He isn’t interesting or creepy, and he just looks angry a lot. I am quite impressed by his intricate hair braiding skills, though. I can’t do a fishtail braid to save my life.
I kind of lost interest in what Thor was fighting.
But looking past that, this sequel actually manages to better than the original movie, and that’s not something I say often. It has more funny scenes, which keeps the pace of the movie up and also makes the angsty scenes more horrible. Darcy (Kat Dennings) and Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) provide a steady stream of comic relief. The fight scenes are more exciting, too. Almost every main character gets a cool moment to fight, not just Thor. Jane, Darcy, and Eric help Thor with science, Sif and the Warriors Three all get a scene, and Loki takes on a whole group of Dark Elves with just a dagger.
And it’s good Loki’s there, since he’s kind of the best part of the movie. The character is played by Tom Hiddleston, who is a fantastic actor and can show about 10 emotions at one time on his face. He both starts the main part of the movie and ends it, so Thor isn’t even the first main character on screen. He alternates being the character having the most fun on screen and the character in the most pain. His story is more interesting, too. As
an adopted son who was unloved by his father and theoretically cast out of the family, he has a lot more background for emotional scenes. Loki’s also complex in a way Thor isn’t- he puts up a cold, scheming, and mischievous front, but it falls away in the face of tragedy. Thor refuses to trust him after his alien attack on Earth, but still brings him on the trip to save Jane. The only explanation we get for this is that he’s Loki, he’s beloved by the audience, so he needed more screen time- and no one’s arguing.
His most important scene showed that his personality isn’t truly evil; he let himself be sucked into a black hole to save Jane with no prompting from Thor and then he saved Thor from being beat to death by running a monster through with a sword. A monster who shook it off and stabbed Loki with the same sword still in his body, at which point Loki activates a black-hole bomb and wipes the monster from existence while he gasps his last breath on the ground. Thor cradles him because he’s still family, demonstrating the amazing chemistry between the actors that Hemsworth and Natalie Portman still haven’t achieved. It was both a fantastic death and very sad, making me cry merely halfway through the movie as my friends looked at me like I was insane. They don’t have quite the same emotional dedication to Loki and Thor as I do.
Of course, Marvel can’t actually kill him off, so he miraculously survives in a plot twist at the end that still managed to surprise audiences and left you questioning what his true allegiances are. Yet Marvel has also said that Loki won’t be in a movie for a few years- certainly not Avengers 2. With any luck, we’ll hear that Loki: The Movie is in the works in a year or two.
Despite some major flaws, Thor: TDW is a must see if you are interested in superhero movies. I’ve gone to see it a second time, which I only do with movies I love. It offers action, adventure, angst, and romance in a legendary setting, with main characters that are easy to love. It has fairly epic serious scenes yet cracks jokes even during the darkest moments. New fans can keep up with the basis of the plot but its peppered with inside references and jokes to please returning fans. It’s satisfyingly, comfortably familiar and manages to shock you in spite of that.
Plus, the cliffhanger at the end is fantastic. I love leaving a theater with something to theorize about.
Thor: The Dark World was released in theaters Nov. 8. If you’re new to Marvel movies, don’t forget to stick around for a couple minutes to see a bonus scene that hints at the plot of Thor 3, and stay until the very end of the credits. It’ll be worth it.