Movie Review: ‘Thor: The Dark World’

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Image from Marvel Studios via BusinessInsider.com

Image from Marvel Studios via BusinessInsider.com

Minor spoiler alert. Also, I have not read the comics and I don’t think I intend t0, as it’s just too long a series.

I watched Thor: The Dark World twice because:

  1. I like the Thor franchise,
  2. I’m not immune to the charms of either Chris Hemsworth or Tom Hiddleston,
  3. I got free tickets the second time around and wanted to watch with my boyfriend,
  4. It’s just so gosh darn enjoyable.

A sequel will always be held up next to its predecessor. Is it better? Is it worse? Can it stand on its own? Will you need to watch the first movie?

But sometimes, for one reason or another, sequels are completely different animals. Look at the second Transformers movie. Look at the Star Wars prequel trilogy. Heck, look at The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and compare it to The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Director Alan Taylor’s Thor: The Dark World is, in one sense, a completely different animal from 2011’s Thor as directed by Kenneth Branagh. For one, it’s got more visual depth, loads of extras to round out the lived-in feel of both Asgard and London, a faster-paced plot with a couple of neat twists, and most of the secondary cast became truly badass in the personality and fighting skills department.

Two thumbs up for Rene Russo as Asgardian Queen Frigga and Kat Dennings as the loopy Darcy, and maybe a quizzical look in the direction of Anthony Hopkins, who seemed to be holding back in his portrayal of Odin (some of the dickery managed to shine through, though, but it is arguable if that was due to Hopkins’s acting or the fact that Odin’s dickery no longer had to contend with that of Thor’s in the first movie). Even Jane gained a level in badassery, as she actually helps Thor fight Dark Elf Malekith (I swear, thanks to J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Silmarillion, I’ve been ruined forever for any other sort of Dark Elf) instead of simply nursing Thor back to health while he still can’t figure out that he’s too big of a dick to wield his hammer. (See what I did there?) We get to see more of her quirks, too, as she briefly tries to move on from Thor with a date and then can’t shut up as she is medically (magically?) examined by Asgardian healers and then verbally put-down by Odin himself.

Is it as funny or funnier than the first? Depends on what you find funny. The humor no longer lies in the ensuing slapstick of Thor’s being hopelessly out of place in the mortal realm, although they couldn’t resist paying homage to that gag of headbutting a big guy like Thor. It ranges from silly hijinx in a field where physics simply gave up and left, to the squabbling brotherly banter between Thor and Loki, to Dr. Selvig streaking around Stonehenge.

All that aside, I do miss the Shakespearean qualities of the first movie. Granted, the Bifrost bridge looked like a plastic rainbow stage and that town in New Mexico was practically a ghost town even before the Destroyer went on a rampage there. But the interesting thing about Kenneth Branagh helming a Marvel movie was that his Shakespearean background as an actor managed to coax a level of dramatic depth from a usually plot-driven superhero movie. I mean, Thor will probably be the only movie where I feel any empathy for Loki (but not Tom Hiddleston. I always adore that man). That doesn’t mean he’s any less fun to watch in the sequel, however—particularly riveting was that scene in his cell, where he makes all the furniture smash against the walls after he hears some distressing news. Such muted emotion—it was perfect.

But moving on, all these reasons are why I’d say to any first-timers eyeing the Thor franchise to begin with the first movie. It did a fairly good job in laying down the groundwork for the personalities and relationships between Thor, Loki, and Odin. This trio’s bond (or lack thereof) evolves into something else entirely with the plot-driven fun of Thor: The Dark World, especially when something that particularly strains the three occurs somewhere near the middle.

I was expecting a few more things, however. Like more screen time for Sif and the Warriors Three (poor Hogun). It would have been fun to see what else Zachary Levi could have done with the Fandral character. And I mean, come on, Sif was making goo-goo eyes at Thor all over the place! I thought she’d be more of a problem for him and Jane.

Malekith is not a bad guy, he simply wants something different and fundamentally against what everyone else wants. That said, he doesn’t seem to be particularly vengeful or grief-stricken for someone who’s lost everything; but then again, he didn’t really have qualms about sacrificing his entire race just to win a war with Asgard.

I don’t really get why he wants to put the lights out throughout the universe. Dark Elves can’t sleep with all that starlight? They thrive on darkness? What? And for some reason, the Aether’s ability to turn everything in to dark matter seems less threatening than, say, the Tesseract’s ability to open up portals between worlds.

All in all, Thor: The Dark World will take you on a fun ride from Midgard to Asgard and back, with a sliver of the cosmos in between. It definitely made me want to re-watch both it and 2011’s Thor, so that’s a big bonus.

What did you think of it?

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