In retrospect, it is kind of surprising that Thor is my favorite of the Avengers. Because his stand-alone movies rely heavily on the politics and events in other realms, the result is plot lines that focus more heavily on science fiction and fantasy than the other members. Obviously we aren’t dealing with reality with any of these characters – as far as I know – but because the rest of the Avengers are human born and mostly hang out on Earth I usually have a pretty good idea as to what is going on. But as much as I enjoyed the first Thor movie, I’d be hard pressed to give you any real explanation of what exactly a tesseract is. Thankfully most of this sci fi mumbo jumbo ultimately winds up being a MacGuffin and I don’t have to fully comprehend what is going on to enjoy the movie. I am sure to some people it all makes perfect sense, but I just hope to catch the broad strokes and don’t worry about all the minute details.
Plus we all know the real reason Thor is my favorite; it’s because he just so happens to look like this:
Sorry Captain America. Even you can’t compete.
Seriously, the real reason that I like the Thor movies so much is not only because I find him extremely attractive but because I think that he is surrounded with the best supporting characters of all the Avengers. He has the most defined world; because he isn’t a mortal, more time had to be spent creating his back story and with that came a family and a number of other interestingcharacters. Really, of all the Avengers, Thor has the best support system and the most friends, who just happen to be portrayed by actors I like. So while I like all of the Marvel movies, I like spending the most time in Asgard and hopping between realms. Watching the destruction of Earth over and over again can get boring; at least in the Thor movies I get a definite change of scenery every once in a while.
Thor: The Dark World is far more focused on science fiction elements than the first film. In another time, the Dark Elf Malekith (an unrecognizable Christopher Eccleston) tried to destroy the galaxy with his secret weapon, the aether. He was stopped by Thor’s grandfather and the aether was hidden. Malekith was assumed dead and the race of Dark Elves extinct. And you know what they say about assumptions …… Of course Malekith is alive and well, hiding away and trying to find the aether. He is beaten to it by Dr. Jane Foster (Natlie Portman), who accidentially stumbles upon the mysterious weapon while doing scientific experiments and pining away for her intergalactic boyfriend Thor (Chris Hemsworth). Realizing she is in peril, Thor brings Jane to Asgard and Malekith (and a whole lot of trouble) follow. Also back on Asgard is Thor’s wayward brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston), the man behind “the battle of New York” who is currently serving time for his misdeeds on Earth. Where do his allegiances lie?
Honestly, the story didn’t even really matter to me, which was fine because it was kind of complicated. I’m still not sure that I really understood all the moving parts, but the execution was so fun to watch that it didn’t even really matter. There really isn’t much new to see here anyway – after so many Avenger related films, you aren’t necessarily going to these films for something innovative, but rather for more of the same. That’s not a bad thing, but if you go into Thor: The Dark World expecting them to have reinvented the wheel, you’ll be sadly disappointed.
If, however, you like the characters in the Thor universe, you won’t be disappointed. Hemsworth certainly looks the part and is a solid actor. The Thor of this film is a little less arrogant that the Thor that we met in the original film and The Avengers, and Hemsworth handles the tonal change just fine. Thor is not the Avenger that has the most personality, but Hemsworth can be funny when needed. Plus did I mention that he looks like this:
I did? Well it bears repeating.
I’ve never fully been on board with Portman as Jane, but she didn’t bother me as much in this film as she did in the first, so I guess that is progress. There isn’t that much required of her other than to spew some techno science stuff and look pretty and she does both without issue.
Of course, the real secret weapon of Thor: The Dark World isn’t the aether, but Loki. Tom Hiddleston is so good in this part that they actually re-cut the movie to include more of the Loki character after his popularity from The Avengers. Hiddleston is so clearly having the time of his life in this role and his enthusiasm is contagious. We shouldn’t like Loki as much as we do, but his wry sense of humor just makes being evil look like so much fun. Hemsworth and Hiddleston have great chemistry together and the scenes when they are together are the best of the film. If Marvel has any idea what they are doing, they’ll give the people what they want and give us a standalone Loki film. He really is the best. I’d have no problem with them ditching Jane and just having a film focuses on the two godly brothers; that is the real relationship at the heart of the Thor movies.
I was also pleased to see an increased role for friend of the blog Idris Elba (aka Stringer Bell, The Wire). He was in the first Thor film as Heimdall, the guardian of the rainbow bridge and watchman for Asgard, but wasn’t given much to do. Heimdall gets more screen time in The Dark World and I’m hoping that he will have even more responsibility in the inevitable Thor 3. Elba is great as usual; someone just give him his own superhero franchise already (or make him James Bond).
Thor: The Dark World was much funnier than I imagined it would be. A lot of the humor from the first film derived from Thor’s fish out of water status on Earth and I wondered how they would make this second movie funny once they no longer had their trick up their sleeve. It wound up not being an issue thanks to the great work of Hiddleston and the supporting actors (Kat Dennings continued to deadpan her way through another global catastrophe; she is so wasted on Two Broke Girls) and there was plenty to giggle about in the film. Even Thor got a big laugh in one scene. So while Thor may not be the sarcastic cut-up of an Iron Man, I laughed far more than I expected.
Some other thoughts:
- One of the bigger laughs of the film comes from an unexpected cameo from a familiar face.
- I don’t know how I missed it, but halfway through the movie I looked to my left and realized that there was a person sitting in my row in a full Thor costume (cape and all). It was a little jarring and sadly wasn’t Chris Hemsworth I really need to be more observant.
- There are not one but two bonus scenes during the credits. The first one sets up another Marvel franchise and the one after all the credits if more comic relief.
- Ha! Some young woman was clearly very confused as to why no one got up at the end of the film once the credits started to roll. “Why is no one moving???” I’m guessing this was her first Marvel movie.
- As was the case in Iron Man 3, you just need to accept that the world is in peril and that the rest of the Avengers are otherwise engaged (as apparently is S.H.I.E.L.D). I’ve given up on them ever addressing this issue to my satisfaction, though that doesn’t instill a lot of confidence in the internal organization of the Avengers.
- However, there is a scene in Thor: The Dark World that required the skills of an archer. Just saying, Hawkeye. Your membership in the Avengers is already pretty tenuous. You could have helped a brother out.
- If you need a refresher on the nine realms, whatculture.com has you covered.
- Just because: Tom Hiddleston dancing
- While waiting for the bonus clips at the end of the movies, I couldn’t help but notice that someone had the following credit: Dark Elf language creator. I wish I had something like that on my resume.
- Hats off to Stellan Skarsgard for doing so many of his scenes in his underwear. That’s committing to a role.
- Zachary Levi (Chuck) has taken the role of Fandral over from Josh Dallas (Once Upon a Time). That was the only cast change that I noticed.
- He only has a small part, but it was nice to see Chris O’Dowd turn up.
- Per usual, I didn’t go for the 3-D or IMAX experience. My guess is that it doesn’t look all that different.
- There are some pretty cool battles in The Dark World. It’s amazing the damage that can be done with a golden hammer.
- Dark Elves are surprisingly scary with their gear on:
- The director of this movie isn’t an idiot: Thor takes his shirt off within the first ten minutes of the film for no real reason whatsoever.
- Dating someone in another realm isn’t easy – apparently Thor didn’t even call Jane when he was in New York, though admittedly he was pretty busy.
Overall, I enjoyed Thor: The Dark World. That is mostly due to the characters rather than the story, which was a little slow and could have benefitted from more action and less exposition. Still, even though I wasn’t always clear what was going on, spending time with Thor and Loki more than made up for whatever was lacking. While it was nice to bring back almost all the characters from the first film, I wouldn’t be opposed to them whittling down the cast and focusing more on Asgard than Earth. The film doesn’t do as well with handling the humans and the other characters in this world are far more interesting. There isn’t a lot that is new ground being mined in Thor: The Dark World but the same could be said for most of the Avenger based films. If you liked Thor, you’ll enjoy Thor: The Dark World just fine. It might be more of the same, but that’s OK by me.
Thor: The Dark World opens nationwide today.