Photo courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Thor: The Dark World faces two challenges. The film lives in the shadow of The Avengers, which has set a new bar for comic book movies, and it fights to renew re-establishing storylines and characters who have been absent from the public eye since its 2011 prequel. Considering how insurmountable those dual binds seemingly are, the film does an amiable job in overcoming them. Though it is nowhere near as memorable as the former, it’s not trying to be. Thor: The Dark World is a fun film, acting as a stepping stone towards the greater ambitions of the grand experiment that is the Marvel film universe, particularly the slated Avengers sequel. Thankfully The Dark World is far better than Thor’s origin story, which felt carelessly slapped together.
Under the steady guidance of producer Joss Whedon and director Alan Taylor (who has directed episodes of nearly every great TV drama of the last decade), Thor: The Dark World builds a grand scope, but still finds a human core. The film’s plot is a typical one of good versus evil. The villain, Malekith (Christopher Eccleston, unrecognizable under makeup), is a forgettable but serviceable threat. Sometimes the action, though cleanly and coherently shot, is not especially memorable. But the plot it serves is interesting and that’s what ultimately matters.
The film has problems with characterization but takes baby steps towards giving characters a spark. Chris Hemsworth has immediate charisma and charm that allows him, even when his character Thor is one-note, to carry the film. Thor’s love interest Dr. Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) disappointingly plays damsel in distress for the majority of the film. Portman is great, however, at portraying inner strength. Minor parts, such as Darcy (Kat Dennings) and Heimdall (Idris Elba), are expanded in necessary and pleasing ways.
This cast is mediocre, though, compared to the film’s ace-in-the-hole, Tom Hiddleston, who plays Thor’s archenemy, Loki. Loki escalates in complexity each scene, which Hiddleston executes with such intensity. It helps that Loki’s character is funny, brooding and deliciously deceptive. The most interesting relationship in the film is that of Thor and Loki – siblings who’ve grown so distant and bitter that they doubt they can ever mend their bonds. The film instinctually understands their tension and therefore pairs them in a reluctant partnership with exciting and satisfying results.
Thor: The Dark World might feel like it tries to do too much. There are many characters and many story lines. But Taylor wrangles them all into one film that’s never overwrought. Neither does the film give off vibes that it marks time until Thor teams up with Iron Man, Captain America, and the like. The Dark World is diverting – nothing more, nothing less.