Now that we’ve got Thor’s backstory out of the way (assuming you’ve seen Thor; which, if you haven’t, then why are you reading a review on the second movie?), this leaves Thor: The Dark World wide open to tell an epic tale just for the sake of a good movie, without having to worry about origins or initial character development. Now the question is, did it truly deliver an epic tale worth seeing?
You bet your sweet Asgardian tuchus it does.
Seriously. Stop reading this review right now and go see the movie. Then come back and finish reading the review so I can have some sense of accomplishment.
Thor: The Dark World introduces a new realm, a new race, and a new villain. Malekith, a Dark Elf, wants to use a previously-unmentioned chaotic force called the Aether to…well, destroy the nine realms and the known universe. The dark elves existed before there was light in the universe, and see the light and everything born from it as a poison that ruined their way of life. Malekith aims to rid the world of light by destroying everything. Great plan, especially since he doesn’t mention how he intends to survive the destruction of the universe.
Malekith’s plan involves using the Aether at a time when the nine realms are converged. He had tried this once before, and was soundly defeated by Odin’s father, Bor. Bor then hid the Aether ‘where no one would find it,’ but led people to believe it had been destroyed. The movie is largely about Malekith trying to get the Aether, as the worlds converge on each other.
The Dark World is pretty much everything I wanted for a Thor sequel. It has some large-scale battle scenes, some 1-on-1 hero-vs-villain action, lots of destruction and mayhem, and some pretty cool-looking weapons.
I’ve got to say, though, I wasn’t as impressed with Jane Foster (Natalie Portman’s character) in this movie. Now, before you start getting your pitchforks and torches out, I’m not harping on Natalie Portman herself, or her acting abilities. The character was just written as a passive damsel-in-distress who’s completely obsessed with Thor. Let me explain (spoilers ahead).
In the last Thor movie, Jane was portrayed as a strong female lead. She was a big girl and made her own decisions, even if they were stupid ones. In this movie, the first time we see her is on a date with the guy from IT Crowd, cowering behind a menu because she’s still hung up on a guy that hasn’t shown his face to her in two years. Granted, Thor was away handling cleanup in the nine realms after the events of the first movie, but she knew him for a week and hadn’t moved on? But wait, there’s more.
Since the realms are ‘in convergence,’ there are weak points between them that cause spatial shifts and distortions, and gravity fluctuations. These weak points are basically portals between realms. Jane Foster happens to walk through one of these portals, and stumbles across Bor’s hiding place for the Aether in Svartalfheim, and accidentally absorbs it. After she absorbs the Aether, the act of which awakens Malekith from his stasis, she becomes the ‘flag’ in a giant game of Capture the Flag. The Asgardians have her; the dark elves want her. And apparently Earth is ‘No Man’s Land,’ because that’s where the focal point for the convergence of the nine realms is, of course. Jane doesn’t do much the rest of the film, except faint a lot and press some buttons at the end that do sciency things that are never really explained satisfactorily. Here’s a hint: if you can easily be replaced by another character, than you’re not doing a good job as an important character. The same events could have just as easily happened to Darcy, and the movie really wouldn’t have been much different. Even Thor’s mother Frigga is way more awesome than Jane in this movie.
Speaking of Frigga, she had a much larger part in The Dark World than the previous movie. I won’t say much more on this, in case you didn’t listen to me earlier and still haven’t seen the movie, but she actually is a fairly important character in this movie, if for no other reason than her relationship with Loki. Not to mention she majorly kicks butt with a sword.
Loki, of course, was brilliant, and still managed to be a very compelling character as well as the comic relief at the same time. Chris Hemsworth has further convinced me that he has nailed the character of Thor, and I don’t think anyone could pull off a better Odin than Anthony Hopkins. Jaimie Alexander is convincingly dangerous and deadly as the Lady Sif, and I can definitely see why she’s in the running to play Wonder Woman. And let’s not forget Christopher Eccleston’s fantastic performance as Malekith. Stellan Skarsgård reprises his roll as Erik Selvig, who has lost a few marbles since being possessed by Loki in The Avengers, which resulted in making him slightly insane and a lot hilarious. Which makes me wonder…why didn’t Hawkeye come out of the possession like that? Hmmm. Maybe Hawkeye will be the comic relief in the next Avengers movie, instead of being Token Arrow Guy.
There was one more thing that I had a problem with. I can understand that a race as old as the dark elves would have advanced technology and ways to transport large amounts of elves at the same time. The part I have a hard time believing is that this technology manifests itself as spaceships. Not just vessels to fly from A to B, but full-on war ships that have pew pew pew laser sound effects and invisibility cloaking devices. And they fly these ships into Asgard, who also has ships that shoot lasers. And they also have tower-mounted laser turrets. The designers of the Asgardian vessels did put a little effort into making them look Norse-influenced, but if I had just walked into the movie during that scene, I may have walked back out thinking that I accidentally walked in on a Star Trek movie. I know they were trying to blur the line between magic and advanced science in the first movie, but this just seemed too ‘sci-fi’ and not enough like the ‘god-like powers’ the Asgardians are supposed to possess. We didn’t really see that much magic in this movie.
I will admit that while glowing swords could come across as little cheesy, they actually looked pretty cool in the battle sequences. There was also a few implosion grenades that, when the ‘exploded,’ took a chunk of matter out of their explosion radius and sucked it into nothing. Definitely something to keep in your arsenal. They handle their own cleanup.
All-in-all, I did thoroughly enjoy this movie. The story moved smoothly, the action looked incredible, and the acting was top-notch. The movie also sets up for a tie-in to a larger Marvel Cinematic Universe plotline, as shown by one of the two end-credits scenes. I’m very much looking forward to the next Thor movie, and coming Marvel Universe movies; so far, they haven’t left me disappointed.