Film Review – Thor: The Dark World
Thor: The Dark World
Thor: The Dark World marks Marvel Studios‘ biggest cinematic disappointment since Iron Man 2 (2010). It is a goofy, clunky film more interested in fitting with the rest of the Marvel Universe than in telling its own fully developed story. While I was not a fan of the first Thor (2011), I do give it credit for being self-contained, where this is concerned with what came before it and certainly with what’s coming down the pipeline. It’s less a standalone film and more a segue point in this rapidly increasing universe. Marvel often includes little hints referencing other characters and events in their movies, but this is the first time I felt I was watching a two-hour advertisement. They could’ve just put up a title card reading “Hey kids! Make sure to go see Captain America: The Winter Soldier, coming to theaters next year!”
Thor (Chris Hemsworth) has always been the toughest character to attach to. Where Iron Man and The Hulk are humans caught in extraordinary circumstances, Thor is an all-powerful god from the world of Asgard. A little more difficult to relate to. To make up for this, the filmmakers highlighted his strained relationship with his brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston). Sibling rivalry between gods is always a messy affair. As you might remember, Loki was the main villain from the first Thor film and from The Avengers (2012). Here, we reunite with them back at Asgard, with Loki imprisoned for his previous wrongdoings.
As the story begins, we’re given a prologue detailing a battle between the warriors of Asgard and an evil race known as the Dark Elves. Thousands of years ago, the Dark Elves—led by the terrifying Malekith (Christopher Eccleston)—sought to conquer the universe using a powerful weapon known as the Aether. The Asgardians defeated them, and attempted to hide the Aether from Malekith’s grasp. However, in the present time, the whereabouts of the Aether have been revealed, and Malekith has made his return with his army to retrieve it and plunge all existence into darkness. In an attempt to stop him, Thor must turn to the one person he isn’t sure he can trust: Loki.
This synopsis sounds kind of exciting, doesn’t it? So why doesn’t this story work? Because just like in the first film, we are force-fed a side plot involving Thor’s relationship with humans. Everything about Asgard, the convergence of the Nine Realms, Thor’s father Odin (Anthony Hopkins), etc., makes for great fantasy and adventure, and yet we have to watch Thor develop an unconvincing relationship with the human scientist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman). Jane is one of the most poorly written characters in all the Marvel movie universe—sad, given that the actress playing her is one of the best working today. Jane is supposedly brilliant, yet everything about her revolves around being with a man. After waiting two years for Thor to return to Earth, Jane decides to go back to dating, her very first scene involving her having lunch with nice guy Richard (Chris O’Dowd). This thread of course gets completely wiped away once Thor comes back, with Jane dropping everything to be with her hammer-wielding love.
I’m not sure why, but the filmmakers (Alan Taylor directing, Christopher Yost/Christopher Markus/Stephen McFeely on screenplay, Don Payne/Robert Rodat on story) appear intent on putting awkward humor into the story. We understand that Thor comes from another world and doesn’t fully comprehend the ways of humans (plus, the idea of a Norse god interacting with humans is ridiculous to begin with), but the “fish out of water” approach gets old very quickly. Stellan Skarsgård’s character Erik Selvig—who played a key role in The Avengers—is whittled down to nothing but a walking joke here. And Kat Dennings has very little to work with for her character Darcy, outside of the constant quippy remarks.
If there is one memorable performance, it’s from Tom Hiddleston, who has completely embraced the character of Loki. After playing the role in three films now, Hiddleston has grown comfortably into Loki’s shoes. He appears to be having a ball, getting all the best lines of dialogue and performing with great, natural ease. Clearly, there is an affinity for Loki in the writing, and it shows. Compare him with Christopher Ecclston’s Malekith, who unfortunately is written with such little dimension that he’s more an archetype than an actual character.
The worst aspect of Thor: The Dark World is its lack of ingenuity. Once again, we have a superhero film where the climatic battle involves an alien race threatening the existence of Earth. We already saw this on a grander scale in The Avengers, so seeing it within this context makes it small in scope. Sure, there’s an interesting way that characters jump through dimensions, but it never reaches a memorable plateau, and that is a problem. It provides too many questions I’m sure will only be answered in subsequent films. Marvel loves connecting all their stories and characters together, but this is not a major entry—it’s simply a stepping-stone.