“The Aether awakens us. The Convergence returns.”
Many ages ago, the forces of Asgard defeated the Dark Elves and their leader, Malekith. Now he’s back, with a creative plan to destroy the Nine Realms, and… That’s pretty much the whole plot. Thankfully, there’s a ton of character and humor in the snappy-if-thin script, as well as unique action scenes which far surpass those of the first film. Thor: The Dark World is way bigger than its predecessor, but is it better?
Like Iron Man 3 before it, The Dark World is set after The Avengers, but opts to carve its own path and is not beholden to the greater narrative of Phase 2 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Instead, we get a fun, stand-alone adventure about the young (-ish) future king of Asgard learning about responsibility, duty, and his relationship with his father, Odin, and their difference of opinion regarding the running of the kingdom. It’s deep and dramatic, and better than it sounds.
“It’s not that I don’t love our little talks, it’s just… I don’t love them.”
Just about the whole cast from the original film returns, and most of them have expanded roles. Idris Elba’s Heimdall gets to actually do stuff, which is nice, but it is Rene Russo who benefits the most from this, getting to kick some serious butt as Frigga, Thor and Loki’s mother. In fact, some of the best scenes in the film involve the family dynamic and arguments between various members of First Family of Asgard. On the other hand, the delicious Josh Dallas is out as Fendral, replaced by Zachary Levi, who is serviceable in the role, but is too reminiscent of Flynn Ryder from Tangled, and doesn’t carry the Errol Flynn-ian gravitas of Dallas; Levi is also physically a little too scrawny for the role. However, his role is pretty small, especially compared to Ray Stevenson’s Volstagg and Jamie Alexander’s Sif.
Of course, Loki is back, and the dynamic between him and his brother is one of the driving forces of the movie, filled with drama, comedy, and the tension that Tom Hiddleston’s Loki always carries with him.
Unfortunately, the weakest part of the cast is new addition Malekith, played by Christopher Eccleston, a one-dimensional villain whose only trait is “Revengeance.” He’s hell-bent on destruction and causing the apocalypse, and it’s certainly enough to motivate Thor and friends into action, but he doesn’t have any real motivation himself and is definitely the most one-dimensional Marvel Villain yet.
“There is nothing more relaxing than knowing that the world is crazier than you are.”
Innocuously directed by popular HBO TV helmer Alan Taylor, the wardrobe and architecture of the realms is definitely inspired by Game of Thrones, but the heavily armored buildings and gigantic furniture remains, ensuring a continuity between this film and its predecessor. At times, the script (with three credited screenwriters) lacks the depth to push the characters forward and is more focused on making the plot appear much deeper and more complex than it actually is. The script, unlike that of Shane Black’s Iron Man 3, plays it too safe, doesn’t take the risks, and, as such, probably won’t inspire as much heated debate. Iron Man 3 got people talking, “It’s horrible, blasphemous!” etc, for a variety of reasons. For The Dark World, people will say, “yeah it was pretty good,” and then move on to another conversation. The worst part about the script is how it frequently writes itself into a corner, only for the Rule of Narrative Causality to rear its lazy head and save our heroes. If I were a more forgiving man, I’d suggest that such liberal and obvious use of Deus Ex Machina is a nod towards the Asgardians’ God-like status, but it’s really just lazy writers being lazy. They also don’t really develop the Thor-Natalie Portman relationship as much as they should have, leaving the romance feel little more than tacked-on. Fortunately, our actors, particularly Chris Hemsworth as the lead, are clearly enjoying themselves and love their characters enough to allow them to feel more three-dimensional than they have any right to be. We probably don’t need to care about comic relief Kat Dennings and her sidekick, Ian, but the performances by the whole cast are so strong that we just can’t help ourselves. It’s like a paint-by-numbers script, but illustrated with love and devotion by many very talented artists.
Thor: The Dark World is bigger than Thor (almost Avengers-sized), but it’s not quite better. Thor’s arc isn’t as pronounced this time, which is a shame because he is quite an interesting character, and the script is occasionally lazy with an underwhelming villain, but when one of the other top-billed actors is the sociopathic ball of nerves, conflict, and cuteness that is Loki, that weakness is significantly diminished. The Dark World is a competent sequel, a good movie, and little more, but that’s certainly enough for now.
“I wish I could trust you.”
“Trust my rage.”