By: Bryan Montgomery
Rating: 8 out of 10
With Marvel quickly approaching the pinnacle of The Avengers Phase Two, Thor: The Dark World does a great job continuing the momentum established from May’s Iron Man 3 while capturing the essence of the original. First time director Alan Taylor held the help for this film after some turnover early on during development, but due to the chemistry amongst the lead, another knockout performance from Tom Hiddleston and a re-focusing of the franchise to embrace the majesty and visual potential of Thor’s universe makes Thor: The Dark World a worthy and must-see addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
After the events of The Avengers, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is busy restoring order to the realms while keeping an eye on Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), who continues her scientific work on Earth. However, a new threat emerges in the form of Malekith (Chris Eccleston), a Dark Elf who has a plan that will bring all seven realms into darkness. After Malekith makes his initial attack on Asgard, Thor must enlist the help of Loki (Hiddleston) before the Dark Elves plunge the universe into darkness.
The original Thor favored substance over fancy visuals and action; using a small town in New Mexico as a backdrop for an interstellar quarrel between two brothers. In many ways, it was a smart move by Marvel. Thor is not as well known or well loved as Iron Man or even Captain America by the general public and giving him such a concentrated film that truly gave background and depth to his individual character before throwing the action-packed third act in the viewers’ faces was a good way to introduce the character to the Marvel universe.
Thor: The Dark World takes a different avenue, using the established character and throwing him into a new environment where the action is ramped up exponentially and the established character development takes a back seat. Compared to the original film, The Dark World is by far the superior film when it comes to action, as the second and third acts of the film are absolutely awesome. Taylor did a great job embracing the character of Thor and the power that he has, piecing together several impressive set pieces.
The introduction of Malekith only adds to the action. Rather than only utilizing The Destroyer like the first film did, Malekith brings an entirely separate but deadly slew of tools to the table, highlighted by Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, who plays the Kursed, an unstoppable force that represents the first true challenge that Thor has faced throughout the series. The legion of Dark Elves adds numbers that the series sorely needed, providing technology and lethality that is on par with the possibilities of Asgard. Malekith simply fits, meandering its way into the Marvel Cinematic Universe like the Mandarin in Iron Man 3; not being a driving force but rather serving as a catalyst that furthers the impact of the characters.
Fans of Star Wars and Star Trek will see some congruencies in the film to those famous series, but with a film that draws so closely to the majesty of the source material it is hard to argue that the special effects-driven spectacle was not something that this series needed to stay afloat compared to the action-centered Captain America and Iron Man series. The Dark World is easily one of the most action-packed films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the pure popcorn action will leave you riveted and clutching the arm rests on your chairs. As far as pure popcorn action goes, The Dark World delivers in droves.
Returning Hiddleston as Loki to the picture only betters the film. Stealing the show in every scene he is in, Hiddleston continues his absolute tear as Thor’s arch nemesis, bringing a solid aura of chaos to the part while at the same time holding the plot together. Watching Loki’s journey in the film is a blast, as the end of the film sets the stage for a very interesting next installment of the series after Avengers: Age of Ultron.
The remainder of the returning case also pull their weight, as Portman, Hemsworth along with Kat Dennings, Idris Elba and Stellan Skarsgard do their part to maintain the story. Elba surprises in this installment as his character has more of a soul in the sequel, speaking as Thor’s voice of reason throughout and even helping out the group in a critical turning point of the story. Dennings and Skarsgard are the main proprietors of humor, as Skarsgard especially procures some of the film’s best laughs.
Right off the bat, the film wastes no time establishing Malekith and his backstory, utilizing a Lord of the Rings-esque entrance to give the audience an idea of this new mythology. It’s an effective opening that is wasted in a dull opening 45 minutes, establishing the backstory but ultimately lacking in application when Portman comes into the scene and the plot starts to roll with the introduction of the Either. However, the film is quick to return from this opening lack of pace, quickly hitting its stride as the Dark Elves attack Asgard.
It is easy to be a huge fan of Thor: The Dark World. A summer film during the fall season, Taylor establishes himself as a strong director with this fast paced, action-filed superhero film that delivers on almost every level. The Dark World turns the Thor canon on its head after a sluggish first hour, ramping up the effects and the takes throughout an immensely strong second half that is sure to satisfy fans. A great way to hold hardcore Marvel fans over until Captain America: The Winter Soldier hits the screen in April; The Dark World is a welcome addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and serves as a benchmark for the God of Thunder.