“Thor: The Dark World” Review

Coming off the success of The Avengers, Marvel’s Phase Two began earlier this year with Iron Man 3, which was a great return to the character we’ve loved since the first Iron Man movie. Now comes Thor’s return to the forefront. Note: consider taking a look at our Avengers and Iron Man 3 reviews by Corey and Liam, respectively, along with our Thor: The Dark World trailer reaction. Even more importantly, check out the comic book background for Thor, courtesy of Kevin.

If we consider 2011’s Thor as just a set-up movie to introduce us to the character, the first movie seems less terrible. In Thor, we were presented with a brooding brute with little depth behind his enormous muscles. Obviously Chris Hemsworth has a great physique but his acting was a bit lacking. Even if Hemsworth can act, the writing in Thor didn’t offer much for the audience to invest in. Thor: The Dark World is wildly superior in almost every way and allows Chris Hemsworth to show his talent and develop Thor as a dynamic Marvel hero.

At the beginning of the movie, we are introduced to the Dark Elves and their leader Malekith (Christopher Eccleston), who long ago created a weapon of immense power called the Aether. This weapon allows him to manipulate darkness and wipe out anything in his path. Obviously Malekith is the bad guy, but to offer up a bit of sympathy, we learn that the Dark Elves existed in the darkness before the nine realms were created and light took over. The Dark Elves had to fight for darkness and their very existence. They were defeated by Thor’s grandfather, Bor, who steals the Aether and hides it away instead of destroying it. Malekith is forced to flee and disappears into the abyss of space until he can reclaim the Aether and enact revenge upon the Asgardians.

Malekith and some of his dark elf troops.

Is Malekith the most badass villain? No but he is determined to have his Aether and is cunning enough and to outsmart Thor.

Warning: Spoilers Inbound

Marvel is constantly thinking about the next step for the greater franchise and ensures that each movie ties into the next to bring us neatly to Avengers 2 and beyond. Thor: The Dark World is no different. This is where the Aether comes in. Without getting into too much of a spoiler mode, I’ll say that the Aether is very powerful and very crucial to future story lines. Unlike the Tessaract, a static object that gives power…power, the Aether is a fluid-like substance that has a mind of its own. It can protect itself and drain the power from its victims. Although it is mainly used to try and bring on the end of days through darkness in Thor: The Dark World it is obvious that Marvel has big plans for the Aether and the “infinite” power it has.

All of the original cast of Thor returns for the second outing. Each seems to be just a bit more comfortable in their role, particularly Hemsworth as Thor and Portman as Jane Foster (who has tons more to do this time around rather than just gawk at Thor). Another standout is Rene Russo as Thor’s mother, Frigga. Sadly she is extremely underutilized in the movie despite being crucial to the plot. Her words have always guided the men in her family. She is Odin’s rock: always reassuring when he is about to enter battle. Thor seems to have the typical filial relationship with her: he looks to her for guidance in matters that don’t involve brute strength, and trust me, he has issues dealing with situations that he can’t solve with his heavy hammer. Loki, her other sort-of son, has had probably the strongest relationship with her. We learn in this movie that Frigga is a magician, the very magician that taught Loki all of the tricks we’ve seen from him in the past. After Frigga finally gets to kick some ass and show off her great power, she must sacrifice herself to save Jane. Frigga’s death relatively early on in the film acts as a catalyst to move the rest of the plot forward.

Jane and Frigga in the palace.

Frigga’s death devastates Odin, narrowing his focus to killing anything in his path to revenge. At this point, Thor and Odin swap roles from the first movie. Odin only wants to fight, to use his rage and strength to defeat Malekeith, while Thor wants to protect the people of Asgard and plan a strategy to save the most lives. Thor is thinking clearly, and its refreshing to see the great hero – and leader – that Thor can be.

Loki may be one of the best characters to exist in the Marvel movies and this movie only furthers that. Loki is deeply affected by the death of his mother to the point that he is willing to join Thor in search of revenge. After a little brotherly bonding (with a Marvel-ous cameo) the brothers set off to save the day. We dive into their relationship and the difficulty being bitter enemies that also happen to have spent their lives growing up together. Loki is able to utilize his charm and cunning in the effort of self-preservation, but he also comes to make some great sacrifices of his own. Loki is an extremely dynamic character who appeals to the masses, yet remains a villain. Tom Hiddleston effortlessly portrays this rounded character.

We miss our mum.

Thor: The Dark World is a huge step from the first movie and continues Marvel’s Phase 2 on the path that Iron Man 3 set up. But the movie still has its faults. Many of the minor characters are far too underdeveloped. As much as I enjoy Thor’s Asgardian friends, Sif and the Warriors Three, they are often unnecessary to the plot and do very little. As in the first movie, the writers suggest an underlying romance between Thor and Sif, but we are now two movies in and have only seen this through small glances. I’m sure there may be plans to develop this further, but so far it just feels like a distraction not only from Jane but from the more central story altogether.

The other major fault is that the ‘science’ part of the story is difficult to follow. Jane Foster and her team often explain things without adding the “in layman’s terms” part afterwards. A lot of their Asgardian-related science projects are rushed and hard to comprehend. Each scene has great special effects to go with the science to help alleviate the confusion, but it’s not always enough. The final battle stands out as an example of this disconnect. By the end of it all, the writers just wanted a cool fight scene that would outweigh the science.

The movie culminates with a classic happy ending, but of course not before Marvel can throw a few extra scenes to lead us towards the next Avengers movie.

In one of these scenes, we see Thor reunite with Jane on earth with plans to stay with her while protecting the Nine Realms. But it’s the other scene that gets every fan to jump right out of their seat. We meet the Collector, played by Benicio Del Toro! He is enlisted to store the Aether for the Asgardians because Odin’s Weapon Vault already holds the Tesseract and two of the six Infinity Stones should not be stored so close together. That’s right. The Aether and the Tesseract are Infinity Stones! These stones are a part of a huge Marvel story arc called The Infinity Gauntlet and it pits the Avengers and Thanos against each other (Thanos was introduced in the post credit scene of The Avengers). As far as I can tell the Infinity story lines seems to be the premise for Avengers 3 and this is just a small lead up to it.

Can’t wait to see what’s next with Captain America: The Winter Soldier and then Guardians of the Galaxy both of which are coming out next year. Marvel has a huge future that can head in all different directions. I can’t wait to see what it is. What do you think these next two films will hold for us?