Marvel Studios continues their streak of providing smart and entertaining comic book movies to the masses with Thor: The Dark World being their latest installment. Unlike Iron Man 3, which was a relatively controversial success amongst fans (as many had problems with the direction of the Mandarin character and the amount of time Tony Stark actually spent time as Iron Man), this would be seen as a definite crowd-pleaser. While the second Thor movie may not be without its flaws, it does give us great character moments, action sequences and many laugh-out-loud moments.
Thor: The Dark World takes place a couple of years after the events in The Avengers, where Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is off traveling throughout the Nine Realms trying to bring peace, as wars have broken out due to the destruction of the Bifrost in the first film. Just as he succeeds in doing so, an ancient enemy, known as the Dark Elves, returns attempting to gain the power of a destructive weapon that has accidentally fallen into the possession of Thor’s beloved Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) on Earth.
Thor brings Jane back to Asgard for safekeeping, but when his people find themselves overwhelmed by the enemy, Thor must turn to his dangerous brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston), the God of Mischief, to help him protect his people and the woman he loves.
The story of this film felt a bit more cliché and less cleverly written than its predecessor, which felt like a Shakespearean play given a superhero makeover (thanks largely to director Kenneth Branagh). This film is more of an action-comedy that has very good character moments throughout. There were times that the humour became too much, or too slapstick to be precise, but not enough to actually take away from the film as a whole. What really made the film suffer was the weak villain and the bland love story. Just as the premise of the film, the villain Malekith (played by fan favourite Christopher Eccleston), was devoid of any charisma or personality. There was no significant back story or reason behind his actions, despite the fact that he is ‘evil’. A truly lost opportunity to get a good performance from Eccleston, who we all know could have been an outstanding villain in this incredibly mythological world, had they just written it in his character.
Unlike other Marvel films, or comic book movies in general, the love story in the Thor franchise has consistently been lacklustre; Portman’s character is quite a bland heroine. It also seems that she is the least in touch and comfortable in her role. While she does not give a bad performance, as she is too good of an actress for that, Portman’s portrayal of Jane Foster is unenthused; almost like she is the only one of the cast who is not having fun in their role. However, I find that it is the writing of the character that is most to blame, which essentially fuels the weakness of the love story in the Thor films. With the heroine so uninteresting, how and why has Thor fallen so madly in love with her? The Foster/Thor relationship has and continues to have no real spark or chemistry, and makes us wonder why Thor does not move on for someone more interesting like Sif or even Darcy.
The positives far outweigh the negatives when it comes to this film. When it came to Thor, my personal problem with the film was that the action scenes and some of the graphics were a little poorly done and weak. It seems the studios heard me because the battle sequences were excellent and incredibly entertaining. Whether it is a single combat between the hero and villain, or a giant battle sequence with tons of characters, this film delivers pulse pounding action from beginning to end and does it well. There is plenty of action and all of it is good and fun to watch, especially the climactic battle, which is so visually and conceptually amazing. This was made possible by the costumes, sets, special effects and make-up, which were all top notch; they helped create beautiful and amazing settings for our eyes to take in. With the visuals being so beautiful to watch made jumping back and forth between Earth, Asgard, and a few other realms far more enjoyable.
In general, the performances from the actors were done well across the board, but what makes this film a success is the acting and interactions between Hemsworth and Hiddleston. Just as with Thor and The Avengers, the heart of what has made these films successful is the performances and scenes with these two actors/characters. Watching these two enemies have to work together, and for the audience to remember that they are actually two squabbling brothers, is a true joy to see unfold. Despite how their characters have evolved, these two are family and you cannot just throw that away no matter how many terrible things have happened between them. This aspect is once again done incredibly well, in most part because of Hemsworth and Hiddleston’s performances and chemistry. Their collaboration also provides many very moving and deeply resonating character moments that make the audience wanting more. Some of the story’s twists and turns, as well as the humour, is made perfect specifically because these two actors have owned their characters and know how to deliver the lines in such a way to maximize the desired response and emotion.
However, the true gem of this film, it should come as no surprise, is Tom Hiddleston’s Loki. Thor: The Dark World gives us what we all really want, more Loki. The best thing the film did was adding more scenes with him in them, and giving him deeper levels for his character to go. Since I could write an entire column on this subject, I will merely state that Hiddleston does it again and is by far the best part of the film. All of his scenes and interactions with his fellow cast mates is a genuine joy. His performance and psychology grows as he grows with his character and makes us all wish for a film entirely on him. He makes everything and everyone better while adding more to his growing mythos of being one of the best villains of all time.
Overall, this film has ramped up Marvel’s Phase Two and is an enjoyable ride for all ages. While it is true the writing caused the film to sway clear of its true potential, which is a genuine disappointment given its very talented cast, Thor: The Dark World gives us enough of everything so as to make anyone have fun while watching it.