“Thor: The Dark World” surpasses its predecessor in terms of action-packed grandiosity, brief moments of comedy, and intriguing character arcs, and stars Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston never stop at being their best.
Eons ago, Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) and his Dark Elves attempted to plunge the universe into eternal darkness by using the Aether, an ancient force capable of unimaginable destruction.
Before the plan could be put into action, however, the Asgardians defeated them and hid the Aether away within a stone column. Realizing the battle had already been lost, Malekith fled and decided to bide his time.In the present day, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) finds himself reunited with human astrophysicist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), who has now been infected with the Aether.
As if restoring balance to the Nine Reams couldn’t get any tougher for Thor, now he’s got to contend with a powerful force inside his girlfriend and Malekith, who will stop at nothing to reclaim what’s his.
But in order to defeat this enemy, Thor will have to turn to the one person unworthy of his trust: his adoptive brother and nemesis, Loki (Tom Hiddleston).
The second “Thor” improves on the first one in many ways: the action is grander, the humor has gotten better, and the character moments are deeper. It’s all thanks to Alan Taylor, of course; his direction not only continues what Kenneth Branagh had accomplished, but also takes the Norse superhero on a darker adventure of cosmic proportions.
I got to say, Taylor really outdid himself in terms of upping the intensity of the set pieces, and the fact that he jumps right into the action by opening the film with a fierce village battle in Vanaheim shows just how capable he is at creating high-stakes excitement. He follows this up with a spectacular invasion of Asgard, along with a brutal skirmish on the desolate black landscapes of Svartalfheim afterward.
By the time the final confrontation in London reaches its end, audiences will be both pleased that Taylor got better with each action sequence and satisfied that he finished the story on a high note. Also, fans will be happy to hear that Thor gets more opportunities to exercise his godly powers this time around, and does so with righteous fury.
All those little bits and pieces of humor that pervaded the first “Thor” are back as well, only with better timing. Kat Dennings, who is more than just comic relief now, has the best funny lines and gets to participate more in the plot, especially towards the end. Stellan Skarsgård spends much of his time trying to deal with his psychological issues, which yields hilarious results.
And the best thing about the comedic element is that those amusing moments never appear at the wrong place at the wrong time; they emerge when they’re needed at precise points. It’s good to know that Marvel is as proficient as ever when it comes to imbuing the intense proceedings with a lighthearted approach.
Most important of all, Taylor understands that as the action and humor escalate, the character moments deepen; there are several emotional scenes that help to give the key characters purpose to do what they must do. Oh, I almost forgot — since this is a darker entry in the series, Thor bleeds often during his fights and Loki vents his agony when nobody nearby expects him to, both of which offset their seemingly indestructible natures.
Speaking of whom, Chris Hemsworth’s heart and might become stronger whenever he picks up Thor’s hammer, and Tom Hiddleston relishes taking Loki in a new direction that actually doesn’t end up becoming repetitive.
Natalie Portman gets more to do as the brainy and affectionate Jane Foster, and she clearly makes the most of her greater involvement in the plot. As Odin, Anthony Hopkins handles his position as king and father to Thor rather well. Christopher Eccleston is convincingly devilish as Malekith, conveying his dark agenda through his eerie blue eyes and Shakespearean voice.
For those of you who enjoyed the first “Thor,” the second one will satisfy your expectations, and possibly even trump what the previous installment had achieved.
MPAA rating: PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, and some suggestive content.
Running time: 1 hour and 52 minutes
Playing: In general release