Thor: The Dark World is visually epic and full of battles and world saving shenanigans, but the Asgardian demi-God’s second solo outing lacks the heart and punch of its predecessor. Simply put, you may walk out of this with a smile on your face, but you’re likely to forget why by the time you get to the car.
Occurring mostly on Asgard, the film begins with Odin (Anthony Hopkins) regaling us with a tale of a long ago war where his father had seized a dark magic known as the Aether from the clutches of Malekith (former Doctor Who star Christopher Eccleston), the leader of the Dark Elves. Malekith wants to use the Aether to turn the world dark, wiping out the universe, but when it is moved out of his grasp, he flees to outer space until it can be re-found.
Enter Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), brilliant scientist and Thor’s lady-love. It’s been two years the Rainbow bridge broke apart (nice job on the re-build), keeping Thor and Jane apart and she is trying to turn love off and turn it back on again with a clean-cut Chris O’Dowd. Unfortunately, Foster’s work gets in the way as Kat Dennings’ Darcy crashes her date, leading her to a lot that doubles as a portal to another realm. It’s there that Jane finds the Aether, which takes ahold of her.
Meanwhile, on Asgard, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) has been put in Khan Noonien Singh’s glass jail cell while Thor (Chris Hemsworth) brings order back to the nine realms by kicking ass and taking names alongside Siff (Jaimie Alexander).
There is the whiff of a romantic triangle brewing between Thor, Siff, and Jane, but when Heimdall (Theoretical Batman, Doctor Who, and James Bond star Idris Elba) loses sight of Jane, Thor zips back to earth for a hasty reunion, scooping her up and bringing her back to Asgard once it is revealed that something is amiss within her.
At this point, Jane becomes the proverbial football, bringing Malekith and his lot to Asgard in the most in-polite and invadey of ways. Havoc ensues and a deep loss is felt by Thor, who is forced to trust Loki once again.
Sat on the bench for the first act, Hiddleston rises to the occasion once things get hairy, bringing life and zip to a script that feels dull and lifeless at times. Hiddleston and Hemsworth have fantastic chemistry and as they bicker, forming an uneasy alliance, the movie hits its highest notes. Sadly, this is a brief triumph as the final showdown between Thor and Malekith takes center stage, moving the action back to earth for the predictable finale.
There’s a lot of wow on the screen in the final segment (and throughout, really), but as I said before, there’s not that much heart. I don’t really care about Thor’s latest act of defiance against his father or his now stagnant transformation into a hero. Really, there is no journey to observe as he is mostly topped out and fully formed by the time the film starts thanks to the events of Thor and The Avengers, teaming with the paint by numbers story to give this a bit of a been there, done that feel.
The lone moment of freshness comes at the very end, which teases either Guardians of the Galaxy or Thor 3, but this movie (and all of these movies) needs to be more than just a two hour teaser for what’s next.
See the film, feast on the spectacle and enjoy yourself, but afterward, contrast Thor’s non-growth and the ho-hum plot with Tony Stark’s maturation in the somewhat bold Iron Man 3. Look at Thor 2 and then take a leap of faith that the Captain America: The Winter Soldier trailer accurately paints a picture of what that film will be — a taut political thriller that looks like it will pose interesting questions about Captain America’s faith in America and in his mission — and then wonder with me why Marvel is afraid to really take Thor out of his comfort zone and out of this world?