Thor: The Dark World (“TDW”) is the sequel to 2011’s Thor. It also takes place after the events in the Avengers. At the end of first movie, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) destroys the Bifrost in order to stop his adopted brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) from destroying Jotunheim, Loki’s true homeworld as he was born a Frost Giant. The destruction of the Bifrost cuts Asgard off from the rest of the nine realms and his love, mortal Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), on Earth. In the Avengers, Loki uses the Tesseract to open a wormhole over New York City so he can lead a Chatiuri invasion of Earth. As a result, Odin musters up magic to send Thor to Earth, who helps the Avengers stop Loki and brings his brother back to Asgard. TDW picks up from this point. Loki is imprisoned in a dungeon. Approximately two years after the first movie, the Bifrost is rebuilt. However, the realms fell into chaos and war when Asgard was cut off and could not police them. Consequently, Thor is leading the armies of Asgard through the realms to undo the damage caused by Loki. Of course, he has the help of his friends which include Sif (Jamie Alexander) and the Warriors Three: Volstagg (Ray Stevenson), Fandral (Zachary Levi) and Hogun (Tadanobu Asano). Chris Hemsworth stars again as Thor and does a very job playing an action hero. The character has really grown since he was a reckless, immature boy that chased battle for glory and to satisfy his own ego. After the Bifrost is reconstructed, he could have used it to go to Earth in order to chase and court Jane. Instead, he is performing his duty as the prince of Asgard to bring peace to the nine realms first. He has learned to put the good of the many ahead of his own wants. It is a sharp contrast from who he was at the beginning of the first movie. He is a strong, moral, and savvy character throughout TDW. Of course, Hemsworth is as fit as ever as Thor and continues to affirm the reasons women love him. Moreover, I like how Hemsworth is able to play Thor with a likeable, cockiness.
While Thor restores order to the nine realms, an ancient evil lurks. Odin narrates the beginning of the movie talking about the Dark Elves. These beings pre-date the existence of the current universe and the nine realms. Before the universe began, there was only darkness and the Dark Elves lived in it. They are led by Malekith. Every 5,000 years, an event known as the Convergence occurs when all nine realms are aligned and the portals between each realm are blurred. During the previous Convergence, Malekith and his elves attempted to destroy universe with the Aether, an indestructible and all powerful red substance that turns matter into dark matter. The Convergence allows the Aether to spread like a virus to each realm at the same time and destroy everything. However, Odin’s father, Bor, leads the armies of Asgard into Svartalfheim, the Dark World, and defeats Malekith and his elves. Although it is believed that all the elves died in the epic battle, Malektih and some of his elves escaped and remained in suspended animation waiting for another chance for revenge and another opportunity to destroy the universe. The biggest weakness in this film is that it does not develop the story about the Dark Elves or Malekith past this explanation. It gives you no insight into the motivations and origins of Malekith. It really feels like the Elves and Malektih are only in the movie so that Thor has bad guys to pummel with his hammer, Mjolnir.
In general, TDW is not a great movie. It barely develops the Dark Elves as villains, does not have a meaningful plot, and does not have a true climax. Nevertheless, it is a fun, entertaining comic book movie. It takes us deeper into the beautiful and majestic Asgard, has many lines and scenes that are hilarious, and includes visually spectacular battles. I also enjoy the chemistry between Chris Hemsworth and Natalie Portman as Jane and Thor. While the relationship between Jane and Thor was flirty and resulted in a passionate kiss at the climax of the first film, they never got to explore their love before Thor is forced to return to Asgard and gets stuck there after the destruction of the Bifrost. Accordingly, TDW does a good job portraying the progression of the relationship. It is cute but not too serious that it does not fit into the tone of a fun comic book movie. Another aspect of the film I like is that we learn more about mother Frigga (Rene Russo). While father Odin (Anthony Hopkins) was adequately featured in the first movie, Frigga was a minor character with few lines. TDW does not forget about mom and Rene Russo does a fine job portraying the character with her expanded role in the sequel. As shown in the trailers, the most anticipated part of TDW is Thor requesting the help of Loki. It does not disappoint as it is definitely the best part of the movie.
As noted above, the relationship between Jane and Thor is cute and fun. Ever since the end of the first film, they yearn for each other. While Jane tries to move on, it is difficult for her to forget Thor. In a comical scene when she is on a date with another man, she spends the entire time staring at a menu that only has three options. The man figures out that she is not over someone. He guesses that it is a long distance relationship and tries to relate by saying he was part of one that failed. Of course, he has never been in a relationship as long distance as Earth and Asgard. On the other hand, Thor performs his duty and fights for his father and the nine realms during the day but distances himself from his friends at night as he thinks about Jane. Every night, he visits the gatekeeper, Heimdall (Idris Elba), who has the ability to gaze upon any being in the nine realms. Accordingly, Heimdall uses his powers to help Thor keep tabs on Jane and tells him about her. Eventually, Jane investigates anomalies related to the Convergence as she hopes it will help her find Thor as the readings given off by the Convergence are very similar to the readings she observed from the use of the Bifrost in New Mexico. As her research leads to significant consequences for the plot of the film, Thor and she cross paths again. In a very funny scene when they reunite, she slaps Thor once to make sure he is real then slaps him a second time for waiting two years to contact her. Even though the Bifrost was destroyed, she saw him on television with the Avengers in New York. When he notes that he was busy restoring order in the nine realms and defending the Earth with the Avengers, she accepts his excuse by noting “It’s not terrible…” This exchange is the perfect example of their relationship in TDW. They have a lot of witty, comical, and flirtatious jabs at each other. There is great chemistry between Chris Hemsworth and Natalie Portman as Thor and Jane look and sound great together on screen. Thor is the honorable warrior prince while Jane is the clever scientist. Although they are opposites, they attract and have complete respect for each other’s strengths. Of course, Natalie Portman always looks beautiful. She does an excellent job portraying the intelligent and resourceful Jane Foster. As with the trend of a lot of Marvel female characters in recent movies, I like that she is an equal to Thor that helps him rather than being a helpless damsel in distress waiting to be rescued.
While Odin has respect, cares, and fights for mortals, he is not very supportive of Thor’s feelings for Jane. First, the Asgardians live much longer than human beings. As Jane’s life is fleeting compared to the Asgardians life spans, their relationship would only be a blip on the radar in Thor’s life. However, Odin is a father that wants to remind his son of duty and responsibility. As Thor is the heir to the throne, he will have to choose between Jane and ascending to the throne as marrying a mortal would be frowned upon for a king of Asgard. Consequently, Odin suggests Sif as a suitable companion for his son. Sif is definitely attracted to and interested in Thor. Both individuals are great warriors and would definitely physically look great together. However, they definitely do not have the chemistry that Jane and Thor have. I do appreciate that the film did not decide to force an awkward love triangle between Sif, Thor, and Jane. I thought Anthony Hopkins was brilliant as Odin in the first film. He was irrefutably wise and noble in every moment. In TDW, he handles situations with a lot less grace. He also makes more foolish and conceited decisions. As such, Odin is not as likeable as he was in the first film. On the other hand, the film does a great job featuring Odin’s wife, Frigga. As Thor’s mother, she is bound by unconditional love for her son and his happiness. As such, she is completely accepting of Jane. Moreover, she still loves Loki. While Odin is unforgiving in condemning Loki for his crimes, Frigga has a much gentler touch. I really like how the film shows the affection Thor and Loki have for their mother and how it is a unifying factor between them. In addition, she is a very strong individual as she is the rock for her husband. Do not allow her elegance and pleasant demeanor fool you. She can also be a fighter as she is crafty and good with a sword. She has the courage to stand up to anyone.
Of course, Loki returns in this movie. He is without remorse for his past actions. He explains his attempt to conquer Earth with the notion that “I was born to be king! It is my birthright”. Odin angrily responds “Your birthright was to die! If I hadn’t taken you in, you would not now be here to hate me.” While Loki fought for Odin’s affection in the first film, he has nothing but animosity for Odin in TDW. This lust for a crown is the reason why it is impossible to trust Loki. Nevertheless, the Dark Elves are a threat that even the Asgardians have difficulty stopping. In a spectacular battle scene, they attack Asgard with their cloaked ships and are even able to get past Heimdall without him able to see them until it is too late. I like this battle for various reasons. First, we get to see the defenses of Asgard which include sentries, ships, and a protective shield that surrounds the palace. Next, the battle within the palace is epic. As the Elves reveal themselves and attack, the Asgardians are completely shocked and bewildered that that the Elves still exist. Nevertheless, the treachery from the attack is so grave and alarming that Thor enlists the help of Loki. Of course, Thor and his friends cannot truly trust Loki and know it. In a comical series of dialogue with Loki, Thor, Sif, and Volstagg all individually threaten to kill him if he betrays them. When Jane sees Loki, she slaps him for the attack of New York during the Avengers. In response, he simply smiles and says he likes her. Loki is a master of illusions and deception. It is funny watching him act ridiculously in an attempt to get under Thor’s skin. He even shape shifts into one of the other Avengers for a moment to try to get Thor’s attention, which allows for a quick cameo of one of the main actors in the Avengers. Based on his past history and actions in this movie, he makes the movie very intriguing as it is unpredictable whether he will be good guy who will make the necessary sacrifices for the cause or whether he was never on board with Thor and will betray his brother as soon as he can. He has moments where displays honorable qualities and other moments where he appears treacherous again. However, he will keep you guessing on what his true intentions are. Even as an anti-hero and a side character, Loki is much more compelling than Malekith and his Dark Elves, who are supposed to be the main antagonists.
Other entertaining, supporting characters are Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings) and Dr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard. Darcy is Jane’s intern and she continues to be great for comic relief. While Selvig was a serious character in the first movie and the Avengers, he mainly in TDW for comic relief as he has gone a little crazy after he was mind controlled by Loki in the Avengers. The end of the movie has a battle with decent action scenes. While it is supposed to be the impending end of the world and the nine realms, the tone of the movie remains light and you definitely do not feel the doom and gloom that such a dire situation should entail. In the end, Thor: The Dark World is a fun and entertaining movie. However, it is not very thought provoking. Accordingly, I recommend it if you want to sit back, relax, and be entertained for two hours with a good comic book movie. If you are Marvel fan, you will definitely enjoy it. Make sure to stay through the credits. There is a mid-credits scene that foreshadows the plot for Avengers 3 and a final scene at the end of the credits for comical relief.