Review - Thor: The Dark World

Thor: The Dark World (2014), PG-13, 120 minutes - I've stated at differing times in the past that both Thor (2011) and Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) were my favorite films from Marvel's 'Phase One' of their cinematic universe.  Apparently it depends on what day it is as to which is my favorite (sue me).  I may be a little wishy washy on that, but there's no floundering in this statement: Thor: The Dark World has been the film that I've enjoyed the most in 2013 to this point.

The Dark World picks up after the events of both Thor and last year's billion dollar smash The Avengers.  Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is fighting battles across the Nine Realms to bring about peace in the wake of Loki's (Tom Hiddleston) attempts to overtake Earth (Midgard) in The Avengers.  Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) continues her research on Earth in efforts to find Thor.  After all, he had promised to return for her, but it has been two years and she's only seen his involvement in battling Loki's Chitauri invasion on the news.  Her research unveils a similar anomaly to the one that originally brought Thor to Earth.  What she doesn't know is that it is a result of The Convergence, an alignment of the Nine Realms in which the boundaries between realms blur and people and things are able to shift between realms in the blink of an eye.  It is her discovery of The Convergence and her contact with The Aether - an ancient power from the darkness that was before our universe was created - that awakens a dark elf known as Malekith the Accursed (Christopher Eccleston) and his army.  Malekith had tried once before to wield the power of The Aether to bring darkness across the Nine Realms until he was defeated by Thor's grandfather Bor.  So Jane is looking for Thor, Thor is looking for Jane, and Malekith is looking for The Aether.  That's what sets up the action and the drama that unfolds in Thor: The Dark World.

The cast is excellent, taking the returning cast of Thor and adding a couple of new faces: primarily Eccleston's Malekith and his second in command Algrim played by Lost alum Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, both of whom portrayed worthy villains. The familial interactions between Thor, Loki, Odin, and Frigga are executed wonderfully by Hemsworth, Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins and Rene Russo, who gets a more integral role this time around.  Hemsworth and Portman have believable chemistry that continues to be interrupted by the comedic relief that is Darcy (Kat Dennings) and her intern Ian (Jonathan Howard).  Yes, the intern has an intern.  If you've seen the first Thor, this just fits Darcy's character perfectly.  Stellan Skarsgård (Erik Selvig), Idris Elba (Heimdall), Jaimie Alexander (Sif), Ray Stevenson (Volstagg), and Tadanobu Asano (Hogun) also reprise their roles entertainingly and Marvel newcomer Zachary Levi does a good job filling the shoes of Fandral.  

The visuals and effects are top notch.  If there was one complaint about Thor, it was that we didn't get to see enough of other realms like Asgard and Jotunheim.  This time around, not only does a substantial amount of the film play out 'off-world' but we see at least five of the Nine Realms (Earth - Midgard, Asgard, Svartalfheim - home of the Dark Elves, Jotunheim - home of the Frost Giants, and Vanaheim - Hogun's home realm).  Each has a distinct look and feel, which helps late in the film when The Convergence causes a battling Thor and Malekith to skip between realms.

The Dark World is an excellent sequel.  There are obviously ties to the original Thor and The Avengers, but one could see this film without being lost as to what is going on.  Character motivations would definitely be more clearly defined for those who have seen those prior films though.  Just like Thor before it, The Dark World is an excellent balance of sci-fi/fantasy, action, drama, and comedy with a touch of romance.  I personally can't wait for a third installment in this franchise.  I think the events that made up the end of this film leave the characters in very interesting places and I'm curious to see where things go from here.

Thor: The Dark World is absolutely worth checking out, especially if you've seen earlier entries to Marvel's Cinematic Universe.  If you do see it, be sure to stay through all of the end credits.  Much like The Avengers last summer, there are two post-ending scenes.  One is midway through the credits and the other is at the very end.












*****SPOILERS*****

- Malekith the Accursed was originally created for the comics by Walter Simonson during his legendary run on Thor.  If you are interested in learning more about him, I suggest reading his original story arc in #344-349 of Thor (1966).  You could also check out the current arc of Thor: God of Thunder (2013) written by Jason Aaron and illustrated by Ron Garney (it begins with issue #13).  That story is mid-arc so there are only a couple of issues to catch up on.

- I appreciated the film design of Malekith.  After Thor zapped him with a bolt of lightning, the scarred half of his face was reminiscent of his look in the comics (one half of his face darker than the other).  They also included the star design from his chest in the comics on his armor in the movie.

- I loved that the film opened with Odin narrating a scene from the past, just as the first film did.  The fact that it included Bor, Odin's father and Thor's Grandfather was an added bonus.

- When Erik was all disheveled and explaining his theory as to what was happening, I was waiting for it to be revealed that he wasn't actually talking to anyone.  The fact that he was babbling to others in the loony bin was wonderful, and then Stan Lee asking for his shoe back (in his obligatory Marvel film cameo) was even better.

- There is a great 'cameo' by Captain America as Loki shifts forms while talking to Thor.

- These films may be named after Hemsworth's Thor, but Hiddleston's Loki continues to be a driving force behind these Marvel films.  You shift from loving him to hating him and back almost every scene he appears in.

- The Dark World was directed by Alan Taylor, who took over the reigns from Kenneth Branagh who directed Thor (2011).

- The stone giant that Thor obliterates towards the beginning of the film reminded me an awful lot of Korg, a Kronan from the Planet Hulk story line written by Greg Pak in Incredible Hulk (2000) #92-105.  After a little research, I learned that the Kronan's appeared in Journey Into Mystery (1952) #83 which was Thor's first appearance in the comics.

- Also along the lines of Thor continuity, I appreciated the inclusion of one of Odin's ravens in the film.

- Josh Dallas played Fandral in Thor, but was unable to reprise his role in The Dark World because of scheduling conflicts due to his involvement in the television show Once Upon A Time.

- There have been rumors on the web that DC may be considering Jaimie Alexander for the role of Wonder Woman in an upcoming film.

- Funny man Chris O'Dowd has a small part as Richard, the unfortunate potential romantic interest for Natalie Portman's Jane Foster.

- The mid-credits scene teases next summer's Guardians of the Galaxy and gives us our first look at Benecio del Toro's The Collector.  It also gives us another glimpse of things to come by telling us that The Aether (along with The Tesseract before it) is one of the six Infinity Stones.  When all six are collected they comprise the Infinity Guantlet, an artifact of immeasurable power, and is always being pursued by Thanos (yep, that guy in the mid-credits scene of The Avengers).

- I actually missed the final end-credits scene.  I'm hoping to see The Dark World in theaters a second time so that I can see it.  I'll update this post at that time. ***UPDATED***  I've now seen The Dark World twice and stayed through to the very, very end.  The final scenes were a little bit more relevant than the Shwarma scene at the end of The Avengers.  We got to see Thor return to Earth for Jane and then a follow up to the frost monster from Jotunheim that found its way to Earth during the Thor/Malekith battle between realms.  They certainly are not necessary to stay for (especially since you have to sit through ALL of the credits to see them), but they do tie up a couple minor things.

Comments

  1. such a great movie. one of the movies i would go see again and enjoy it like seeing it for the first time

    ReplyDelete

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