In what could be the biggest review series in the history of Obsessive Viewer, I’m committing myself to reviewing all the movies and shows in Marvel Studios’ Cinematic Universe. You can find an index of my MCU reviews here and check out The Obsessive Viewer Podcast here. Now, here’s my review of 2013’s Thor: The Dark World.
For Thor’s second solo outing, director Alan Taylor stepped into the director’s chair vacated by Kenneth Branagh. Known for his work directing episodes of Game of Thrones (and many other television shows), Taylor took Thor in a more Asgardian focused direction. Thor: The Dark World is an overall more enjoyable experience than Thor, however, it still falls victim to some of its predecessor’s shortcomings.
The Dark World picks up two years after the events of Thor with Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) still hoping to see the God of Thunder (Chris Hemsworth) again. When she finds an anomaly similar to the one from the first movie, she gets transported through a wormhole and exposed to the Aether. The Aether is a powerful weapon used by the Dark Elves to try to destroy the universe. Jane’s discovery awakens the Dark Elves’ leader Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) and soon Thor must stop the Dark Elves and save Jane.
Malekith is as one-dimensional as they come. The Dark Elves are introduced in a flashback and expository narration from Odin (Anthony Hopkins). They existed in the darkness before the universe came to be and want to plunge the universe back into that darkness. And now Malekith wants the Aether for that purpose. It’s a really flimsy premise and this movie completely wastes the talents of Christopher Eccleston. He is given Spock ears, some makeup and absolutely nothing to work with on a script-level. More than any Marvel Studios movie before it, Thor: The Dark World spotlights Marvel Studios’ ongoing villain problem.
With The Dark World, Malekith takes his place beside a long line of forgettable Marvel villains. Seriously, eight movies into this cinematic universe and I’m more often than not complaining about poorly developed villains. This is probably the most problematic thing about the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a whole and it bothers me to know that this won’t be the last time in this phase of my review series that I complain about this specific part of a Marvel movie.
The Dark World takes the relationship between Jane and Thor to Asgard in what would be solid growth for their storyline if their relationship wasn’t hindered by the original movie’s lack of development. Despite giving the love story more obstacles in this installment, particularly in the form of Lady Siff (Jaimie Alexander), I still could not buy into the relationship at all. Every scene of romantic dialogue felt like I was watching a college student using astronomy and philosophy buzzwords to hit on an impressionable high school senior visiting her friend at college for the weekend. The dialogue is trite and the way Jane (a scientist) swoons for Thor is a gross disservice to her character. Forget about lampooning Black Widow’s role in The Avengers, your Marvel misogyny is right here with Jane Foster.
Tom Hiddleston reprises his role as Loki and although he’s confined to an Asgardian prison, he soon finds himself brought into the plot to save the universe with Thor. The shaky alliance between the two is the highpoint of the movie and is almost its saving grace. Loki proves to be a thorn in his brother’s side throughout the movie but steps up when needed. This is the most enjoyable and well-rounded characterization of Loki yet.
Kat Dennings returns as Darcy to provide the comic relief on Earth. She’s Jane’s intern who now has her own intern because she’s just that special and unpredictable. Marvel’s market research must have shown that audiences enjoyed the comic relief Dennings provided in the first Thor movie because they ramped her up big time here. It’s not wholly terrible, however. After all, her character did work in the first movie and provided a nice vent for the action and origin story. But a lot of her humor in The Dark World either falls flat or comes at an awkwardly inopportune time. It reeks of either lazy screenwriting or poor improvisation.
The direction and choreography in the action sequences stand out much more than the original movie. Alan Taylor handled the large-scale battle scenes coherently and injected plenty of tension throughout the sequences. Hemsworth seems to have found a comfort zone in depicting Thor in action, which makes for a more enjoyable experience watching him swing Mjonir around to take down foes.
Thor: The Dark World downplays the Shakespeare tone established in the first movie in favor of a more traditional comic book adventure. At times it’s a relief given the memory of how much of a misfire the original was in that regard. Unfortunately more often than not, this entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is standard comic book movie fare with a villain that’s less engaging than any other in the MCU thus far. This movie is a step up from its predecessor, and a more enjoyable overall experience. But it’s a weak link in Marvel’s Phase Two.
Buy Digitally – These movies are worth owning but don’t necessarily need to take up space on your shelf or garner a trip to your favorite DVD/Blu-Ray shop.