Although weaker than previous franchise films such as the “The Avengers” or “Iron Man,” “Thor: The Dark World” is a serviceable entry to the Marvel universe of films, featuring campy humor and impressive visual effects.
The film begins with Loki (Tom Hiddleston), the manipulative brother of Thor (Chris Hemsworth), imprisoned in Asgard, Thor’s future kingdom. Loki is serving time for the destruction he caused in New York City during the climax of “The Avengers.” Hiddleston is strong here, as he makes Loki’s character multilayered and more relatable than in past films.
Contrary to Loki is the character of Malekith (Christopher Eccleston), the King of the Dark Elves. Having failed in the time of Thor's grandfather, Bor, Malekith is back again. There are problems with Malekith’s character. He is too one-dimensional and his motives are suicidal: Malekith wants to use the Aether, a large source of energy, to envelope the universe in complete darkness.
In a film with many issues, it is worth noting the worst flaw: its script. The screenplay avoids the elephant in the room – the Avengers team. Characters like Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and Dr. Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard), who were key players in “Thor,” pick up the plot where they left it from the first film, but they make no reference to events that took place in “The Avengers.”
As Malekith invades Asgard, the film delves into cliches. High-pitched choral vocals synchronize with bombastic music for a familiar effect. We've already seen this in other comic book adaptations such as “The Dark Knight Rises” or “Iron Man,” and at this point it makes the action dull.
Consider the invasion of Asgard by Malekith. Though a similar action scene was visually engaging in “Iron Man 3,” the invasion here falls flat as the antagonist destroys the hero’s house, crashing into towers and buildings. Malekith’s invasion is also under-performed and rather banal, adding insult to injury.
In terms of its mood, “Thor: The Dark World” changes from the majestic tone of “Thor” to a more galactic feel. There is a scene where a major character dies and the ashes are sent upward into the atmosphere, adding to the glowing dark sky. The CGI is effective here, painting a vast and beautiful backdrop of space.
The acting is respectable, though some of the best actors are heavily underused. As in “Thor,” Anthony Hopkins and Idris Elba, who have shown a wide range during their careers, have less screen time than other actors such as Kat Dennings, who plays Foster's intern, Darcy. Dennings is better this time around, both funnier and more amusing than in “Thor,” but the improvement still doesn’t merit the amount of screen time she receives. Chris Hemsworth, like Robert Downey Jr., is so good at playing his superhero role that it's hard to imagine anyone but him as the titular character.
The best performance is by Tom Hiddleston, who creates a more sympathetic Loki than has appeared in past films. Instead of the pessimistic attitude that Hiddleston gave Loki in “The Avengers” and “Thor,” here he brings a rawness to the character. We see Loki not as a backstabbing brother but as a supporter of Thor, one who regrets his crimes and respects his older brother with a sense of pride. Loki even asks Thor for his trust – not in a tricky manner, but in a desperate way.
The film also redeems itself by having a whimsical Loki, who spends most of the latter half throwing witticisms at Thor. Loki is released by Thor in exchange for much-needed help against Malekith and the Dark Elves. In one sequence, where Loki is walking alongside Thor, Loki physically transforms into many characters from the Marvel universe, including Captain America, switching with both shock and wit.
“Thor: The Dark World” is more generic than anything else. The story is predictable even if the plot is convoluted, feeding audience members heavy physics and comic book jargon. Foster, an astrophysicist, in explaining Earth's connection to Asgard, recalls scientific jargon that are foreign to the average viewer. We never receive a simplified version of that explanation and therefore are confused when the climax occurs. This is ridiculous, especially if the film is aimed at viewers who saw the easily understandable “Avengers.”
Still, the film is enjoyable and has several funny scenes. At the end, “Thor: The Dark World” has visual effects and entertaining characters that are enough to recommend it.