The next phase of Marvel movies began in May with Iron Man 3, dealing with events after the Chitari invasion of New York. Now the next step towards The Avengers 2 has arrived in theaters in Thor: The Dark World. It brings the level of quality we’ve come to expect from these movies, with great action sequences, a healthy dose of humor, and a good cast that brings the comic book characters to life. It’s not perfect, and the couple of twists it has you’ll probably see coming, but it is a rousing good time at the theater.
The movie opens with an explanation about the universe prior to the Nine Realms, when it was shrouded in darkness and ruled over by a race of Dark Elves. The leader of these Elves is Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) who seeks to control a power weapon called the Aether, which converts matter into dark energy. Malekith is defeated by Odin’s father Bor (an uncredited Tony Curran) in battle, and both Malekith and the Aether are locked away with the hopes of keeping the universe safe. As we come into the present, we see Thor (Chris Hemsworth) in battle along with Sif (Jaimie Alexander), Fandral (Zachary Levi), Volstagg (Ray Stevenson), and Hogun (Tadanobu Asano), trying to keep the peace throughout the various realms. The battle ends rather humorously with Thor taking down a very large rock monster, causing the creature’s allies to quickly lay down their arms.
Back on Earth, scientist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), her intern Darcy (Kat Dennings), and Darcy’s intern Ian (Jonathan Howard) are in London, where they found a gravitational anomaly. Jane gets sucked in and infected by the Aether, which in turn awakens Malekith and the Dark Elves. Thor arrives and takes Jane back to Asgard, where she is examined, much to the displeasure of Odin (Anthony Hopkins). Odin tells Thor to return her to Earth, which Thor refuses to do, as he knows that without his help Jane could die. Jane meets Thor’s mother Frigga (Rene Russo) as well as Heimdall (Idris Elba). Asgard comes under attack by the Dark Elves, who are repulsed after a fierce battle. In desperation, Thor turns to his imprisoned brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) for help. Sif, Fandral, and Volstagg aid the trio in leaving Asgard, which has been ordered locked down by Odin. They travel to a Dark World in order to lure Malekith there, where Thor believes he can destroy the Aether once and for all. Things, of course, don’t prove to be quite that easy.
The movie proceeds along at a nice pace under the direction of Alan Taylor (Game of Thrones), who proves quite adept at staging thrilling battle scenes, both on the ground and in the skies above Asgard. The special effects are very well done, and the score by Brian Tyler (Iron Man 3, Eagle Eye) highlights the film terrifically. The cast are good in their respective roles, with Hiddleston and Dennings providing much of the humor, along with Stellan Skarsgard’s character of Dr. Erik Selvig. While Hemsworth is great as Thor and Portman is good as Jane Foster, the pair have no real chemistry, leaving the romance between them feeling flat. That romance is an integral part of the plot, and it does hold the movie back from being better than it is. As always, Stan Lee pops up in his obligatory cameo in an amusing sequence where Selvig is explaining the coming convergence of the nine realms to an audience, which turn out to be patients in a psychiatric ward (Selvig is there because he was arrested running around naked at Stonehenge). And of course we have the post credits scenes, which I won’t spoil here, save to say the first one advances the plot of the overall series, while the second is just slightly amusing and not completely necessary to sit until the end of the credits has run.
All in all, Thor: The Dark World is a highly entertaining movie with some great action and humor, and is a solid entry into Marvel’s ongoing movie universe. It’s held back a bit by the lackluster romance between Thor and Jane, but that doesn’t detract from the enjoyment of the movie too much. Fans will definitely want to see this, and it will be interesting to see how Marvel and Disney are going to tie things in with their television series Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D (an episode which follows the events of the film airs Tuesday, November 19). Well worth a trip to the theater.
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