I went to see Thor: The Dark World yesterday–
When I saw the first Thor film in 2011, my reaction was basically “meh”. It had some good moments, and I will watch just about anything Natalie Portman is in, but the first film, directed by Kenneth Branagh, had such a small-scale, TV-movie feel to it that I felt it fell short of its potential.
That’s not a problem with Thor:The Dark World.
There is a prologue about the ancient battle between the dark elves, who want to (what else?) return the universe to darkness, and the Asgardians, who want to keep the light (and all the lovely beer and pretzels that go with it). My daughter leaned over to me during this and whispered, “Lord of the Rings”, and this sequence indeed has that feel. The Asgardians defeat the dark elves, but the victory is, of course, less than complete– the dark elf leader, Malekith (Christopher Eccleston, unrecognizable in costume), escapes to fight another day. The Asgardians hide away the energy (the “Aether”) that powered the dark elf bid for darkness, and all of this sets up the present-day action.
This film, as a whole, has a much more satisfyingly epic feel to it, as the story plays out across several worlds, including Svartalfheim, the home of the dark elves, which is devastated after their initial defeat by the Asgardians. The action is not insipid, there are several nice twists and turns, and once again Tom Hiddleston surpasses himself as Loki. Tricky as Loki is, there are some moments when you get the sense that there is more going on beneath the surface, and with Hiddleston’s character you’re never quite sure what’s a con and what’s for real.
Natalie Portman does a fine job as Jane Foster, as does Chris Hemsworth as Thor. Kat Dennings is once again good as the comic-relief Darcy, but there are nice bits of humor spread fairly evenly around most of the cast. The film, while epic, doesn’t take itself completely serious, but the humor fits and isn’t jarringly out-of-place.
The film falls short of perfection– there are two post-credit stingers that were disappointing; one that I found just confusing (my ignorance has since been relieved, but I am not going to the spoil it here) and a second that seemed too pat. More importantly, there is a late movie reveal that I did not like, as in, “They’re not going there, are they? Oh God, they’re going there.” To me, this reveal undercut the story to a certain extent.
On the whole, though, the film kept me engaged and interested. Aside from the one reveal, I didn’t really have any moments where I started to critique the movie while it was still running (generally a very bad sign). More than that, I know I’m involved when elements of the film start to spark inspirational resonances for my own writing– watching the sequences on Svartalfheim, I found myself thinking “Parts of Princess of Stars will look like this”.
On the whole, four out of five hammers.