Relying heavily on elaborate visuals and fantastical feats, “Thor: The Dark World” differs inappreciably from other superhero movies that inhabit the Marvel universe. Luckily, the effects-laden imagery provides genuine awe as they parade an impressive variety of otherworldly sights through action sequences with thundering fervor. The plot devices aren’t nearly as crafty, again hinging on mysterious relics possessing immeasurable, undefined powers – and scientific jargon that creates literal plot holes through which the protagonists can easily escape predicaments of any magnitude. The inclusion of Dark Elves and ogreish juggernauts replicate the fantasy fun of “The Lord of the Rings” films while the overbearing comic relief fights to suppress any affiliated seriousness. Numerous unexplained phenomena aside, “Thor: The Dark World” is a more than satisfactory entry into the genre, routinely outpacing the entertainment and joviality found in “The Avengers.”
After saving Earth from Loki’s (Tom Hiddleston) army of Chitauri invaders, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) returns to Asgard where he prepares himself for his eventual ascension to the throne. Any chance at peace is quickly disrupted when an ancient race of Dark Elves returns to finish their centuries old scheme to plunge the nine realms into total darkness. Their initial onslaught leaves Odin’s (Anthony Hopkins) palace in ruins, with a grave tragedy faltering the king’s judgment. Forced to disobey his father’s orders, Thor heads to the desolate Dark World with human scientist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) in an attempt to outwit the Elf leader Malekith (Christopher Eccleston). Misjudging the strength of Malekith’s secret weapon, the Aether, Thor must partner with his traitorous brother Loki to save Jane and find a way to stop the annihilation of both their worlds.
Various new creations and pronounced contrivances replace the plentiful generic qualities of Thor’s first theatrical adaptation in this sequel that, thanks to “The Avengers,” is actually the third chapter to the Norse god’s filmic series. And yet, despite the humdrum nature of wicked elves, their complex legend origins and motives, and further details about Asgard’s 9-realm jurisdiction, this continuation is vastly more thrilling. Its entertainment value patently surpasses “Thor” and “The Avengers,” even when acknowledging the straightforward exchanges of New York for earthbound London battlefields, or Loki for a frowning troll who is driven to villainy for the sake of just being evil.
The story continues to contain set pieces that are of a purely action-oriented aspiration, with a prison break, an attack on the capitol, and a most ludicrous portal-jumping, realm-spanning showdown that can’t help but revel in its own silliness. Thor, too, frolics in his own invincibility, casually engaging in violent combat without a care for injury. As he throws around repartee with every other speaking part, it becomes abundantly clear that entirely too much comic relief works its way into the film. Thor, Jane, Loki, Sif, Fandral, Volstagg, and Odin all deliver one-line zingers, while assistant Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings), astrophysicist Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard), lunch date Richard (Chris O’Dowd) and intern Ian Boothby (Jonathan Howard) deliver nothing but humorous observations – their characters exist entirely for comedic interludes. Some of it is effective and most of it is overwhelming; even the romantic scenes are enclosed in comedy.
But the sense of adventure has improved, the weaponry, makeup, and costumes are more intricately inventive, and the set designs radiate wonderment. The Dark Elves have a certain appealing menace to their emotionless visages, greater tragedies and destruction help to balance out the facetiousness, and the expectedly swiftly manufactured disentanglements for impromptu imbroglios are easier to discount. “Thor: The Dark World” is a superhero movie done right, incorporating chaotic action, larger-than-life heroes, and unexplainably incorporeal antagonists, while poking fun at itself and delivering to fans exactly the kind of breezily-toned, vividly extravagant visual miscellany they desire.
– The Massie Twins (GoneWithTheTwins.com)