At another female fan’s behest I finally watched the first Thor outing (2011’s Thor) this past summer. I loved it. Instead of being disappointed that I missed out for so long, I was excited that the next movie was only a few months away. I’d already seen the Iron Man movies, Captain America, and The Avengers, but I was more excited about Thor: The Dark World than any follow-ups that may be coming for the others.
I ate up every photo release, clip, and trailer until a few weeks ago when I started to get wonder if maybe too much had been revealed. Would I leave the show feeling like I’d seen most of it already? The good news is Marvel is clever. Even in moments they’ve revealed, they’ve kept things from us. So much so that it was difficult for me to decide what to share in this review, which is why this will be spoiler-free with a spoiler-filled supplemental coming soon.
Thor: The Dark World opens with a prologue to explain the villain on this go around, the Dark Elf Malekith, and his incredibly-long-standing intent to plunge the universe into darkness using some floaty smokey-yet-liquidy stuff called the Aether. Meanwhile, Thor, Lady Sif, and the Warriors Three are finishing up the last battle in a long process of restoring peace to the Nine Realms after the destruction of the Bifröst. Thor’s brother (of sorts), Loki is being imprisoned for his attempt to take over Midgard (Earth) in The Avengers and on Earth, astrophysicist Jane Foster and her assistant Darcy are experiencing seemingly impossible things in a warehouse with some kids whom I expected to be revealed as trapped Dark Elves or something, but as it turns out, were just kids.
I had mixed feelings about the battle history prologue because: 1) We have no strong connections yet to any of the characters in it and don’t need to either. 2) There’s plenty of fighting in the movie already. 3) It mostly gets re-explained a bit later using a super slick book that Harry Potter probably used at some point.
Chances are it didn’t help that the whole beginning of the movie brought heavy-handed finagling of everyone into place, accompanied by my internal questioning of how several things were supposed to work or be believable. I’m familiar with suspension of disbelief, but some things were too convenient. You’ll be happy to hear though that I was totally on board with the floating truck.
Once Asgard was invaded my questioning quickly ended. Wrapped up in the roller coaster, it became a giant load of adventure and intrigue. It’s funny too — with way more humour than I would have expected but it’s welcome nonetheless.
And everyone in it is good. Chris Hemsworth’s troubled Thor is warm, likeable and admirable. He’s someone who you’d be proud to have on your side. Tom Hiddleston’s Loki continues to be complex, operating on a plane outside the rest of the characters with vulnerability and cunning buffered by fresh grievances. Christopher Eccleston’s Malekith really can’t compare but he’s a formidable foe whose mind is clearly set and has more in common with Odin than you’d initially think. Often in superhero movies I find myself wanting to shake the female lead, but Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster is intelligent, driven, and all-in. Kat Dennings does a terrific job of being the film’s consciousness while remaining entertaining. Rene Russo and Jamie Alexander have rather limited screen time as Frigga and Lady Sif respectively, but they make good use of that time leaving no doubt of who these women are and what they stand for. What’s more, while the scale of the adventure is huge, the relationships between the characters stay intact. We have brothers-at-odds, a disapproving father, a concerned mother, dedicated friends, awkward boyfriend/girlfriend situations, an academic mentor, and, of course, interns.
The visuals are pretty impressive as well. Director Alan Taylor has mentioned in interviews that he thought the first movie was too shiny. Well, this one is definitely grittier and I think it has a lot more trees. The Asgard of this movie isn’t so different from the former than it’s unrecognizable though. So it’s not too jarring. There’s a neat-looking force field being used in the dungeons that clearly someone involved in the production really liked based on how often we see it or the camera moves through it. We also get to see spaceships and flying Viking boats, laser cannons, singularity grenades, and swords. It’s something to wrap your mind around — ancient citizens of the universe using things that seem so high-tech and other things that don’t, but I guess that’s Star Wars too. Although it did strike me as strange that Asgardian guards’ shields tend to be completely useless against anything besides a blade and their enemies definitely use weapons besides a blade. And while I understand the logic behind it, Thor flying just looks weird.
Like I said, this movie is not without it’s questionable moments, but all in all it’s got enough substance where it counts to shush even my constantly questioning mind. And hey, science plays a big part in saving the day. That’s always a nice thing to see.
I’m ready to watch it again. There’s bound to be more to discover in the next round.
Public service message: Stay through the credits. It seemed like too many people in the theater I saw it in did not know they should. There are two bonus scenes. One will probably make you say “Huh?” but pushes the Marvel Phase Two plan forward. And the other will probably make you say “Aw.” and ties up some loose ends.
Kay grew up wanting to be an astronaut. After seeing Star Wars, she wanted to be Princess Leia, Han Solo, and an astronaut. Life’s taken her on a bit of a different path for now, but she’s still a Star Wars fangirl at heart who enjoys surprising people with how geeky she really is. Currently a photographer who also specializes in communications and marketing, Kay spends her free time reading, cooking, writing, learning and, of course, making pew pew noises. You can follow her on Twitter.
Kay reviews Star Wars books for FANgirl in addition to movies of several genres with a heart for storytelling and a mind that likes to analyze. She also writes about fandom reflections and fashion as well as co-hosts the Hyperspace Theories podcast. She has been known to make appearances on other podcasts including Fangirl Chat, Nerd Lunch, Disney Vault Talk's Rebel Yell, and Assembly of Geeks.
Currently a voice actor, photographer, and artist who also consults in communications and marketing, Kay spends the little bit of free time she has reading, writing, learning and, of course, making pew pew noises. She would pick up more jobs and hobbies if she was a Time Lord.
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