At this point in time, the only individual franchise in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that has had a direct sequel is Iron Man. More are on the way obviously, but it just hasn’t been tested with the other characters. With that, Marvel has brought us Thor: The Dark World, a continuation and expansion on the Norse god superhero and while it certainly has great moments, it’s boring first acts almost ruin it.
Thor: The Dark World sets itself up in nearly an identical way to the first Thor film: “Here’s a brief history lesson in Norse mythology, here’s a world full of bad guys, here’s the main bad guy who has a powerful weapon that he’s using to transform other worlds, here is how we beat them the first time, one day they might return.” It’s very nearly beat for beat the same prologue as the first. From there the film moves on to a giant battle taking place in one of the nine realms, and there’s no clear way to tell who the good guys or the bad guys are, and this problem persists throughout. The editing and pacing of the battles sequences are so frenetic and sloppy that it’s hard to even watch, especially in the abysmal 3-D.
The film then begins to jump from Asgard back to Earth where Natalie Portman and Kat Denning’s characters offer the best scenes in the opening act, which seems unbelievable given the glamor of Asgard. What the opening of this film really magnifies is how boring a character Thor can be when he’s not surrounded by other interesting characters to play off of. I’m willing to consider this a scripting problem since the character is very compelling in his solo comics but the brooding, war weary Thor we see at the start of this film is down right dull.
After watching the film, I figured out what the problem is for Thor: The Dark World‘s opening acts – it’s trying to do too much. Introducing not only a new villain, but a new race, several new worlds, the emotional placement of several characters from the previous films, Loki’s imprisonment, and several key battle sequences, it’s exhausting. Not to mention the whole thing is loaded to the brim with special effects that make one think they’re watching Star Wars instead of Thor. There is, however, a point in the film where it turns and the scope of the movie shrinks to a select band of characters and that’s when it gets interesting and really starts to connect as a story.
While the film’s first 40 minutes are dull, forgettable and boring, the last hour is when it finds its own identity as a film and embraces it. The final hour feels like a comic come to life as the characters make hilarious jokes, tug at our heart strings, and actual move the story in a place that doesn’t feel like it’s trying to emulate another franchise. Some of the best work with the character is done in the final act of this movie and it’s got some of the best surprises out of any of the Marvel films, easily.
Hemsworth might be the one front and center on the posters, but this film once again is stolen by the supporting characters, namely Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, Kat Denning’s Darcy, and Stellan Skarsgård’s Dr. Erik Selvig. These three provide some of the best moments, and easily the most memorable performances, out of the entire group. The only weak link in the cast is Christopher Eccleston as Malekith, and it’s not in his execution, it’s what he’s given to work with. Malekith is nothing more than a Bond villain with pointy ears, little actual motivation is presented from his character other than the broad “revenge.” We’re expected to believe that he’s just simply evil and that’s that, and this cartoon caricature of a villain isn’t something I can accept after the other Marvel films. Eccleston plays the character fine, and even appears quite menacing, but the character itself is where the problem lies. Other characters, such as Ray Stevenson’s Volstagg and Jaimie Alexander’s Sif, are simply not in the film enough either. In the few sequences they have, they clearly can hold their own on screen but are just not given the proper time to really resonate with the audience, which is unfortunate.
Though its beginnings are equal parts boring and forgettable, Thor: The Dark World shapes up in the middle to deliver a funny, engaging, and entertaining sequel for the god of thunder. While other Marvel films are remembered for their spectacle and effects-driven action scenes, audiences will remember Thor for its character-driven story, hilarious jokes, and wonderful surprises.
Rating: 7 / 10