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Thor: The Dark World review

There may be some very minor spoilers below.

I'll open by simply stating that I'm not a huge Thor fan. I like the character, but I've never had any particular interest in him or his mythology. I've picked up a few issues of the Marvel NOW title, but aside from that, I've never read a Thor-centric comic. I found the first Thor film underwhelming. I thought that it was cheesy, had a weak plot, weak characterizations... I was generally just disinterested in the whole ordeal, with its high points being the handful of laughs it offered. So, for someone like me, a sequel really had nothing going for it. However, from the moment I saw the trailer, I found myself intrigued. As more information about The Dark World was released, I began to think that it might be an improvement over the first. I was not disappointed.

Story wise, The Dark World is nothing groundbreaking or revolutionary, though the plot was far more engaging than that of the first Thor, or any Iron Man movie that isn't the first one. Though the pacing is inconsistent all the way up to the end, everything is put together fairly well and there were no glaring plot holes that caught my attention. There were points where everything felt a bit too coincidental, too convenient to the plot, but considering the amount of content that was packed into these two hours, I suppose that's to be expected.

The movie focuses more on Asgard and the other Nine Realms this time around, with less emphasis on Midgard. So, considering that, I was surprised at how much focus the human characters were given. And that isn't necessarily a bad thing, either. It was interesting to see how Erik Selvig has been affected by Loki's control in The Avengers (though it raises the obvious question of why there were no long-term psychological effects on Hawkeye). Darcy was a focal point for the movie's humor, which, unlike Iron Man 3, felt controlled and never really got out of hand. There are a lot of genuine laughs in the movie, as opposed to the cringe-inducing absurdities permeating IM3 (I apologize for continuing to slam IM3 but... I really, really hate IM3). The weakest link in the human cast, unfortunately, was the lovely Jane Foster. Though her portrayal in the first portion of the movie was at least moderately interesting, she became little more than a prop in the film's second half and seemed to exist only to weigh down the action.

And speaking of action... the fight scenes, while fairly abundant throughout, were often shaky and hard to follow. It wasn't as bad as Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance in that regard, but at times, it came close. The final battle, while not on par with the Earth-shattering brawls in Man of Steel or The Avengers, was satisfying, and played out in a pretty unique way with the constant dimension hopping. This closing battle felt more focused than any of the fights before it, though I do feel that the film could have done a better job of showcasing Thor's power, as his combat showings were mostly confined to smashing things with his hammer (I only recall him making use of lightning once).

While the Midgard scenes gave us a fairly generic city brawl, I went back-and-forth on the rendering of Asgard throughout. While it was beautifully constructed, the landscape of Asgard sometimes felt... unimaginative. This problem is amplified in the Dark World, where, luckily, only a small portion of the movie is spent. The Dark World was one of the most boring landscapes I've ever seen, so devoid of any imagination that it completely lacked the sinister impact that it was intended to have. Miles and miles of gray sand, and a few big rocks here and there, were not what I hoped for in the land of the dark elves.

The elves looked sinister enough, though it was fairly annoying that this ancient, barbaric race frequently displayed technology leaps and bounds ahead of anything Asgard possessed. Seeing the Asgardians utilize technology such as force fields and molecular-energy transmitters, only to then charge into battle with swords and shields against enemies wielding laser firearms, was a bit hard to swallow. Malekith was a passable villain, but by no means a great one. I would have liked to see his motives expanded upon, because his actual goal was ill-defined and what little explanation was offered just felt like an excuse for having an elf do evil stuff. Overall, Malekith was a boring centerpiece to a decent conflict, and was frequently overshadowed by the other characters surrounding him. His lackey, Kurse, was portrayed well enough and it was fun to see him and Thor smack each other around for a while.

I would have liked to see more from the various Asgardians who make their appearance here. In particular, Lady Sif felt slighted, and I found myself wishing she had a bigger role. As always, Tom Hiddleson's portrayal of Loki was masterful, and he was definitely a high point of the film for me. The Comicvine reviewers here complained that Loki's role wasn't big enough, but after seeing the movie for myself, I don't really understand that claim. His role felt pretty large, and his contribution to the plot was significant. Unlike Thor, or any other character, really, Loki had a fair amount of development here and we saw some legitimate pathos from the character. His banter with Thor was a welcome addition, though it did feel a bit overplayed at times.

Hemsworth brings his usual charm and bravado to the character of Thor, though the script offers little development to his character. It was nice to see Thor show some intellect this time around, and actually put together a plan (albeit a rather crude, bull-headed one) rather than smash at everything.

The movie ties into the rest of the Cinematic universe fairly well, with well-placed references to SHIELD and the events in New York. The Captain America scene had everyone in my theater laughing.

All in all, Thor: The Dark World was a welcome addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It does more right than it does wrong, and the twist at the end has me genuinely enthusiastic for the future.

Thor: The Dark World gets an 8/10.

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