Marvel Studios has released their second film of "Phase 2", which I've been anticipating for quite some time. Despite many people not loving the original Thor film, I actually thought it was very enjoyable. I admit that there may not be as much action as I was hoping for, but it still managed to crack my top ten films for 2011. Having said that, my opinion of the last Marvel effort, Iron Man 3 continues to fall the longer I've thought about it. With a poster that looked so similar and (though many won't have noticed) the composer from that film working on Thor: The Dark World, I was a little bit nervous that we might get a film of a similar quality. Thankfully, it didn't take long for my worries to vanish once the movie started.
Before the universe began, the cosmos were covered in darkness. Now, thanks to a race of Dark Elves, led by Malekith, and utilizing an ancient force known as the Aether, the elves sought to plunge the nine realms into a second darkness. However, eons ago this plan was thwarted by the armies of Thor's grandfather, Bor, and the Aether was hidden on the Dark World where it remained until the events of this film. Thanks to gravitational disturbances in London, Jane Foster encounters the Aether and awakes Malekith from hybernation. Now, Thor must seek his fallen brother, Loki, to once again stop Malekith and destroy the Aether before trillions of souls are once again flung into darkness.
From that plot summary alone, it's pretty easy to see that the stakes have been raised in this sequel. Not only do the events in this film lend credence to the subtitle, The Dark World, but it's also one of the most well-balanced superhero films we've had in quite some time. There are genuine moments of comedy to lighten the mood after a terrifying attack or a tragic loss. The script is much more put together than the previous film, and the twists and turns that were such a problem for me in Iron Man 3 are done so much better here. Hopefully nobody spoils the surprise for you on this film, as a few scenes will literally make you gasp.
As I'm a fan of movie music, I was a little concerned about the score for this film, as I thought that was one of the more clunky things about Iron Man 3; but I needn't have worried. Brian Tyler does a great job with this universe, which I feel he is much better suited for than the Iron Man series. Not only did the score improve, but the visual effects were far more impressive here than in the last Marvel film. Thor's powers have never been more fully realized and the use of real life locations really helps to sell the reality of a very fantastical universe.
The actors in this film are uniformly excellent, particularly Tom Hiddleston as the mischievous and enigmatic Loki. His nuanced take on the character makes us utterly loath him and somehow feel sympathy towards him in the same scene. Hiddleston takes the audience on a roller coaster ride with his terrific performance, and his interplay with Chris Hemsworth (who absolutely embodies Thor) is one of the best parts of this great film. Even bit players like Rene Russo (Frigga) and Anthony Hopkins (Odin) pepper the film with multi-layered line readings and subtle facial expressions. Some of the most enjoyable and scene-stealing characters are the earthlings, particularly Kat Dennings as Darcy whose comic timing is absolutely perfect in the few scenes she's in. The only thing I was a little disappointed about was that Christopher Eccleston's voice for Malekith wasn't the way it sounds in the trailers, but he still comes off as very very menacing regardless of this change.
By the way, PLEASE don't leave until after the very end credits! I can't tell you how many people left our theatre early (I mean, have they never been to a Marvel film before?!), but there are TWO after-credits scenes that you aren't going to want to miss.
I could go on and on about all the things I liked about this film, but I'll finish up by saying that Thor: The Dark World is an incredibly entertaining film with great tension, great action and great humor throughout. I've been a little surprised at the critical reaction to this movie, considering how much I and the others in my audience ate up every single scene. This is one of the strongest Marvel films to date, and it will definitely make my top ten list at the end of 2013. I give this a very strong three and a half stars.
THOR: THE DARK WORLD is rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, and some suggestive content