Thor is Back, Hardly Dark but Mostly Fun by Jesse Schaffer

Yep, for the first time, Kevin and I are both reviewing a certain movie. Yeah sure, it’s a little redundant, big whoop, wanna fight about it?

“Thor: The Dark World” marks the return of everyone’s favorite hammer-wielding Asgardian, and I think it’s safe to say that Thor is back in a big way in this film. Some time after the end of “The Avengers,” our title character is attempting to restore peace to the Nine Realms, while Jane Foster stumbles upon the Aether, an ancient evil that the Dark Elves used to try and control the universe a really, really long time ago. The God of Thunder becomes concerned and takes Jane to Asgard, where she sticks out like a sore thumb, punches Loki in the face and puts everyone in grave danger, forcing the estranged brothers to work together to save their home. Quite thrilling, right?

For the most part, The Dark World is yet another fun if slightly underwhelming time at the movie theater, one that expands on the already massive Marvel Universe and gives people more of what they want, including Thor smashing everything that moves and Loki being a delightfully devious thorn in everyone’s side. Both Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston were once again entertaining in their roles and having been through two movies with them already, its not surprising that they are by far the most appealing characters that are presented. We just have a hell of a lot more invested in those two than anyone else. Natalie Portman seems pleased to be back for a second go-round, if only because she gets to spend more time with the dashing Hemsworth, and the other supporting players are back to counsel Thor and look sad, especially Anthony Hopkins, Renee Russo and Idris Elba as Thor’s family and most trusted confidantes.

And I’ll give credit where credit is due; the action in this movie was pretty damn impressive and it reaffirmed my belief that Marvel Studios will never fail to stimulate my senses. It’s not just Thor and Loki throwing down either, as nearly every character gets a chance to duel with the Dark Elves or engage in some really intense aerial combat. When it comes down to it, the real reason we pay ridiculous prices to see these films is because we want to be entertained and have an escape for two hours, and The Dark World certainly delivers as far as that’s concerned. However, it never really becomes much more than another cliche action film, and that’s in large part due to the storytelling and character development, or lack thereof. Oh, and because Kat Dennings is annoying as all hell. Thank god I was buzzed when I saw this.

One concern I have with these movies going forward is the dearth of memorable villains. The big screen has become so over saturated with comic book adaptations that I think we’re sick and tired of antagonists who aren’t motivated by anything except their evil nature. Malekith, the leader of the Dark Elves, comes off pretty cheesy at times and I didn’t find him to be at all compelling, nor did I care about his goal to bring darkness back into the universe. I knew he was going to fail, that Thor would ride off into the sunset with Jane and that everything would be okay by the end. I’m not familiar enough with Thor’s rogues gallery to speculate on whether there was a more worthy adversary that was passed over for Malekith, but I do know that the dark elf didn’t do anything to help Thor evolve as a character. He still loves Jane, he still feels obligated to protect the Earth and he still doesn’t want to be King of Asgard. In other words, he’s in the exact same spot as he was at the end of the first Thor, and I’m positive that he would’ve been better served by a villain who could push him and force him to make some difficult decisions.

To be fair, Marvel Studios is in a tough spot because they don’t have access to certain iconic villains like Magneto, Dr. Doom, Galactus or the Sinister Six, all of whom would be great choices to oppose our heroes in the future. On top of that, Marvel has already utilized Red Skull and the Mandarin, the respective arch-nemesis’ of Captain America and Iron Man, and based on how they went out I doubt we’ll be seeing more of them in the future. When you can’t give your movie credibility by adding popular characters who will attract audiences based on name recognition alone, you don’t really have a choice but to dig a little deeper and count on lesser known bad guys to get the job done. In that case, you really have to deliver on the character’s backstory and motives to make them stand out, a la Loki in “The Avengers” or Doctor Octopus in “Spider-Man 2” (yep, sticking with the Marvel references here). That’s an area in which The Dark World failed and one in which Marvel will hopefully improve upon in the future.

If you enjoyed the first entry and thought that Thor was the best part about “The Avengers,” then in all likelihood you’re going to find a lot to love here. Others will walk away feeling indifferent and longing for a multifaceted comic book movie that contains more than just CGI and loud noises, and that’s okay too. I myself liked The Dark World just fine, thought it was an improvement from the first one, but it didn’t really offer anything that I haven’t seen before.

Jesse’s Rating: 7.7/10

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