It’s never easy being the sequel to a majorly successful blockbuster film, as expectations that may not have been there the first time around are certainly there now. And while many see Iron Man 2 as a misfire of sorts (all while still being a solid movie – just not the same caliber as the first film), Thor 2 has the fortune of having one of the most successful movies of all time coming between it and its predecessor. This allowed audiences to see Thor outside of his origin story and right smack dab in the middle of the most epic superhero film ever created. It also didn’t hurt that his mischievous brother Loki was the main villain in The Avengers, thus boosting the Thor franchise’s cred all the more.
What this allows Thor: The Dark World to do is jump right into things pretty much right where The Avengers left off. It’s not entirely clear just how close the events are in terms of time, but when the movie opens up, Loki is in chains and being escorted to see Odin, while Thor is off stopping the wars that erupted over the nine realms thanks to the destruction Loki caused at the end of the first film. So with Earth being one of those realms, it’s easy to think that Thor popped in during The Avengers to help stop Loki, all while still trying to bring peace back to the other realms as well. In terms of how long it’s been since the first film, that’s stated outright by Thor’s scorned love, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), who has waited two years for her blonde hunk in shining armor to return.
One of my favourite things about the Marvel Film Universe (MFU) is that each of their three tentpole character franchises has a very different feel from one another. Iron Man is technology based; Captain America deals with war, time and politics; Thor falls heavily into science fiction/fantasy. All three are action packed, and filled with entertaining characters, and yet after seven films in this MFU, there has never been a moment when it’s felt like we’ve been there and done that. That’s not to say it won’t ever happen, but since each character is only growing in popularity, and Marvel has a lot of brilliant minds working behind the scenes to keep things moving in the right direction, it’s not something that is likely to happen in the foreseeable future.
Thor is very sci-fi heavy this time around, with a fraction of the time spent on Earth compared to the first film. Even Jane Foster gets yanked up to Asgard after she’s infected with a weapon of pure evil called the Aether. How it happens is a bunch of planetary/realm alignment talk that would come off a lot more confusing here if I tried to explain it than it does when it’s explained in the film. Basically all you need to know is that thousands of years ago, an ancient race of Dark Elves once tried to blanket the Nine Realms in darkness using the Aether as a weapon, but they were stopped by the Asgardians. Now that the Aether has been triggered once again, the Dark Elves have returned to finish what they started.
The film is under two-hours in length, and for the most part it’s paced quite well. The first half of the film may be seen as slow to some at times; however, the final 45 minutes to an hour is packed with plenty of action, and oddly enough, even more laughs. And these aren’t just chuckle-worthy moments, no, these are witty remarks, or back and forth dialogue that will have you laughing out loud quite often – and if you’re not, loosen the chain mail and lighten up!
If there was a missed opportunity then it falls within the realm of the potential love triangle that’s hinted at between Thor, Jane Foster and the Goddess of War, Sif (Jaimie Alexander). Thor’s father Odin (Anthony Hopkins) wishes Thor would give up on his desire to be with a woman from Earth – whose life is “but a heartbeat” in terms of an Asguardian lifespan, as Loki so eloquently puts it – and focus on a more suitable relationship with Sif. But alas, Thor can’t let his feelings go, and a quick conversation between him and Sif makes that clear. She’s aware of it, and she’s not a fan that Jane stole his heart; however, it’s never delved into in any great detail. On one side of things, it’s not like the series needs that high school drama, but on the other side, if you’re going to bring it up, let’s have it pay off a bit more this time around.
The main villain, Malekith (Christopher Eccleston), is a worthy opponent for Thor, even if the Dark Elves aren’t overly threatening as a whole. Their ability to sneak by undetected by pretty much everyone in the Nine Realms is handy enough, and it allows them to get the jump on their Asgardian enemies like no other before them. The time span between when they were last sighted, and when this film takes place really helps things as well, as nobody truly knows much about them – aside from bedtime stories that Thor and Loki were read as children.
On the acting front, everyone from the first film is back once again, and it’s one of the things that makes the MFU so wonderful. Chris Hemsworth (Thor) and Tom Hiddleston (Loki) are both fantastic, and their chemistry is some of the best in the entire MFU. It’s actually a shame that Hiddleston won’t be taking part in The Avengers 2, as he’s just such a bonus to have in these films! That said, it just goes to show that Marvel would rather leave behind an incredible talent and fan favourite instead of rinsing and repeating the same formula again – so kudos there.
On the supporting front, Rene Russo returns as Frigga, Thor’s mother; Kat Denngins is back as Foster’s intern, Darcy (who now has her own intern, played by Jonathan Howard); Stellan Skarsgard is crazier than ever as Dr. Erik Selvig, thanks to his run in with Loki in The Avengers; and Idris Elba, Ray Stevenson, and Tadanobu Asano all return as Thor’s brothers-in-arms back on Asgard – with Zachary Levi joining the crew as well.
Director Alan Taylor helps bring this mythological world to life quite well. While he is accustomed to directing stories on the small screen, Taylor seems right at home with a blockbuster budget and a strong cast and crew. There was a point during filming when he said they were just stuck, and weren’t sure how to get from one point to another, and so Marvel flew in Joss Whedon for just a few hours, and Taylor says when Whedon arrived, he looked it over, came up with a solution and was gone just like that. After seeing the film, I’m incredibly curious what scene it was; however, it’s also great to see such comradery where often egos get in the way.
On the 3D front, it’s definitely not a must. While there was one scene in particular with the hammer flying at the screen that actually made me jump back as it came out of nowhere, overall it’s just 3D to be 3D. It’s not distracting, and it’s not bad on any level — it’s just not necessary if you’re looking to save a couple of bucks. That said, I would recommend both IMAX and UltraAVX when it comes to how to watch the film, and both of those will likely be in 3D, so in the end the choice is yours.
Thor: The Dark World is a highly entertaining sequel to both Thor and The Avengers. The scenes shared between Hemsworth and Hiddleston make multiple viewings a must, and the action and comedy that come between them make that task all the more easier. While there’s still plenty to come this year, Thor: The Dark World is Christmas come early for comic book fans!
Director: Alan Taylor Writers: Christopher Yost, Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely Notable Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins, Idris Elba, Kat Dennings, Rene Russo, Jaimie Alexander, Zachary Levi, Ray Stevenson, Tadanobu Asano, Stellan Skarsgard, Jonathan Howard, Christopher Eccleston
Brendan Campbell was here when Inside Pulse Movies began, and he’ll be here when it finishes - in 2012, when a cataclysmic event wipes out the servers, as well as everyone else on the planet other than John Cusack and those close to him. Brendan’s the #1 supporter of Keanu Reeves, a huge fan of popcorn flicks and a firm believer that sheer entertainment can take a film a long way. He currently resides in Canada, where, for reasons stated above, he’s attempting to get closer to John Cusack.