The wonderful brilliance of “Thor” was (and is) that it was able to take the extreme leap from a fantastic, futuristic world of the gods to the very real-world middle of Roswell, New Mexico with brilliant wit and charm. It has all of the action and super you expect from a comic book story with the surprise, dramatic flare, and wordplay of a Shakespearean drama. And given that the endeavor was helmed by Sir Kenneth Branagh that was of little surprise to anyone.
Its sequel “Thor: The Dark World” takes the same plunge (this time with Alan Taylor in the director’s chair) and continues what “Thor” started beautifully.
“Thor: The Dark World” picks up where “The Avengers” left off. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) has returned to Asgard with his villainous adopted brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) in tow. Loki is sentenced to imprisonment (a light sentence given his crimes against humanity) and Thor settle back into the monotony of the day-to-day life of a demigod, pining for the forbidden (by his father Odin [Anthony Hopkins]) Jane Foster (Natalie Portman).
Of course, none of this can happen before we find out who our latest villain is. For this we journey back to the beginning of time, when the evil elf Malikith (Christopher Eccleston) attempted to harness the dark powers of the Aether—a weapon made of dark energy. To be honest, as long as Loki’s alive and well any other villain’s going to be playing second fiddle in this story, and the storytelling respects that.
Meanwhile, Jane, who is now in London, trying to be normal, and getting little help from her wonderfully bizarre intern Darcy (Kat Dennings). She of course fails desperately when she discovers a wormhole, gets sucked in and inadvertently absorbs the power of the Aether. Don’t you just hate it when that happens?
Jane’s trip through the wormhole briefly makes her invisible to Thor’s Jane surveillance (his friends call him Heimdall and he’s stoically portrayed by the wonderful Idris Elba) and Thor rushes off to Earth to save her. He finds her, realizes what’s happened and whisks her back to Asgard for help. Unfortunately for everyone, Jane’s absorption of the Aether has awoken the long sleeping Malikith.
Fortunately for us, this forces Thor to go to his brother for help, thus reuniting the relationship that keeps this franchise alive. Sorry Jane, you might be Thor’s true love, but Loki brings out the best in him. The wordplay and repartee between these two is brilliant and that alone makes this movie worth seeing. Not to mention that the chemistry between Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston is electric.
It’s not often that you’re able to introduce a beloved villain, and Marvel struck gold with Loki. Yes, he’s a sociopath, but he’s brilliant and very human (for a Frost Giant). As I mentioned before, he renders the other villain a bit superfluous, but it’s a smart call. Two villains could have easily bloated the plot and they managed to sidestep that potential pitfall.
The situations are extreme and in some ways ridiculous, but some wonderful dialogue and brilliant performances keep this movie grounded. My final thought is nothing new, but it bears repeating: This recent renaissance of comic book movies works because of the respect and seriousness with which the content is treated. “Thor: The Dark World” continues that tradition and I look forward to seeing where it goes next.