Not exactly otherworldly sequel
“Thor: The Dark World suffers from a case of “sequel-itis,” unable to fully capture the fresh fun and strong narrative backstory of 2011’s original. That’s a difficult challenge for the second installment of any story, but “Dark World” has some elements to recommend it and one particular returning character steals (not surprisingly) the show.
The story is both more complex and, as the title implies, darker. Strapping actor Chris Hemsworth returns as the lead with long blond locks and powerful hammer in tow to bring order to the cosmos when the evil Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) threatens to blast the nine realms to pulverized dust –Asgard and Earth included. The “Aether” is the indestructible element that the Dark Elves seek, and it ends up in the hands (and the rest of the organs) of Thor’s earthly beloved, scientist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman). Wisely, the writers and director Alan Taylor bring back one of Marvel’s coolest, slimiest villains in Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Thor’s sibling and a constant pain in the demigod’s backside.
It is both a tribute to Hiddleston and a knock on “Dark World” that the film is at its best when Loki is onscreen. The villain is rarely by design the most interesting character, although Heath Ledger’s Oscar-winning Joker remains the gold standard.
Secondary characters Darcy (Kat Dennings), Jane’s sardonic assistant and veteran scientist Sr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard) make up most of the welcome comic relief. Only Portman’s character and her relationship with Thor are on narrative shaky ground, and there’s little chemistry between her and her hunky love interest. Perhaps that will be developed in the third film.
So while the visuals are stunning—but then again, so are the those in the “Transformer” films—and Hemsworth is perfectly credible as one of the Avengers, there is little that is new or exhilarating about this installment. The film makes up its own rules as to who can die and how, but a plot twist at the end still feels clever. (Speaking of the end, the credits contain not one but two extra scenes.)
“Thor: The Dark World” is a nice addition to the Marvel catalog. But since the release of “The Avengers,” the bar has been raised considerably and even demigods will have to step it up in order to receive otherworldly praise.
Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence and some suggestive content.