My main complaint with 2011's "Thor" was that the focus spastically jumped around, as if there were too many awkward puzzle pieces that were forced together. The stage had to be set, Thor's origin story had to be told, and the antagonist had to be introduced. The first movie tackled those necessary growing pains but didn't come out of it unscathed. Since the sequel, "Thor: The Dark World," doesn't have to deal with most of that baggage, it's much more cohesive and enjoyable.
Of course, what would a tale about immortal gods be without introducing an old enemy race? So that's where we begin.
Many millennia ago, Thor's grandfather, Bor, led an army that defeated the Dark Elves, who were trying to destroy the universe with a powerful weapon known as the Aether. Bor didn't know that the king Malakith (Christopher Eccleston) had managed to escape the battle with some of his Dark Elf troops. Bor traps the Aether in stone, and safety is assured in the universe.
Back in this millennium, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is busy fighting invaders with his band of merry
men persons to ensure peace. Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is in jail on Asgard for his antics in "The Avengers."
Meanwhile, astrophysicist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) is in London with her mentor Dr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard) and intern Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings) researching gravitational anomalies. Jane is pulled into a portal to another world, and the Aether decides to get cozy inside of her. The Convergence is about to occur, a phenomenon where the nine dimensions of the world are aligned. The Aether wants to infect all dimensions, so this is its chance.
In retelling it, I realize how silly the plot must sound, but it works really well in the context of the movie.
The film has a different director this time around, with Alan Taylor at the helm. While he's short on movie credentials, he's invested a lot of time in television projects, with "Game of Thrones" being the latest and greatest. You can see the influence of that series in the gorgeous, wide shots of Asgard.
In case you were wondering, Hemsworth's biceps are present and accounted for, and there's the requisite shirtless scene. You're welcome. There are more battle sequences than in the prior film, serving as a good indicator that he's gotten more comfortable in his role as Thor. The skirmishes hold your interest and appear quite visceral, so you'll often think, "Oh, that's got to hurt!" There are also more scenes with Thor zipping through the skies while wielding Mjolnir ("Mew Mew," as Darcy would call it).
Portman is more integral to the sequel and is given more to do this time around. More Portman is always a good thing. She exhibits grace and intelligence, but that's not really a stretch. She's also quite taken with Thor, but given Hemsworth's appearance, that's not a stretch for anyone, either.
It's Hiddleston who steals the show as Loki. He manages to be coy, evil, flippant, funny, and heartbroken, and he's got even more in store. There are more laughs in this film, and it's mostly due to Hiddleston and Skarsgard.
The 3-D in "The Dark World" is about the worst I've seen. The 3-D was added post-production, but other movies have managed to do some decent work in that realm. Most of the scenes look so flat that we could've taken off the 3-D glasses and not seen the difference. There were a couple of scenes that could've been really impressive 3-D vehicles, but sadly, they were just as flat as the 3-D in the rest of the movie. Don't waste your money on the 3-D "upgrade" because it's practically nonexistent.
Overall, I walked away from "Thor: The Dark World" quite pleased. There's more action, more Loki, and more humor, and the plot flows much better than in the first film. It's a good way to get your Marvel fix while waiting for the next Marvel movie. The 3-D is as good as absent, so check it out in 2-D and save yourself a few bucks.
"Thor: The Dark World" is rated PG-13 and has a running time of 1 hour and 52 minutes. It is showing in 2-D, 3-D and IMAX 3-D.
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