‘Thor: The Dark World’ an action-heavy blockbuster
With apocalyptic endgames and rigid beliefs of grandeur clashing up against the ever-so-fluid dynamics of morality and mortality, “Thor: The Dark World” swings at you — with the force of Mjölnir — with some heavy themes, decisions and outcomes.
But no matter how mightily director Alan Taylor (“The Emperor’s New Clothes”) works to that effect, “Thor” fails to comes across as anything other than a late-summer-blockbuster extravaganza, alien-caused apocalypses included.
Now don’t take that too seriously. “Thor: The Dark World,” while probably not the finest Marvel film to hit the big screen, is a solid sequel with enough action, clever moments and hilarious one-offs to satisfy any fanboy. It mostly manages to stitch together the same effective plot, character and action sequences that made its predecessor, “Thor,” a summer smash. (No hammer pun intended.)
Taking place shortly after the events depicted in “The Avengers,” “T:DW” gives us a quick tutorial on who/what will be the antagonist of our story: Eons ago, Bor, father of Odin (Anthony Hopkins), fought against the Dark Elf Malekith (Christopher Eccleston), who wanted to return the universe to darkness using a weapon known as the Aether. Well, that didn’t happen, because the Asgardian forces put an end to that plans. Or so they thought…
Skip forward a few millennia, we return to modern-day London with Dr. Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), Darcy (Kat Dennings), Erik (Stellan Skarsgård) and Ian (Jonathan Howard) running around doing all that extreme science. (Or running around naked at Stonehenge, in one case.)
Because we need a plot starter, Jane, tracking down gravitational anomalies Darcy found, finds herself transported to a dark, dreary place. (No, we’re not still talking about London.) She’s the first to be reintroduced to the floaty, ethereal Aether. It doesn’t take long for things to get out of hand from here.
With aliens runnings around wanting to douse the universe of its light (though why isn’t really ever explained), Thor (Chris Hemsworth) quickly moves to intervene, both protecting love interest Jane and the rest of the Nine Realms about to be destroyed by a resurgent Malekith. The goal is clear: Save Earth, the rest of the realms and Jane while letting that mane of golden hair flow and gravelly voice bellow roars. Oh, and maybe introduce the human girlfriend to the god-like parents. All in a day’s work, right?
Look, this is isn’t Oscar-worthy stuff here. Sometimes you have to wonder if the production and costume crews got more money than the writers, because it really shows. From some wacky costumes and contact-lens choices to plenty of collapsable sets, “T:DW” really could have a used of a good dose of self-realization. There’s a serious lack of actually, of knowing this is still a superhero movie and that a few winks to the audience would have gone a long way. (Speaking of, stay during and after the credits. You’ll be rewarded for your patience.)
Some moments, though, will have you snickering. Whether it’s Thor using a coatrack as his hammer’s resting place or trying to understand the London subway system, it’s the small moments that shine. Director Taylor, having helmed several episodes of “Game of Thrones,” can do the small things. It’s when he tries to recreate an “Iron Man” worth amount of destruction and chaos. Throw in some intergalactic mayhem, and it’s an easy recipe to have blow up in your face.
Still, “Thor: The Dark World” isn’t a complete miss. If action and scheming (thanks to a movie-saving Tom Hiddleston as the trickster Loki) and magical hammers and the obligatory shirtless scene does it for you, you’re in for a fun time, just like you were in 2011. If you were expecting some great revelation or all those scientific terms to finally be properly explain, you’re in the wrong theater, friend.
Three universe-saving stars out of five.