“Thor: The Dark World” is the eighth installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and it serves as a sequel to the 2011 film, “Thor”. In this follow-up, Thor has returned to Asgard after the events of “The Avengers” and after sending Loki to be imprisoned for his crimes, he gets involved in a scheme lead by Malekith the Dark Elf, a scheme which involves possessing a mystical substance called “The Aether” which will plunge Asgard and the rest of the Nine Realms into total darkness.
Changing directors is nothing new to the MCU and instead of “Thor” director Kenneth Branagh returning, we have newcomer Alan Taylor stepping in, which excited a lot of people at the time. Taylor was more recently known for directing some episodes of “Game of Thrones” and the Thor films are filled with potential to emulate that ancient, old-time feeling that’s captured in “Game of Thrones”. The potential was there, but “Thor: The Dark World” has ultimately gained a reputation as the MCU film that’s just kind of…there. It’s not offensively bad in anyway, but it’s not one of the highlights in the universe, and I’ll explain why I more or less agree with that sentiment.
The thing I like in this movie is the one thing that a lot of other people like and that would be the increased screen time for Asgard. Many people took issue with most of the first movie taking place on Earth, but I was fine with it. That said, I’ve always wanted to see more of what goes on in Asgard and that’s what we get in this movie. Whenever there’s any type of scene on Asgard in this movie, it feels epic in scale. It has a grand scope, one that’s realized by the clear vision that Alan Taylor had. We see more of the other realms as well and I think most people can be satisfied that we see more of Thor’s world instead of the same old Earth stuff that we’ve grown so use to.
Another big strength to this film is the relationship between Thor and Loki. They’re both in a position where they still care about each other deep down, but the contrast is interesting in that Thor genuinely does still love Loki, whereas Loki’s love is more placed towards their mother and his resentment is placed towards Thor and Odin since he still feels as if he’s not really part of their family. Loki still puts up his mischievous facade when he’s talking with his mother, but there are scenes in this movie when his mother clearly does bring out his more emotionally vulnerable side, the side that shows that in the entire MCU, he’s never been a 100% pure evil villain. This is expanded upon in the middle of the movie when their mother dies at the hands of Malekith’s henchmen, Kurse, setting up the big motivator for Thor and Loki teaming up to confront Malekith, as well as the most interesting dynamic in the entire movie.
This movie also implement some ideas that I think would work really well in a Thor film, specifically the plot point of Thor going rogue and having a small group of his friends helping him to leave Asgard despite Odin’s orders not to do so. This is essentially the Prince of Asgard going against his own home, escaping with the prisoner Loki and a human in Jane Foster, but it’s all for the greater good of the Nine Realms. If for nothing else, I thought it was a very interesting move to have Thor briefly return to his roots of doing his own thing and not giving a damn about Odin’s orders.
Of this movie’s flaws, the most obvious one is the lackluster villain, Malekith. Once again, his overall plan is to possess a MacGuffin which will do some monumentally dangerous thing such as destroying the world or in this case, plunging the Nine Realms into darkness. What’s his motivation? Hell if I know, he’s just there to look cool and speak in a weird elfish language. And he’s not just a weak villain, but he’s easily one of the most boring, uninteresting villains in the entire MCU. There are times when I can’t even properly remember his name and I just refer to him as “evil Elf dude”. When you think of Marvel’s villain problem, Malekith is one of the prime examples of said problem.
This movie’s other flaw is some of the stuff we see as a subplot on Earth. Jane’s friends, Selvig and Darcy are basically trying to figure out what’s going on with the Nine Realms aligning and this stuff is the least bit interesting in that it keeps the plot moving and we get more information on everything going on with the Nine Realms, but the really annoying aspect is the humor. Like with the first movie, Darcy is an extremely annoying character whose “jokes” boil down to her just acting like an idiot and mispronouncing words. What’s worse is that now she has an intern who’s completely useless and only exists for more dumb jokes. I just don’t understand the logic in doubling down on annoying intern characters after one of them was bad enough in the first movie. Mix them in with Selvig running around in his underwear during the climax and you have the main reason why people are sick of seeing these human characters on Earth in the Thor films.
Before I get to the climax, I want to talk about an earlier fight scene with Thor and Loki trying to destroy the Aether. They both partake in a clever ruse that involves Loki fake betraying Thor, fake cutting his hand off, and fake swearing allegiance to Malekith. But it all comes down it being an attempt to trick Malekith and what ensues is a fight that leaves Loki supposedly dead. It’s actually quite an emotional scene seeing as how Thor and Loki have always had an interesting family dynamic that’s been greatly impacted by Loki’s turn to villainy, but I think most everyone knew that Loki wasn’t really dead. As revealed in the end of the film, Loki was merely faking his death and now he’s posing as Odin on the throne of Asgard, chalking up yet another fake-out Marvel death.
But onto the climax and it’s actually quite entertaining. Like I said, it has some moments of really cringe-worthy humor involving Darcy and Selvig, but it’s made unique by having Thor and Malekith fight as they go through various portals leading to other Realms. They’re short-lived glimpes at the other Realms, but it at least stands out as an entertaining climax that is just a little more than your average superhero brawl. Of course, the day is saved, all is right with the Realms and that pretty much concludes our perfectly serviceable MCU entry.
As for the post-credits scenes, there’s two and the first one takes place in the lair of Benicio del Toro’s character “The Collector” and it’s the very first mention of the Infinity Stones, as he reveals that the Aether does indeed possess a stone, as does the Tesseract back on Asgard. The scene itself is pivotal for the future of the MCU, but it also suffers from feeling like it was a very last minute scene that was shot in someone’s garage with just one day left until the movie premiered.
The seconds post-credits scene is just Thor returning to Earth be with Jane again and….yawn.
Overall, “Thor: The Dark World” isn’t close to being one of the strongest entries in the MCU, but it’s still perfectly enjoyable as a fun, entertaining comic book movie. It has a weak villain and some tonal discrepancies, but what it gets right in terms of depicting Asgard and the compelling camaraderie between Thor and Loki is just enough for me to say that I like this movie and I think it’s still a worthy watch if you’re binging the MCU.