I tried not to get my hopes up too high going into the Thor sequel, but couldn’t help but think the trailers looked really really good. I kept telling myself that the trailers for Iron Man 3 looked great too, and that was a jokey mess. Fortunately, The Dark World did not disappoint in any way and made for a wonderful closing act to my impromptu double feature (with the 7:00 Thor sold out, I went to see The Escape Plan instead, and then caught the 10:00 showing afterwards).
The great thing about The Dark World is that it manages to pull off everything that Iron Man 3 attempted to do but ultimately failed. It pushes the characters forward in interesting ways, it incorporates humor in a way that doesn’t feel forced, and the action sequences are absolutely pitch perfect. Plus, the villains here are actually intimidating and menacing. Fan favorite Loki (Tom Hiddleston) returns, this time to join forces with Thor to prevent the evil dark elf Malekith (Christopher Eccleston; Doctor Who) from shrouding the universe in eternal darkness.
The themes of magic and technology coexisting are ever present in the sequel, plus The Dark World solves all of the major pacing problems that the first Thor film had. I wouldn’t say there is not a wasted moment in this movie, but it’s definitely much more tight and balanced than its predecessor. I knew that Kat Dennings and Stellan Skarsgard were going to reprise their roles from the first film from watching the trailer, but I had no idea how large their parts were going to be. This was a very pleasant surprise given the fact that they were the best part of the first film. It was also nice to see Rene Russo’s part amped up for the sequel, rather than serving as Odin’s nameless trophy wife.
It’s impossible to say too many good things about Tom Hiddleston’s Loki. Building off of the characterization established in The Avengers, Hiddleston continues to bring a lot of depth to the role as he returns to Asgard and his adopted parents finally see him for the monster he is. There’s a lot of complexity in these performances and it’s impossible to tell from second to second what angle Loki is playing.
I could go on and on about the things I like here, as the film has renewed my faith in Marvel’s Phase 2 series and given me hope that Captain America: The Winter Soldier can possibly live up to its trailer, which looks amazing. Hemsworth has become Thor completely, and maybe my one criticism of his performance is how much of the film he spends brooding over his separation from Jane Foster (Natalie Portman). It makes sense for the character, but we tend to think of Thor as a man of action; doing what is necessary to cope and survive rather than sitting around pouting over a girl. It’s a small criticism, but it was noticeable.
Finally, I’ll just say that the film has one of the best cameos I’ve seen in a long time, and make sure you sit through all the credits as The Dark World pulls an Avengers trick by having one scene half way through the credits, and then another at the very end.