The latest installment in the Marvel superhero franchise, “Thor: The Dark World,” hit theaters Friday, Nov. 8. Much like “The Avengers” (2012) and other recent films from the series, it does not disappoint.
The movie, directed by Alan Taylor, begins with a flashback from eons ago including some “Dark Elves,” the more evil and enhanced warriors called the “Kursed” and Thor’s grandfather, Bor, on the planet Svartalfheim. Before you chuckle, these elves are nothing like Santa’s helpers. While they maintain the pointy ears, they replace the normally joyful disposition with one that is immoral, evil and malicious. Their leader, Dark Elf Malekith (Christopher Eccleston), desires to use a powerful weapon called “Aether” to submerge the nine realms in darkness and destroy the universe.
Fortunately, Bor is able to vanquish the Kursed and many of the Dark Elves with the exception of Malekith and a few of his followers. Deciding that the Aether is too powerful to be destroyed, Bor decides to hide the Aether “where no one will find it.”
Enter the present-day. Thor (Chris Hemsworth), his warrior force-four and Lady Sif are fighting a battle on the world Vanaheim, the last in a series of battles to bring peace to the nine realms since the destruction of the Bifröst (“Rainbow Bridge”) when Thor left Earth two years prior. Back on Asgard, Thor’s brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston), stands on trial for his war crimes on Earth (a plot that stems from “The Avengers”) before his step-father and Asgardian king, Odin (Anthony Hopkins) sentences him to prison. The scene shifts to Earth, where astrophysicist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) has discovered an abandoned building in which the laws of physics do not apply — objects disappear into free air and (sometimes) appear back where they were dropped. This type of anomaly is similar to the one that occurred when Thor came to visit New Mexico (which stems from the plot of the 2011 “Thor”). Leaving her intern, Darcy (Kat Dennings) behind, Jane goes to explore the anomaly, inadvertently being sucked into a wormhole. She lands in a faraway place where the Aether enters her body, waking Malekith from his suspended animation sleep and alerting Thor that Jane is not safe.
The film continues in typical MacGuffin form, with both the protagonists (Thor, Jane and Loki) and the antagonists (Malekith and the Kursed) chasing the same magical plot device — the Aether — before the nine realms line up in a formation called the Convergence, making the destruction of the universe all the more possible.
Without further spoilage of the plot, it is beneficial to point out that in this case, the sequel is a bit better than the original.
The costume design is extraordinary. Unlike the other Avengers, Thor is allowed the incredible advantage of space travel. Therefore, in addition to viewing a wide variety of climates (and very convincing green screen-manipulation of the landscape), we are able to behold the various customs of each world. In the first “Thor,” the only glimpse of Asgardian clothing audiences were given was of special occasion (i.e. Thor’s almost coronation) and warrior wear. However, in the sequel, as much of the movie’s time takes place on Asgard, we are able to see what the queen, Frigga (Rene Russo) wears on a typical day as well as Loki’s prison garbs. As expected, each outfit is long and of rich material and color.
Even more important is the development of the characters from the Thor universe. Obviously, Thor shows the greatest growth — no longer the spoiled Prince who sought battles for fighting sake but a level-headed leader who seeks peace.
Seemingly minor characters also play a bigger role in this year’s sequel. Lady Sif (Jaimie Alexander) is a possible love interest for Thor while Heimdall (Idris Elba), gatekeeper of the Bifröst, is given greater importance before the film’s climax as an aid to Thor. Rene Russo does a fantastic job as Asgardian queen and wife of Odin, Frigga. According to Norse mythology, Frigga is known for her skill of foresight. She uses this skill as well as some epic fight moves in a scene that shifts the slow progression of the film and speeds along the storyline to the climax.
The biggest standout individual is Hiddleston’s character, god of mischief Loki. Hiddleston, a classically-trained British actor, steals the attention in every scene he is in with wit, charisma, powerful dictation of lines and comedic relief through sarcasm and impersonation. More than that, the audience experiences different dimensions of the character, not previously viewed in “Thor” or “The Avengers,” which impressively flaunts the range of Hiddleston’s dramatic talents.
In addition to fantastic acting, beautiful landscape and wardrobe, fans can also expect a typical action movie score, i.e. lots of loud and ominous orchestra-style rifts, and not-so-typical comedy scenes. Dennings and Stellan Skarsgård return as Jane Foster’s intern, Darcy Lewis and her mentor, Dr. Erik Selvig, respectively. Each evokes laughter every time they appear on screen, either through their lines (Darcy to Thor: “Look at you. Still all muscly and everything!”) or through their actions (i.e. Dr. Selvig running around in his underwear at Stonehenge).
Something to keep in mind is to remember, as with every Marvel movie, to remain in the theater until the all credits have finished playing. Every Marvel film features a cameo from Marvel comic book artist, Stan Lee, and a short clip at the very end of the credits that pertains to the next film in “The Avengers” film series. In the Thor sequel, there happen to be two scenes at the end of the credits, both relevant to the highly-anticipated Marvel films, “Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014) and “The Avengers: Age of Ultron” (2015).
Of course, we still have a long wait until these films are released. So, until then, I recommend going back to the theater and watching more of “Thor: The Dark World,” a film that deserves at least four Asgardian stars.