Thor: The Dark World (2013)

Film: Thor: The Dark World
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Christopher Eccleston, Anthony Hopkins
Release: 2013, theatrical
Directed by: Alan Taylor
Previous in the series: Thor
IMDB page: Link opens in a new window
Description: Picking up 2 years after the events in New Mexico, Thor is busy keeping the peace in the nine realms. Meanwhile on Earth, a disillusioned Jane Foster stumbles upon a dormant power from the time when the universe began.

Hans' thoughts:

I've said it before and I'll say it again, the best way to make a good sequel is to take the established setting, expand upon it and amplify everything that's great about it without rehashing the plot-points of its predecessor. Thus we now have Thor: The Dark World. 

So our villain this time is the old race of dark elves, lead by the world-weary King Malakith played by Christopher Eccleston, he plays a very troubled character . As far as villains go, the dark elves are very cool. The Frost giants of the first movie were very much just big blue monsters but the dark elves actually seem like a genuine threat. No one is prepared for their actions and they are completely untraceable - able to strike whenever they would please. Overall, the movie is just much larger in scale. Instead of setting most of the movie in the New Mexican desert with just one big baddie, most of the action film consists of war-like battles, with footsoldiers on both sides. Something they have, perhaps thankfully, toned down is the humoristic aspect. A lot of Thor was him being a fish out of water in the human world and the comedy came from people reacting to him or him misunderstanding the nature of the world he was thrown into. Don't get me wrong, The Dark World certainly has some comedic moments but I felt they worked a lot better this time because they weren't so predictable or thrown in so abruptly. There's not much winking at the audience going "get it?" in this movie.

Most of the film doesn't take place on Earth this time around, instead we are given a much more insightful look in the land of Asgard. This is great because while Asgard certainly looked cool in first movie, most of what we got to see were throne rooms and chambers from Odin's palace. Here we are taken on a small tour around a bit more of the world. This movie also shows us some of the other realms besides the ones we've already seen. The scale feels much grander this time around and It's possible the movie has taken cues from the likeness of Peter Jackson's "Lord of The Rings" movies. Imaginative combinations of science fiction and fantasy as well as some pretty cool designs for the villains our hero encounter, even the minor ones look fairly interesting. In stark contrast is the scenes taking place on Earth. Jane Foster has moved from the desert to the city of London, meaning we also get something at least a little more interesting to look at than in the previous film. All the supporting characters return from the previous film, including the humans who actually gets something to do rather than commenting on the things that transpires around them.

This is one of the best changes from the former movie, while there certainly were a supporting cast in the film they didn't get all that much to do. Most of the original movie were about the characters of Thor and Loki and their sibling rivalry. In this movie the other characters become involved in the adventure, Jane Foster becomes one of the major driving forces for the plot and the relationships between the characters also feel more believable. Tom Hiddleston returns once again as the villain Loki and once again he steals even scenes where he isn't the main focus. We explore more of his relationship with the rest of the family and as with the other movie, this also factors into the events of the film. That isn't to say that he's the only great actor in this piece, Chris Hemsworth has really grown into the role of Thor and he really hits it out of the park in some of his scenes. This is probably due to a much more reserved performance, Thor is no longer the boastful prince of Asgard and for those of us that's followed him throughout all his appearances it is easily recognizable that he has gone through character development. Just like with the Iron Man films, the character development isn't over by the end of the film but you can easily see a change from the beginning of the characters first appearance and to his current adventures. This kind of slow but steady character development is what makes these characters interesting to follow even after several movies. 

Speaking of the other movies, it was a breath of fresh air after Iron Man 3 that the movie didn't rely on everyone having seen The Avengers. One of Iron Man 3's greatest weaknesses was it's constant references to "New York", referring to the climax of The Avengers. Here, the event is definitely mentioned but no more than one or two times. An unfortunate lowpoint however is the reliance on the audience believing the relationship between Thor and Jane Foster. The former movie took place over the span of three days and then they were suddenly in love, akin to what one could call the "Disney Princess romance". This is sort of repeated in this film, while I certainly like the pairing of Thor and Jane I would like their relationship to be expanded upon a little more than is the case in both of these movies. Compare it to the how well done the relationship between Tony Stark and Pepper Potts is done in the Iron Man movies, Tony repeatedly makes mistakes and has to make it up for Pepper in the Iron Man films, whereas in this case it seems the romance between Thor and Jane is way too perfect. Anyone who've been in a relationship with the same person more than once could tell you that the pieces aren't picked up quite as easily as this movie would have you believe. The film seems somewhat self-aware of this though, as a comedic jab at those kinds of love stories are made later in the film. 

If you were bored with the pacing of the original film, rest assured that Thor: The Dark World is a much bigger movie and better for it, albeit much information is thrown at you during the movie it manages to keep focus on the main plot, and keeping all the different strings together in one place. If you liked the former movie, I'm sure you'll enjoy this one as well: We get more facetime with each character and we learn much more of the nature of the setting of the story. With higher stakes, deeper characters and much more action, Thor: The Dark World may very well end up being one of the better movies in the shared universe franchise.
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