Thor lightens up in ‘Dark World’

Thor lightens up in ‘Dark World’

By Karsten Burgstahler


There is a pretty clear pattern developing with Marvel Studios films under the Disney reign: they are much goofier than their DC counterparts.

“The Avengers,” under the direction of Joss Whedon, worked well when it winked knowingly at the camera. This whole thing is ridiculous, and all of the actors knew it. “Iron Man 3” took a serious terrorist plot and gave it a comical twist, to the chagrin of some fans and the delight of others.


“Thor: The Dark World” (Rated PG-13; 112 Min.) follows in those footsteps by taking some dark turns, but always veering back to lightheartedness. While a good portion of the first movie takes place on Earth, director Alan Taylor, fresh off several episodes of HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” brings the creatures and medieval themes front and center. However, working from a three-man screenplay does not give him the chance to develop these characters to their full potential.

“Dark World” picks up where “The Avengers” left off, with Loki (Tom Hiddleston) transported back to Asgard to be tried for war crimes. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is trying to restore the balance Loki disrupted, but along the way his earth love Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) stumbles upon an ancient force that infects her. Then out of nowhere, bad guy Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) wakes up from an eternal slumber ticked off at Asgard.

This movie traffics in plot contrivances; At least twice, solutions come out of nowhere for our protagonist’s problems. Trying to explain the plot of “Dark World” to an adult is probably like trying to explain rocket science to a kid. If you attempt to fill in the massive plot holes the screenwriters leave in their wake, like what causes Malekith to wake up, and why Natalie Portman ended up exactly where she needed to be to get infected and move the plot along, you will waste your time and not enjoy the movie.

To that end, “Dark World” does not really work as a coherent narrative. The movie only functions to show the ramifications of “The Avengers” across the galaxy and work in the bigger scheme of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and in those terms it is a successful action flick.

“Dark World” really excels whenever Tom Hiddleston is onscreen as Loki. For the first half of the movie the god of mischief is locked up in a prison cell while the action plods along. Once he is free for reasons I will not divulge here, the banter between Thor and Loki immediately elevates the proceedings. Hiddleston has embraced the deceptive villain and throws himself into the performance. The filmmakers went back and shot more scenes with him once they realized how much the audience loves him; the first cut of the movie must have been pretty much devoid of Loki because he does not get a proper amount of screen time.

Hemsworth is growing into the role of Thor, but the other actors buy into their costumes more successfully. As Odin, Anthony Hopkins practically grins through his cheesy lines about birthrights. Down on Earth, Kat Dennings, as Jane’s work partner Darcy, is better here than she was in the first, mainly because she has better lines this time around. Stellan Skarsgard, playing the frazzled Erik Selvig who has not quite recovered from “The Avengers,” has some great kooky scenes.

Selvig and Darcy factor more into this comical approach Marvel is taking rather than what Paramount did when it was still in control of the franchise back in 2011. Gone is the super-serious final battle where an entire town is destroyed. Instead, the stakes seem considerably lower as camera gag after camera gag runs through “Dark World”’s climactic London fight. It is a well-conceived sequence, and it is refreshing that this fight is more about the characters than the carnage, but because it lacks a developed villain, it is anticlimactic. Eccleston barely gets a chance to develop his character. He does not seem like a huge threat to Thor at any point or get a decent backstory. The screenwriters really screwed up there.


“Dark World” is an improvement on the first “Thor,” but it still runs aground when judged much farther than the face value of its beautiful special effects. If it were not for Hiddleston’s superb performance, the movie would forever be lost in space.

Karsten Burgstahler can be reached at [email protected] 

or 536-3311 ext. 261.