Thor: The Dark World is not a profound movie. But it’s one that puts a lot of craft and style into entertaining the audience, and the result is one of the most delightful movies we’ve seen this year.
You know the plot: Malekith wants to turn the universe into dark matter, and Thor has to stop him. If there’s a problem with this movie, it’s that we never understand why, precisely, the Dark Elves want to wipe out the nine realms beyond being eeeeeevil. That said, you will be having too good a time to care.
The first Thor was a change of pace because it was much funnier, deliberately so, than the Marvel movies we’d seen before, and this keeps up that trend while upping the scale in every possible way. In a lot of ways, it’s a coming-out party for director Alan Taylor, best known to you for working on Game Of Thrones, and who hasn’t been handed anything of this scale before.
And he handles it deftly. This movie goes from action fantasy, to heist movie, to a madcap third act so smoothly it all coheres and makes sense. The third act in particular, which features a massive brawl with dozens of moving parts that hops between universes, is simultaneously thrilling and absolutely hilarious. Taylor keeps upping the stakes, adding in more and more complications, but you never lose track of where anyone is or what’s happening where.
He also keeps the tone even; this is a movie without a hint of irony to it that somehow avoids being cheesy. Considering the sheer absurdity of the goings-on, and the fact that this is a movie where a character can take down a spaceship with two daggers and a sword, that’s a hell of an achievement. It’s serious when it needs to be without being dour, and funny when it needs to be without being dumb, even when it asks a respected actor to run around naked with scientific equipment (no, not Natalie Portman). That’s something of a lost art in Hollywood, and it’s lovely to see it back.
The cast all returns to their roles and are uniformly excellent, but Chris Hemsworth in particular shows some pretty serious star power; Thor has grown up, as a character, and Hemsworth pulls it off. Thor is no longer a moron who blindly trusts his brother, even if he is prone to the “If all you have is a hammer…” philosophy. And Tom Hiddleston, of course, is back as Loki. Hiddleston was the best thing about the original Thor, and he does well here; his Loki is as complex and heartbroken as ever.
There are a few other flaws; the movie manages to integrate Jane Foster into the plot fairly well, but her sidekicks, which have multiplied, a little less so. As entertaining as Stellan Skarsgaard is as Eric Selvig, who has really not taken the events of The Avengers at all well, he and his crew of physicists feel a little unnecessary.
But hey, they’re funny, and they don’t drag down the movie. Thor: The Dark World is everything you want out of a superhero movie and then some, and you shouldn’t miss it. Oh, and, yes, you’ll need to stick around until the very end of the credits. Both to see the set up for Guardians of The Galaxy, and because the last shot is simultaneously hilarious and adorable.
Seen it? Weigh in below, but please, limit or tag spoilers.