Jimmy Kimmel had a funny segment last week about Marvel’s portrayal of Thor: The Dark World as a lovely romantic comedy (Thor Actually) where Thor (Chris Hemsworth) pursues Dr. Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) from Asgard to Earth. Ultimately, it’s only half right. The other half of this sequel is that Foster ends up being possessed by the Aether (an all-out, evil force), a power that Thor must try to keep from the Dark Elf Malekith (Chris Eccleston). With Thor’s responsibilities now split between Earth and Asgard, will an alliance with his evil stepbrother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) be enough to defeat the evil?
The Dark World is considerably funnier than the original, potentially a turn from director Kenneth Branaugh’s initial foray into the universe of Marvel’s Thor. Kat Dennings, as Foster’s intern, is always funny, but Hemsworth proves capable of more than meathead swings of the hammer. There are plenty of those moments (even if Marvel goofs with the Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark moment being spoiled in the previews) that show off the action of the film, mixed in with the moody conversations about brotherhood, kingship, and responsibility between some combination of Odin (Anthony Hopkins), Thor, and Loki.
Frankly, Hiddleston steals every scene he’s in, proving that again, we’ve sought a desire to make the evil we face more complex, more intriguing, more “dark,” to someone provide a new nuance to the way that we perceive our heroes. While I like Hiddleston’s portrayal of Loki, as a man mixed up with his own lack of nobility, his own struggle with belonging, his envy of his brother, and his lust for power, I found Thor himself… boring.
The Man of Steel devolved into a smash-’em-up, but it still asked better, deeper questions than this film does. Sure, it’s more metaphysical and less gritty than MOS, but the space-travelling elements of the film make it rather cheesy at times (although not as bad as the Captain America: Winter Soldier promo that came before the film), with elements of cool mixed in. But Thor himself comes across as a man we’re supposed to see develop into a leader, and we don’t actually see any change. The main character is merely the foil to watch the cool scenery, see a self-sacrificial moment like the end of The Avengers, and show off his brawn. Frankly, I think Hemsworth is better than that.
For me, the best part of the movie was… the end. There were two cliffhangers, one tying into the Guardians of the Galaxy movie and one setting up Thor 3, which we assume is set for fall 2015, after CA2 and Avengers 2. The inclusion of one Benificio del Toro and someone I won’t spoil here was terrific. But the primary film could’ve been much stronger.