Thor: The Dark World is the weakest effort in the Marvel canon thus far. Hoping to expand upon the world established in 2011’s Thor, and incorporate elements that Joss Whedon combined so masterfully in last year’s The Avengers, the film ultimately mishandles Asgard and Thor’s (Chris Hemsworth) fantastical background in an effort to reach a broad audience. This time around, the villain’s Malekith (Christopher Eccleston), a dark elf who hopes to take advantage of the nine realms converging to fill them all with darkness; although I am not familiar with the comic character, I have to assume it was infused with more vivacity than that simplistic notion of evil. Thor moves between his world and Earth, interacting with Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), the scientist he loves but his father, Odin (Anthony Hopkins), loathes. He thinks humans are frivolous.
Thor has struck me as one of the most engaging characters to exist on Earth, but in his own world he’s less than fantastical. His strength and hammer are all he has; his wit and fish-out-of-water elements only seem to shine when he’s interacting with the human world. One of the film’s funniest moments comes from his entrance into an apartment, and using his leather strap to hang his hammer from a coat rack. But when all is said and done, despite the film’s occasional bursts of humor, the movie’s sorely lacking in its maniacal jester: Loki (Tom Hiddleston). Words cannot express how badly Alan Taylor, the film’s director, needs Hiddleston; when Loki navigates outside of his prison cell halfway through the film because Thor needs him to save the world (surprise!), the film thrives. That is not only a testament to Loki as a character, but Hiddleston as an engaging actor. He has become the staple of the Thor franchise, because so few outside components are engaging in a world that begs for excitement.
And that’s the problem with Thor: The Dark World. There is simply not enough happening within this world that holds dramatic heft. Every time a non-human character seemingly dies, outside of one that serves a direct plot point (eh-hem: a family member that spurs “revenge” in the film’s inciting incident), there is no belief that what is happening on screen is true. Particularly with an eccentric presence like Loki, nothing is as it seems. When the film delivers a highly improbable twist in its final frame, it starts to make sense as we piece together some foreshadowing. The problem remains that it raises more questions than it answers. The film’s mid-credits sequence sets up for Guardians of the Galaxy. Marvel is creating an unprecedented filmic world that only continues to excite my imagination with where it can go. That’s probably why this film remains as filler, a simple tale with underdeveloped supporting characters that lacks any bite. It’s all too safe.
Grade: ★★½ (out of 5)