If The Avengers brought a lighter tone to the cinematic comic book genre, Thor 2: The Dark World is a simple byproduct of that.
Now that the characters have been introduced to a mainstream audience, the sequel gives the screenwriters and actors enough space to create a more light-hearted and fun adventure. Chris Hemsworth stars as the title character in a story that is surprisingly appealing, despite its lack of a noteworthy villain.
As the story begins, we are introduced to Malekith (Christopher Eccleston), an evil elf who commanded his own army into defeat. So psychotic was he that he led his own brethren to their deaths knowing that the victory was unreachable. Many in Thor’s world believe that Malekith is gone but evil, as is often the case, has lived on in the shadows of the galaxy.
A few minutes into the story, Loki (Tom Hiddleston), the main villain from The Avengers, is sentenced to prison where he is sent to a cell that seems similar to the one Hannibal Lecter occupied in Silence of the Lambs. Speaking of Lecter himself, Anthony Hopkins returns as Thor’s tough-minded father, who seems tired of occupying the throne and hopes to pass it on to his noble but brash son. Natalie Portman also returns but here she has a little more to do as she is hunted by Malekith, who wishes to retrieve a force–known as the Aether– that has found itself inside of her.
As Marvel villains go, Malekith is one of the most forgettable. His personality is never truly introduced and we simply see him doing what “evil creatures do.” When a voiceover notes that he sacrificed his own army, it feels as if this character’s monstrous spirit is going to eventually take center stage. It never does so we’re simply left with a simple nemesis that our heroes must eventually overcome.
But the story’s saving grace is the great chemistry between Hemsworth and Hiddleston. As a villain in The Avengers, Loki seemed in over his head (a sociopathic brother trying to take down a team that included Iron Man, the Incredible Hulk and Captain America? Not a fair competition, to say the least.) Here though, the paternal relationship gets a greater focus as Thor is forced to team up with his brother after Malekith brutally attacks Thor’s home planet, Asgard.
Thor and Loki don’t trust each other but the banter between the duo is priceless and leads to the film’s best scenes. It’s in these moments of casual interplay that the story takes on a lighter tone that makes this film so appealing.
What Thor also introduces is a risk-taking strategy that I wish more superhero films would seek to replicate. This sequel is willing to take major risks and kill characters that audiences have grown to enjoy. A few powerful deaths easily elicit an emotional reaction despite the story’s fantastical premise.
Thor: The Dark World is a welcome surprise that offers up some great dialogue and interplay between Thor and his misguided brother and some powerful scenes where major characters make powerful sacrifices. Thor clearly lacks the charisma of a Tony Stark but films like this are a nice break away from more serious fare. I only wish that the villains here were given as much to do as the heroes are.