Thor: The Dark World (2013)
Directed By: Alan Taylor
Written By: Christopher Yost, Christopher Markus, & Stephen McFeely
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins, Natalie Portman, and Christopher Eccleston
Music By: Brian Tyler
While Marvel has a desire to be faithful to their characters (which has remained a high point in their cinematic universe), I feel that the departures from that have been made with less than enjoyable results. As some of you know, I didn’t enjoy Iron Man 3, a semi-successful take on the psychology of Tony Stark. It had hopes in the beginning, but turned into “Lethal Iron Weapon Man” and took some liberties with the character that slapped us enthusiasts in the face.
That being said, Kevin Fiege’s Thor: The Dark World, is a refreshing return to the fantastical side of Marvel’s superhero saga. Dark World is Marvel’s second film in its Phase 2 line of sequels, following Thor as he battles to save the Nine Realms from the Dark Elves, an ancient race led by a mysterious leader, Malekith.
Content Guide for Thor: The Dark World
Violence – Plenty of battle scenes that have explosions, knife fights, gun fights (even if none of the action is bloody), shooting, stabbing, and use of magic to harm one another.
Language – “Hell”, “holy s–t,” and other very mild language.
Sexual Content – While not presented in a titillating fashion, there is a running gag featuring a naked man running around on camera during a news report. His privates are blurred, but being that it is a running gag, we see him multiple times.
And while some critics have described it as mediocre, I found Dark World’s success mainly in its tone: the film knew what it wanted to be and stuck with that, instead of trying to ride multiple genres at once (I’m looking at you, Shane Black). Is it a complete triumph? Not exactly, but more on that later.
Director Alan Taylor, notable for his success in HBO’s Game of Thrones franchise, brings the appropriate amount of fantasy-action to the Norse God of Thunder. Taylor’s control of the cast and production show with consistent characters living in a beautifully realized world. Taylor doesn’t bring anything notable to the franchise, instead riding the same level of quality we’ve seen with the mid-tier Marvel films such as Iron Man 2, The Incredible Hulk, and Captain America: The First Avenger.
I know a lot of people are going to disagree with me when I say this, but Thor: The Dark World had some of the best action sequences of any Marvel Studios production. It may be not as fun as The Avengers or as dramatically brutal as The Winter Soldier, but fun, mild fantasy action that suits the Norse god well. And in that, Dark World really did for me what I wished its predecessor would’ve done.
Thor really feels like a god, the Nine Realms really feel vast and epic, and Loki is no longer a big sissy like he has been. Even in Joss Whedon’s script for the Avengers, the majority of Loki’s screentime was telling us how much of a trickster he was, and how maniacal he could be. Dark World doesn’t spend as much time telling us that, as much as it does showing us.
The story here is rather simple, and while some critics see this as a fault (almost as if they forget these films are based on comic books), I found it nice to enjoy a film that is just as much about building to a satisfying climax as much as it is the stops along the way. If for some odd reason you see a film titled Thor and think, “Gee, I’m hoping it’s as intricate as The Dark Knight!” perhaps you should stay away. At least that way you won’t be disappointed. Thor’s adventure in Dark World is to the point, and all the better for it.
Thor 2: Electric Boogaloo isn’t perfect however, and this is nowhere near as obvious as it is in the film’s villain. Malekith, played by Christopher Eccleston, isn’t performed poorly, he just isn’t given enough to do. His screentime is few and far between, which undermines elements of the 2nd and 3rd acts.
It’s hard to care as much as the filmmakers want us to if we aren’t familiar with Thor’s threat. While the design of Malekith and the dark elves is pretty sweet, we never get a sense of their goal, or why they’re being evil. It sort of creates the dilemma one feels when watching a disaster film: the threat isn’t evil, but is a threat nonetheless and that’s why we should care, even if we don’t.
Hiddleston, Hemsworth, Portman, and Hopkins are all fine, feeling more comfortable in their roles. The first Thor had its fair share of awkward moments, leading me to never fully believe in Thor and Jane’s romance, but here, it works a little bit better.
The score here is nothing more than adequate. It hits all of its notes, accentuating when necessary without becoming distracting. The cinematography is gorgeous, and the SFX team brought a world to life, which I can only describe as being Lord of the Rings and The Terminator combined (maybe not as memorable, but definitely taking notes from both of those franchises).
Overall, Thor: The Dark World isn’t perfect, but it is miles above Iron Man 3 in that its spirit of fun isn’t arrogant, but genuine. It may not be the greatest fantasy realized on screen, but in a world where we see a new superhero film every several weeks, this one has some legs to stand on. Great action, beautiful design, and humor the whole family can enjoy, Thor: The Dark World is a fun, simple time. The perfect kind of film for a rainy day, when there’s nothing else to do.
While I’m not going to spoil anything, I will say that those new to the film should be on the look out for a great cameo in the film. It’s pretty funny, actually.
+ Wonderfully realized design + Fun characters + Fun fantasy action + Simple, to-the-point plot
- Lackluster Villain - Average Score - Average All-around
The Bottom Line
Dark World is a significant improvement over Thor's first solo adventure, but even that can't save the film's fun from being nothing more than average. The definition of a "rainy day" movie.