This review is a little later than I wanted it to be. I held off writing it so I could watch the movie at least twice. Normally, my opinion of what I like and don’t like in a film tends to change drastically after seeing it numerous times, and looking back, I can say with almost 100% certainty that I greatly disagree with many things in the posts I wrote about The Avengers and Man of Steel. So I figured it wouldn’t be fair to do the same for Thor: The Dark World. That said, I might as well not have bothered with multiple viewings, because my opinion of this movie has not changed in the slightest since the opening night. Of course, since I’ve willingly subjected myself to it multiple times, you can probably already guess that I liked it.
Spoilers be ahead.
Thor: The Dark World takes place immediately after The Avengers. Loki has just been brought back to Asgard in chains and is sentenced to spend the rest of his days in prison for his crimes against Midgard. Thor himself is still pining after Jane Foster, who is trying to move on now that she hasn’t seen Thor for two years.
The plot of the movie is really not all that special and it leaves a lot to be desired. Malekith, the leader of the Dark Elves, wants to cover the nine realms in darkness. However, the chance to do so only comes about once every five thousand years, because that is when all the worlds align—and that is conveniently happening right now. In order to complete his plan, Malekith needs something called the Aether, which is one of six Infinity Gems that I suspect we’ll hear more about in the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy movie. Unfortunately, while investigating an anomaly, Jane ends up coming across the Aether well before Malekith. Thor discovers the danger Jane is in and takes her to Asgard, where he and Odin learn that the Aether is inside her. Odin had long believed both the Aether and the Dark Elves destroyed by Bor, Odin’s father, and refuses the idea that the Dark Elves still exist. But Malekith completely shows Odin up when he attacks Asgard to get to Jane and the Aether. He fails, but many Asgardians are killed, including Frigga. Suspecting that Malekith will attack again, and now that Odin has shut down the Bifrost, preventing travel to and from Asgard, Thor concocts a plan with his friends to get Jane out of Asgard and to destroy the Aether. However, in order to get off Asgard without the Bifrost, they need Loki’s help and must break him out of prison as well.
A while back, I reviewed one of the trailers to this movie, and I couldn’t really glean any of the plot from it. From what I could tell, the plot consisted of Malekith being evil and wanting revenge against Asgard—because revenge!—and not much more than that. I had hoped that the actual movie would expand more on that, but it didn’t. Malekith is a pretty flat villain who hates Asgard and wants darkness to spread to the universe because he’s evil. I feel as if he could have been developed more, but this movie didn’t really leave his character with much room to work with outside being an obligatory villain. Unfortunately, as he’s one of the few characters in the Thor comics that I’m not very familiar with, I also cannot comment on comparisons between the two interpretations.
However, at its core, Thor has always been a character-driven story. I cannot say that the plot of the first movie was all that great either, and Lord knows it was riddled with problems. The Dark World focuses a lot more on Thor’s and Loki’s relationship, and overall it’s the relationships between all the characters that really bring the story to life. Other than Malekith, in terms of characters, I feel as if this movie improves in just about every way.
For starters, I was surprised to find myself liking Jane Foster’s character. Yes, she still ends up in a damsel-in-distress role that I was not too happy about. What I like about her here is that she actually does something in this film. After the Aether is removed from Jane, and even before it ends up inside her, Jane is a real person, not someone who exists solely for the purpose of furthering Thor’s character arc. What she’s researching as an astrophysicist ends up being a vital part of the story. She’s not just studying these anomalies for the sake of helping Thor. Also, Thor could not have possibly won the day without her help. Additionally, I think my overall perception of Jane Foster has been changed by Natalie Portman herself. I’m not always the actress’s biggest fan, but she does really well with the character, and being interested in science herself and taking part in the Ultimate Mentor Adventure, a program to help young girls interested in science and math, just makes me respect her all the more.
That said, I wish I could say the same for Frigga’s character, our other notable female lead. Like Jane Foster, I liked Frigga a lot better this time around, and I mostly wanted to see the movie again
—and still want to go back for another viewing—just to watch her sword fight with Malekith, a fight she’s actually winning until Malekith’s minion sneaks up on her from behind. Unfortunately, in probably the worst treatment of a female character in both Thor movies, Frigga is murdered for the sake of furthering Loki’s storyline.
I understand that the movie needed a reason to make Loki hate Malekith enough to not betray Thor, and Frigga is quite possibly the only person Loki really cares about. As such, it makes sense that Frigga absolutely had to die for that to happen, and I actually cannot think of a way the filmmakers could have written around her death, but this kind of thing doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It was really upsetting to watch another female character die brutally for the sake of furthering a male character’s storyline. What this tells me is that the existence of Frigga’s character and role in the story is entirely dependent on Loki’s feelings for her and that she cannot be her own person outside of him. Other than Frigga’s death, I would probably be perfectly content with the movie as a whole. But watching the movie the first time, I really didn’t want to believe that that had happened. Even during the funeral, I was shaking my head, telling myself, “no, they didn’t… did they? Holy shit, they did.”
Outside of that, there are a few cheesy things here and there in the film that conveniently happen only because the plot demands it to happen. And despite being very dramatic in many regards, the film still manages to retain some light humor here and there. The witty banter between both Thor and Loki, and watching them interact with each other after everything that has happened between them, for example, is quite possibly the most enjoyable part of the movie, and it is worth seeing just for that. Overall, it is a very entertaining film, and if you haven’t watched it yet, you should.