THOR: THE DARK WORLD
Author: J.A. Hyde
November 7, 2013

SYNOPSIS: Marvel's "Thor: The Dark World" continues the big-screen adventures of Thor, the Mighty Avenger, as he battles to save Earth and all the Nine Realms from a shadowy enemy that predates the universe itself. In the aftermath of Marvel's "Thor" and "Marvel's The Avengers," Thor fights to restore order across the cosmos...but an ancient race led by the vengeful Malekith returns to plunge the universe back into darkness. Faced with an enemy that even Odin and Asgard cannot withstand, Thor must embark on his most perilous and personal journey yet, one that will reunite him with Jane Foster and force him to sacrifice everything to save us all. (c) Disney

Thor and his Mighty Hammer have returned – this time to fight the Dark Elves in their quest to return the Nine Realms to Darkness. Alan Taylor directs Thor: The Dark World, the sequel to the 2011 film Thor. If you liked the first film, you’ll like this one, too. All of the major players return: Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Natalie Portman (Jane Foster), Anthony Hopkins (Odin), Tom Hiddleston (Loki), Renee Russo (Frigga), Idris Elba (Heimdall), Cat Dennings (Darcy), and Stellan Skarsgard (Erik Selvig). All reprise their roles competently, but Tom HIddleston walks away with this film. He offers up a most conflicted villain whose sardonic retorts steal every scene he’s in.

The film opens with a re-cap of a great war, 5000 years earlier, when Odin and Asgard defeated the Dark Elves and hid the all-powerful and unstoppable Aether so as to prevent the elves’ return to power. As Odin explains to Thor, the Nine Realms move in 5000 year cycles at which time they converge and can freely be accessed by any of the others. Thor longs to return to Earth and Jane Foster, but Odin will not permit this since he wants Thor to succeed him as king. Loki has been imprisoned for treason, but he still desires the throne.

Meanwhile, on Earth, Jane Foster stumbles onto the hidden Aether when she is sucked through a worm-hole following an energy she mistakes for Thor. She’s as love-sick as he is. The Aether can inhabit any form, so it migrates into Jane. Her assistant Darcy is frantically looking for her on Earth, and the guardian Heimdall, who sees all 9 Realms, informs Thor that Jane has disappeared. In a treasonous act, Thor finds a way to get back to Earth.

What none of them know at this point is that the leader of the Dark Elves has survived and re-animated, and he has turned one of his soldiers, Algrim, into a powerful monster, Kurse. Christopher Eccleston gives the proper amount of obsession to Maletith, the King of the Dark Elves, while Adewale Akinnoye-Agbaja does a splendid job as the fearsome Kurse. Akinnuoye-Agbaja describes Kurse as an amalgamation of a bull and a lava-like creature, and director Alan Taylor was so impressed with his performance that he allowed Akinnuoye-Agbaja to do most of his own stunts.

Maletith intends to recover the Aether at all costs, so when he discovers that Jane “contains” the Aether, she’s directly in danger. Asgard and the other Realms have no idea of the impending danger, and Thor is unaware that his attempts to find Jane will put him in desperate conflict with Maletith and his forces. The epic battle between these forces of good and evil constitutes the majority of the story line. By the way, be sure to stay through the credits for a peek into the next film. The battle between good and evil is endless – although sequels are finite in number. Here’s a hint: Aether cannot be destroyed.

Two newcomers, Chris O’Dowd as Richard and Jonathan Howard as Ian, make the most of their screen time to provide some very earthly humor. O’Dowd portrays a man hopeful of romancing Jane, not knowing that his competition is the formidable Thor. Howard plays Ian, Darcy’s unpaid intern, whose responses to her mad-cap existence are priceless. Stellan Skarsgard gives a wonderfully eccentric performance as Selvig, whose naked romp at Stonehenge lands him in the loony bin. And heads up – make sure you look for Stan Lee’s cameo!

Overall, Thor: The Dark World presents a tighter narrative than the 2011 film, but I really missed the humor of Thor’s fish-out-of-water naiveté about Earth and humans. I felt that Hemsworth’s performance lacked the energy of the original film. On the other hand, Natalie Portman has much more to do in this film and redeems herself from what I thought was a forgettable performance in the first film. Still, the film belongs to Tom Hiddleston whose Loki owns the screen and every scene he’s in.

Remember. Loki is a trickster...that’s all I’m going to say! - J.A. Hyde

GRADE: A-


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