At the Movies: Thor: The Dark World

It’s nice to see superhero movies venturing out beyond the summer season. Sure, week after week of watching high-brow, awards-contending films is all well and good but sometimes you just need to see THOR PUTTING THE HAMMER DOWN ON DARK ELVES AND ROCK TROLLS.

“Thor: The Dark World” is the latest in the mega-successful Disney/Marvel Studios line of movies based on the characters Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and others created for Marvel Comics. It’s another strong effort. The second installment in the “Thor” franchise has action, humor, romance, intrigue, impressive special effects and heart.

OK, the main story doesn’t make sense and the big fight scene at the end is a big mess but you can’t have everything.

The film begins with Odin (Anthony Hopkins) conveying another tale from days of olde. This time it’s the Dark Elves, led by Malekith (Christopher Eccleston), who pose a threat to civilization. The noble Asgardians show up, beat them down, and take away their power source, a mysterious red goo known as the Aether. If this sounds like the beginning of the first “Thor” movie, it is– just replace Dark Elves with Frost Giants.

thor the dark world posterThe Aether is hidden away for 5,000 years in a secret place where no one will find it, except for Jane Foster (Natalie Portman). Jane comes across it by accident while exploring a weird hole in space-time in an old building in London. Jane is exposed to the Aether and it is absorbed into her body.

Meanwhile in Asgard, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) has been sentenced to life in prison for his role in the invasion of New York in “The Avengers.” Thor (Chris Hemsworth) has kept busy straightening out the mess that Loki’s actions have created throughout the Nine Realms.

When Thor learns of Jane’s condition, he brings her to Asgard. As the Asgardians try to figure out what has happened, Malekith awakens from a long nap after sensing that the Aether is free and has taken up residence in a woman in Asgard.

There’s a lot more to the story but let’s leave the plot synopsis there. The weakest element of “The Dark World” is this business with Malekith. Like the Frost Giant King Laufey before him, the leader of the Dark Elves is a one-note villain lacking in charisma. And the final showdown between Malekith and Thor is burdened with confusing and convoluted business involving planetary alignments and special sticks made by Dr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) which conveniently save the day.

No, the main draw of “Thor 2” is the continuing saga of brothers Thor and Loki, as well as their relationships with their parents and their Asgardian buddies. Thor’s connection with his Earth companions — Jane, Selvig and Darcy (Kat Dennings) is equally entertaining.

Director Alan Taylor has taken the world predecessor Kenneth Branagh developed and expanded on it greatly. Asgard is a more expansive place, the special effects are more elaborate, the fight scenes more epic, everything is bigger, louder, more thunderous.

Still, the film’s best moments don’t revolve around special effects but the more human (or godly) moments. My favorites revolve around Thor and his partners plotting how to get around Odin and free Loki so that they can take the fight to Malekith.

It’s fun having a big, bombastic, popcorn movie hit the theaters when the days are getting shorter and the temperatures are falling.

As always with Marvel movies, stay through the credits. All the credits.

 

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