Rife with narrative flaws and failing to transcend genre, Thor: The Dark World is nonetheless fun, escapist entertainment.
Jane (Natalie Portman) still doesn’t convince she’s an academic, her ability to label Asgardian technology and manipulate Erik Selvig’s (Stellan Starsgaard) odd rods notwithstanding. The screenplay doesn’t bother to define Jane as more than a pretty damsel pining for Thor, so we don’t feel the weight of her intellect or independence.
Which causes Jane’s participation in the finale, indeed in most of the plot, to feel forced, perhaps even more than in the first film.
Similarly, Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) is one of the worst superhero villains I can remember seeing. Ever. We don’t understand what he’s doing, really, and we have no concept of his motivation.
Which is why he feels like a plot device, not a character. He’s an excuse to free Loki, but since his plot is The Dark World’s core, the movie suffers from his poor development.
Despite Tom Hiddleston’s best efforts. Yes, Loki is the best character in the Thor franchise, but Hiddleston’s performance matches the role. Without him, The Dark World might be an unabashed failure.
The Dark World is . . . well . . . often dark. And its darkness might have allowed it to transcend the super hero genre, might have made us feel for its characters, especially after Frigga (Rene Russo) and Loki interact with Malekith or his minions. Such events might have been deeply emotional, but they aren’t, at least in part because Director Alan Taylor doesn’t let his characters respond emotionally. Instead, he rushes to ever more Malekith-driven action sequences, seemingly never realizing that Malekith is not interesting.
Thor’s family, however, is, meaning The Dark World would have been better if Malekith had been its subplot and the Asgardian family drama its core.
The Dark World is heavy on exposition, especially in its slow-moving first act, but it still doesn’t explain many key plot points, a fact that makes the narrative downright silly at times.
Yet, for all of its missteps, Thor: The Dark World remains entertaining, in no small part because Loki, Selvig, Darcy (Kat Dennings) and Richard (Chris O’Dowd) give it a comedic tone.
Also, the action sequences are riveting, and Chris Hemsworth’s titular performance is as charismatic as ever.
The ways in which the art departments differentiate the nine realms makes for an interesting visual display. Ditto that for the film’s climax.
Thor: The Dark World is not great movie-making; it is much too flawed for that. But it is funny and entertaining, facts that keep it afloat despite its mistakes.