Let’s not kid ourselves. Despite the character in the title of “Thor: The Dark World,” there’s no doubt that evil brother Loki is the star of this successful sequel. After fans swooned over Tom Hiddleston’s memorable performances in the original and again in “The Avengers,” he returns a third time to steal every scene he’s in.
“Thor: The Dark World” is a far more epic story than the first, bringing the battles mostly off of Earth and into Asgard and other intergalactic worlds. Thor is clearly the good guy, backed by father Odin, defending the nine realms after the events that unfolded in previous films left chaos across outer space. But all is not perfect, as an ancient lively goo called “Aether” is reactivated amidst a band of presumed-dead dark elves set to dominate the universe – all explained in a rather slow and lengthy introduction.
But when Thor is called to action once more, things get interesting as he reluctantly needs the help of his brother, though he certainly hasn’t forgotten Loki’s previous betrayal – and that’s when the film finally gets good.
Thor is heroic, with an emphasis on his strength and muscles present throughout the new film. But that’s about all he is. Loki on the other hand is mysterious, never once letting on whether he has really turned to the good side or is simply manipulating everyone at every chance he gets. Though knowing Loki, the latter is a good assumption. The events that follow are fun, exciting, and at times epic, offering surprises in each battle that ensues. None quite reach the scope of the New York destruction in “The Avengers” – which is referenced multiple times – but unto itself “The Dark World” stands out as a fast-paced adventure.
It does have its hiccups. Natalie Portman returns as Thor’s love interest Jane Foster, as do Stellan Skarsgard as Dr. Erik Selvig (now slightly insane) and, unfortunately, Kat Dennings as the always irritating Darcy Lewis. Foster plays a crucial role in shaping Thor’s many relationships, not only with her but with his family as well, offering some humanity to the otherwise brutish role. Selvig is ultimately vital to the story, though the science behind his successes is never quite fully (or even partially) explained. And Darcy is, well, a failed attempt at comic relief, bringing down every single scene she is in. She serves absolutely no purpose other than to drag down the story, much as she did in the original.
In the end, the fate of Earth and the rest of the universe rests firmly in the hands of Thor, naturally, and how it all winds up is a bit of a surprise, as are many twists and turns along the way. Despite its nearly 2-hour runtime, “Thor: The Dark World” manages to still feel rushed, glossing over important plot points in favor of more action. For a superhero movie, that’s not entirely a bad thing. The mostly breezes by leaving audiences fulfilled with an action-adventure film that is a worthy addition to the ongoing Marvel saga. And the many fans of Loki will definitely not leave disappointed.
As always, with any Marvel Studios movie, no one should leave before the credits are fully and completely done rolling. There’s more than one surprise to wrap it all up.
Thor: The Dark World slams into U.S. theaters today, November 8, 2013.