Long before there was light, there was darkness, and from that darkness came the Dark Elves, led by the evil Malekith (Christopher Eccleston), powered by the Aether. The armies of Asgard, led by Odin’s father, Borr, strip the Dark Elves of the Aether, Malekith sacrifices his own people and the Dark Elves are believed to be dead.
Flash forward: Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is imprisoned on Asgard for his crimes against Earth and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is cleaning up the Nine Realms and pining for Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) in his downtime. The Nine Realms are on the brink of aligning, an event call the Convergence that happens every 5,000 years.
Jane, investigating the resulting phenomena in London, unwittingly releases and absorbs the power of the Aether, awakening the long-slumbering Malekith. He send his warrior-chosen, Algrim (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), transforming him and loosing the entity known as Kurse (basically the Dark Elf version of the Terminator) to wreak havoc on Asgard as he seeks to plunge the Nine Realms back into darkness. Thor is desperate and short on comrade; he must find a way to contain the Aether and defend the universe against Kurse and Malekith while protecting Jane and the Earth.
Thor: The Dark World does so many different things so well it’s hard to figure out where to start. The action is tight and somehow not bogged down by the 3D effects. Despite the sign-posting in the plot, it still manages to build suspense. There are some twists and turns that casual fans won’t see coming (geeks of a greater caliber may). Hemsworth and Portman still steam it up.
We see tremendous growth and maturation in Thor as a character, once rash, foolhardy and battle-hungry; his urges are tempered with concern for the preservation of life; “I would rather be a good man than a great king.” He swaps places with Odin, who now cares little for collateral damage and instead sees victory as the only end.
Where the film goes wrong is the comedy. Despite being of comic book origins, the tales of Thor are based first in Norse mythology, which isn’t so humorous. All the jokes are funny and they’re really well executed, but it distracts from the rather serious plot line. There’s a Dark Elf who wants to plunge all of the Nine Realms back into darkness, changing reality as we know it; the zingers continue well into the third act when all the characters should have their respective game faces on.
Tom Hiddleston shows complete mastery of Loki in his third turn as the trickster. The ambition from the first film and desire to rule in The Avengers are replaced by a simmering hunger for revenge and Hiddleston gives Loki true emotional depth. Hemsworth has similarly owned his role as the thunder god, and the chemistry shared by the two is magnetic. Anthony Hopkins follows up his performance as crusty, old Odin with aplomb. Christopher Eccleston is always such a great villain and has had experience sacrificing his own race (Time Wars, anyone?). Missing in action are Lady Sif (Jaimie Alexander) and the Warriors Three. Totally underused. Portman as Jane? Meh. Kat Dennings is just as adorable as the spunky research intern, Darcy.
The challenge the Thor sequel faces is the legions of fanboys crying for a Hawkeye/Black Widow film instead of this Asgardian follow-up. To them, the advice is simple: check your geekier-than-thou ego and pretensions at the door, shut the fuck up with your nerd-rage, sit down and enjoy the luminous brilliance of Thor: The Dark World.