The best part about not being a comic book/superhero fanboy: taking all of the superhero films at face value. Not picking apart whichever new release just hit theaters is a lot more fun than complaining about what should have happened before the credits roll—especially when it comes to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). With Phase One completed after last year’s Avengers, Iron Man 3 faced the wrath of the fanboys, all because of a big twist to one of Iron Man’s biggest arch nemesis: The Mandarin. While I won’t spoil what happened, I loved the twist and for those who didn’t, I hear Marvel is going to make up for “crying wolf.”
This week’s entry to the MCU sees the return of the God of Thunder himself in Thor: The Dark World. While Kenneth Branagh didn’t return to direct, Game of Thrones’ Alan Taylor seems very comfortable directing the gods in their multiple realms. Gone are the annoying Dutch angles and Shakespearean inclinations, with Taylor ushering in a bigger sense of fun and far better-staged action sequences. Of course, as the MCU films continue to make more and more money, the special effects continue to get better and better, with this being the first of the MCU to have some sequences finally filmed in the third dimension.
So, what’s the story this time? Beginning eons before, Malekith and his Dark Elves are seen in battle with Bor (Tony Curran), father of Odin (Anthony Hopkins), when Malekith, Algrim (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) and company escape to suspended animation, with Bor hiding the Aether (symbiote). In present day Asgard, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is sentenced to the dungeon by Odin, while Thor (Chris Hemsworth) continues to pine over Jane Foster (Natalie Portman). Jane and Darcy (Kat Dennings) are looking for a portal in an abandoned London factory. Here Jane is transported into a vortex where the Aether enters her body, awakening Malekith and his crew. Malekith transforms Algrim into Kurse to invade Asgard and find their precious Aether. Now, Thor must reteam with the treacherous Loki to stop them from invading Earth.
If that sounds confusing, don’t worry, everything is easier to understand as the film proceeds. Taylor keeps the pacing chugging along, knowing full well that now we expect a film with more plot, and less exposition—the first Thor film got the origin aspects of the story out of the way. The trio of screenwriters—Marvel Comics writer Christopher Yost and Captain America writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely—manage to inject some much-needed humor. And rumor has it there was a lot of improv on set, which could be why Dennings is funnier in this installment.
The ladies in the audience need not fret, Hemsworth is shirtless in one scene, and his chemistry with Portman, and particularly Hiddleston, is better than ever. Hiddleston still manages to steal every scene. And the finale here is way better than in the first Thor. Yes, The Dark World feels far more Avengers-esque than Iron Man 3 did. A few quick notes: make sure you get there early if you plan on seeing the film in 3D as there’s a five-minute Captain America: The Winter Soldier preview in these screenings. And it’s a must-see. Stay through the end credits for two pay-off scenes—one mid-credits, the second is after the credits end. The Marvel Cinematic Universe may be on its eighth outing, but clearly Marvel Studios is just getting warmed up as they make their way to 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron. Thor: The Dark World is far from a blip on the radar and earns its place as another notch on the year’s belt of crowd-pleasing action-packed extravaganzas.
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