Nov 7 2013 6:00pm

Thor: The Dark World is SO MUCH FUN

Thor: The Dark World non-spoiler movie review

I have seen Thor: The Dark World and LO, I have loved it with a deep and abiding love that would take me back into the IMAX immediately if it weren’t for the fact that I need to pack for a trip to Brighton and the World Fantasy Convention therein. Apparently there were TWO post-credits Easter eggs! Let it be a testament to how excited I was to get home and write this review that I didn’t stick around to see whether or not there’d be a second one!

This film was a beautifully choreographed dance of gravitas and levity, featuring fantastic effects (that were especially spectacular in IMAX 3-D), gorgeous sets (ASGARD!) and very enjoyable performances from everyone graced with screen time. It was admittedly the kind of film where plot details are painted in big hand-wavy strokes, but simultaneously the kind of film where you’re happy to let your critical faculties take a backseat as you gasp and giggle and flinch from the larger-than-life-ness of it all.

I feel pretty confident in saying that if you enjoyed the first Thor movie, you’ll enjoy this one. Certainly I found myself liking it even better than the first.

A very lightly spoilery review (no plot twist talk, just set-up Stuff That Happens, roughly as spoilery as a trailer) follows.

The premise itself is drafty as a barn: Dark Elves fought a battle ages ago to destroy the Nine Realms in an attempt to return the universe to its original darkness. They lost! But Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) intended to use a tremendously powerful and indestructible weapon known as THE AETHER to win the battle, until Asgardians prevented him from doing so. Malekith flees, vowing to return another day and DESTROY THE UNIVERSE; the Asgardians find that it’s impossible to destroy the Aether, so they settle for locking it away somewhere where no one can ever find it—until Jane Foster does, by accident, kicking off More Plot.

Thor: The Dark World non-spoiler movie review

So already, of course, one might ask why Malekith didn’t just LEAD with using the Aether since it’s so awesomely, inexorably powerful; one might also ask how the Dark Elves are as humanoid as they are when their natural habitat is a lightless, dark matter universe; one might furthest ask why modern-day Asgardians have so much trouble with the Dark Elves when they were able to beat them so long ago (and this is actually an interesting world-building question: has Asgard dwindled in military might since defeating the Dark Elves?).

Anyway, one might ask all those questions if one weren’t getting a faceful of stunning CGI (and, er, beautifully rendered scenes of post-bath Thor flexing his sculpted back at the camera while looking out at Asgard I AM NOT EVEN JOKING THIS IS A THING THAT HAPPENS) making one coo ooh, pretty at one’s film-going partner every two minutes.

Fast-forward a few eons and Thor’s bringing “peace” to the Nine Realms with his hammer, like an Asgardian Pete Seeger. We get a nice nod to the fact that the Nine Realms contain more than white people, but if you’re going to put Tadanobu Asano in a film you could probably do better than giving him two scenes and as many lines of dialogue—he’s Hogun, one of the Warriors Three! Surely he could’ve gotten up to more plot shenanigans the way Fandral, Volstagg, and Sif do! I was, however, pleased to see Idris Elba’s Heimdall have more of a role in this film.

Meanwhile, Jane Foster’s attempting to go on hilariously awkward dates in a bid to get over Thor (who hasn’t called in two years), Dr. Erik Selvig is streaking at Stonehenge while babbling about the Convergence, and Darcy is still perfectly, brilliantly, wonderfully Darcy and we are married and happy together she’s got herself an intern’s intern in Ian, a Rory-esque guy who is to Darcy as Darcy is to Jane.

Thor: The Dark World non-spoiler movie review

Loki’s in prison doing his Loki thing—being by turns petulant and heartfelt with Frigga, inscrutable and interesting to anyone else, reading books at inappropriate times—until all Hel breaks loose and Thor needs to ask for his help. Then it just gets too excellent for words as the Thor and Loki Show gets on the road, and I could genuinely watch an entire film that is nothing but Loki hectoring Thor while doing shape-shifty impressions of people he knows. And you know Loki would never tire of it either!

Thor: The Dark World non-spoiler movie review

There were just so many fantastic character beats, all timed to keep up with the breakneck pace of Plot, and I was completely delighted by all the Thor-in-London moments (“How do I get to Greenwich”? I now want an entire alt-plot where Thor fails to save the universe because he ended up in North Greenwich instead). Some last thoughts:

  • I could listen to Christopher Eccleston threatening to destroy my universe forever (surely he’s saved it enough times as the Doctor!)
  • There are so many shoes in this film! Shoes are a thing!
  • This was definitely my favourite Stan Lee cameo.
  • I adored the design of the Dark Elves’ ships—like upright swords swiveling through the air. Utterly beautiful.
  • This film features Christopher Eccleston ploughing a massive alien spaceship into London. It’s Bizarro World Doctor Who!  
  • WOW does that mid-credits Easter Egg not fill me with confidence about the Aesir’s character-judging abilities. I mean, more so than usual.

What did everyone else think?

(Possible spoilers ahead in the comments for those still waiting to see it...)

Amal El-Mohtar is the author of The Honey Month, a collection of stories and poems written to the taste of 28 different kinds of honey. She has twice received the Rhysling award for best short poem, and her short story “The Green Book” was nominated for a Nebula award. She also edits Goblin Fruit, an online quarterly dedicated to fantastical poetry. Follow her on Twitter, where she is prone to bouts of extraordinary sillyness and sometimes puns.

“Jane Foster science” images via Tumblr.


Mani A
1. sn0wcrash
Oh lordy yes. Watched this last week. I think one of the reasons that the Marvelverse worrks better in movies is that they are so up-front about the ridiculousness and the grains of salt needed, and they realise the importance of haveing an adequate humourous tone throughout.
Wasn't too happy with the (SPOILER) fridging of a character. Seemed... unnecessary and gratuitous just to explain Loki.
The best scene? Where Thor appropriately uses a wall-mounted coat hanger. Manners matter, peeps.
2. Tumas
I definitely agree on all counts. I definitely liked the film, perhaps more than the first one. The larger focus on Asgard was definitely a plus, and Thor and Loki's interaction was brilliant. I also appreciated the fact that Loki's slightly differing behaviour in Thor and The Avengers is reconciled into a cohesive whole within the first few minutes he is on screen.

On the whole I could listen to Christopher Eccleston threatening to destroy my universe forever front, I wish we could have seen more of Malekith or had a little bit more motivation shown.

Stan Lee's cameo was great, but I have to admit the one shich surprised me the most was when Loki shapeshifted into one of Thor's 'new friends' (and a nice touch having his theme play in the background while doing so).

So, great fun film, and looking forward for the next Thor film which will hopefully follow up on that rather surprising ending.
3. Vincent Archer
"WOW does that mid-credits Easter Egg not fill me with confidence about the Aesir’s character-judging abilities."

Well, Sif does look a bit awkward there. But when Odin "sort of" gives you an order...
Amal El-Mohtar
4. amalmohtar
Snowcrash: I hear you. To me the nuances of the scene -- a woman defending another woman, being clever and badass while doing so, successfully besting Malekith when NO ONE ELSE COULD -- kept it from being a fridging per se, though I totally acknowledge it was about fuelling (some very specific) manpain. But a) it was a worthy Asgardian end, and b) I'm not convinced she's really dead. Also ... The thing that happens at the end that sets up Thor 3? Would've been TOTALLY AWKWARD if she were still around...

Tumas: Totally agreed about wanting to see more of Malekith's motivation! Throughout most of the film I was reading it as habitat loss and wanting to remake an environment in which they could live (a la Zod, except a lot more ... Comprehensive, given that it's MATTER to which they object, which, er, doesn't make sense, but whatevs!), and I think there's room to make a REALLY interesting ethics problem out of that -- when both sides are fighting for their survival in so stark, fundamental, and irreconcilable a way, it sort of makes sense for one to see the other as evil. But it would've been a LOT cooler to me if we'd seen the Dark Elves also talking about the Aesir as evil. I think there may have been a mention of them as "poison" at some point, but ... Yeah, anyway. More nuance and sophistication than I'd expect from any genre film with an antagonist in it, really.

5. LisaVPadol
After we saw it, Josh pointed out to me that Loki's fighting tactics were leared from his mother. That's really cool. Good point about her being the only one to best Malekith. That makes me feel better that she's the one killed off.
Amal El-Mohtar
6. amalmohtar
LisaVPadol: It makes so much sense that Loki would learn from Frigga. It strikes me that she'd be far more likely to fight smart (witness the tricking of Malekith in that scene with the hologram) than just hit things with a hammer until they explode into rock!
Alan Brown
7. AlanBrown
I very much enjoyed this. I totally bought it when Loki betrayed Thor, and thought it was great that he didn't, and loved Loki being on the throne at the end. And I thought it was great that without help from Jane and the humans, Thor would not have prevailed.
I especially enjoyed the "Captain America" cameo; nice job on that.
I had heard that the director and Eccleston had worked very hard on making Malekith a well rounded character--which means a lot must have been left on the cutting room floor, because in the film, he came across as more of a stock villain.
Most of all, I appreciated the lighter touch--the mix of action and humor is what makes Thor work so well.
8. Wizard Clip
I felt kind of "meh" about this. It was enjoyable, but mostly forgetable. I'd give it a B-. I agree with AlanBrown that Malekith was somewhat lacking as a distinctive villain, nowhere near as memorable as I remember him being from the Simonson-era comics (I was really happy to see that Simonson got a credit). Fortunately, Loki was on hand to liven things up. And the dark elves lost some of their luster once they materialized on earth. They looked like something from the Power Rangers. I do prefer the more ruthless characterization of Odin in this one. It's truer to his character in the Norse myths. Can anyone tell me why the warriors of Asgard, with the flying ships and laser canons at their disposal, wade into battle with medieval style weapons?
Jimmy Dodd
9. BwanaJim
"one might ask why Malekith didn’t just LEAD with using the Aether since it’s so awesomely, inexorably powerful"

I understood it to be because the planes had to be aligned before it would work, much like 5000 years later when he tried it again in this movie.
Chris Nelly
10. Aeryl
@1, That part with Meow-Meow was great, I totally expected it to pull the hanger out the wall though.

@2, That was the BEST CAMEO EVER. In addition to the theme, Chris Evans is the only one without Hiddleston's voice saying the dialog. Evans is such a good fit for the role, it's a lot of fun to see him play it OOC.

@3, Yeah I'm definitely expecting more explanation on that. I don't necessarily think the Collector is working for Thanos, but if he is, it makes sense that Loki, who's owed big for failing on Earth, would be trying to get back on his good side.

My question is, not knowing the comics much, are the gems lining up with what we've seen in the movies? The blue gem, which is the Tesseract in the MCU, is the mind gem, which lines with the powers it had in The Avengers. If this is the case, the red one is the one that AMPLIFIES the other gems, so why give it away, unless you're trying to help the bad guys.
Amal El-Mohtar
11. amalmohtar
BwanaJim: Ah, I figured that the aether couldn't be used to destroy the universe until the worlds aligned, but figured Malekith could have allowed it to inhabit his body earlier than that moment, as it inhabited Jane -- considering how powerful it made her (and later him), it just seemed like a sensible thing to do. Or, y'know, to not have engaged Asgard on a battlefield at all, and just used the aether in a surprising sort of way? BOOM, there goes the universe, sorry you didn't know we wanted to destroy it, kind of thing? That was all a bit murky to me.

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