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.
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.
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!
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!)
- DARCY I LOVE YOU SO MUCH. DARCY YOU ARE SO COOL.
- 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.