Out of all the Avengers, Thor is considered to be the most powerful. He is the god of thunder, has immortal strength, endless stamina, wooing charm and a hammer that can literally bring the lightning. So it seems pretty ironic that when he has a solo movie, it is one of the weakest ones in the Marvel universe. The first Thor movie came out in 2011 and for some strange reason, it decided to make half of the movie feature Thor without his powers and living among humans. There were great humanizing moments for Thor, a dash of comedy and a solid third act to top it off. Yet, Thor did not leave as great of an impression as Iron Man or Captain America (he did better than the Hulk, but he would not be done cinematic justice until “The Avengers”). In fact, Thor himself was not even the most memorable character from the movie, and his name is in the title! So after the success of this past summer’s “Iron Man 3” and with the Captain America sequel in April, Thor is back to shake up fall with “Thor: The Dark World,” a presumably darker, higher-stakes film.
After the events of “The Avengers,” Thor’s brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston, the real breakout star of the Thor franchise), is locked away in Asgard while Thor himself (Chris Hemsworth) is off to protect other worlds in the nine realms in the universe (stay with me, here). Although Asgard is safe and Thor’s father, Odin (Oscar winner Sir Anthony Hopkins) believes that Thor will become king very soon, Thor still pines for the love of human scientist Jane Foster (Oscar winner Natalie Portman). Meanwhile, on Earth (London, specifically) Jane is trying to move on with her life after Thor when she discovers a mysterious red liquid substance called the Ether. Apparently, this substance has the power to plunge the universe into total darkness if put in the hands of Malekith (Christopher Eccleston), the leader of the Dark Elves (almost there people, just stay with me). The substance injects itself into Jane, causing Thor to bring her to Asgard for protection. When Malekith attacks Asgard, Thor turns to Loki for help in destroying the Ether and Malekith before the universe goes dark.
Despite this sprawling plot, it is not as exciting as it sounds. In fact, it is almost as if they are using the same plot as the previous film, but now Jane is the outsider in Thor’s world. She does not have humanizing moments or revelations; she mostly just rolls with whatever is going on. The action scenes are either too brief or too slow that often stop and start with large gaps in between punches. The film also throws in some “Star Wars”-like spaceship battle scenes, because apparently Nordic soldiers are also from a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. Hemsworth also seems a bit confused at times as to what he is supposed to feel. He does not show emotion at times where he should and he does not seem to be really worried about the outcome of the universe. He plays the bulky Nordic hero well, but if the movie is trying to tear out Thor’s heart in certain scenes, somebody forgot to tell Hemsworth.
As proven in “The Avengers,” Hemsworth works best when he has someone to work with or work off of. Thankfully, he has some solid support. Hiddleston’s Loki is deliciously evil as always, but shows a bit of the emotional scarring that made his character so respectable and not just some creepy bad guy. Sir Anthony Hopkins is much better this time as Odin, with a heavier heart on his sleeve and deeper character development. It is disappointing to see Portman play a damsel in distress most of the time in the movie, plus, she seems to have lost some of her chemistry with Thor over time. There is great comic relief here from the likes of Hiddleston, Chris O’Dowd, Zachary Levi and Kat Dennings. Plus, as required in all Marvel movies, the visuals will dazzle. These range from the glistening utopia that is Asgard, to the hulking T-shaped Dark Elf ship, to the final face-off between Malekith and Thor. The colors may be toned down a bit, but this is one movie that is good to look at.
Yet “Thor: The Dark World” is only pretty on the outside. It seems like a blonde teenage girl in the prettiest clothes, best makeup and (in reference to Hemsworth) the best body. But this teen is popping her bubblegum, tapping away on her phone and not showing a standout quality to her. “Thor: The Dark World” thinks it is building up to something, but it is safe to assume that it is mere build up for the next Avengers movie (or another upcoming Marvel movie, as evidenced by the mid-credit secret scene). Either way, “Thor: The Dark World” goes for more quick, bright lightning than slow, creeping thunder. The result: just barely a storm worth caring about.