Thor: The Dark World Review: The Most Fantastical Marvel Movie

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When the original Thor came out in 2011, almost a year to the day before The Avengers rocked our world, it received a lukewarm reception.

It was a superhero movie that got a lot of things right but also a lot of things wrong. The sequel, subtitled The Dark World, improves in some areas but falters in others.

One thing that was missing for me from the first Thor was the element of fantasy. Thor is a norse God turned superhero that lives in the mythical realm of Asgard. But Asgard had almost no life to it, which is where The Dark World really excels. This is the most fantasy driven Marvel movie yet (no wonder the studio tapped Game of Thrones veteran Alan Taylor to direct).

The Nine Realms shimmer as Thor and his allies bring peace, by way of hammer, in the opening act.

Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) is thrown back into the mix after sitting The Avengers out when she discovers a new X-Files-y case of a floating truck. She is transported to another realm where she receives the Aether (some sort of red powder that can destroy everything).

Now the Dark Elves are after her, led by Malekith (Christopher Eccleston), who really has to be the most boring villain in all of Marvel comics. He barely speaks a word of English, has a costume that makes Sam Raimi’s Green Goblin look good, and has no shades of gray to make him at all interesting.

At least Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is back.

But really, he pretty much saves the movie.

Still though, something has to be said for the scenes right after Thor brings Jane to Asgard. Suddenly there’s a wonder that was missing from the first film. The Thor franchise is Marvel’s chance to build a fantasy world that they can’t get away with in any Iron Man or Captain America movie. Taylor really nails it and makes Asgard breathe.

But beneath all the world building there is a pretty boring script. Natalie Portman hasn’t delivered dialogue this wooden since Revenge of the Sith. It doesn’t help that the conflict doesn’t seem all that meaty. Asgard fights the Dark Elves and Earth gets involved. The stakes seem high only occasionally while Thor’s inner conflict is hardly present.

But at least there’s Loki.

As far as Marvel Phase 2 goes, this is still an entertaining film, even a funny one at times. The spirit of The Avengers still lingers, as it did in Iron Man 3. While these films aren’t as strong as the first assembling of the Marvel superhero club, they are more creative in certain ways than the origin stories that came before them. The Dark World is a nice improvement on Thor, even if it is only a modest one. Bring on Captain America: The Winter SoldierGrade: B

By Matt Dougherty

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