Of all the characters in the Marvel movie universe, Thor is the most difficult to make fit. The other characters, whether they’re genetically engineered super soldiers or billionaire playboy geniuses, all have some basis of science that gives them a sense of reality, no matter how far-flung. Thor and his cohorts are different. They’re magical. They’re fantastical. It’s one thing to suspend belief on a scientist turning himself into a big, green rage monster. It’s another thing to accept rainbow bridges, frost giants, dark elves and the nine realms all united by a great tree.
But that’s what makes the Marvel universe, both in the comics and in the movies, so special – the world works. It’s big and clunky and silly at times, but it works, all the same. Thor: The Dark World drops us into a bombastic world of Norse gods with an opening sequence curbed from The Lord of The Rings: The Fellowship of The Ring, complete with voiceover from Anthony Hopkins‘ Odin. It’s during the opening that the main antagonist and the movie’s third-act gun are introduced.
In his third outing as the titular thunder god, Chris Hemsworth settles into character instantly, adding a maturity to Thor that was hinted at at the end of the first movie and only touched on briefly during The Avengers. Thor isn’t the deepest or most interesting character, but Hemsworth does his best to add credence to the character, regardless of how ridiculous his dialog gets. Thankfully, Tom Hiddleston reprises his role as Loki.
Easily the most interesting part of the original Thor, Hiddleston’s Loki is the perfect foil to Hemsworth’s boring protagonist. He is funny, conniving and utterly entertaining, handily stealing every scene he occupies. He runs out of things to do by the film’s waypoint, and the movie definitely suffers from his absence, when he’s gone.
But even without Hiddleston, there’s still fun to be had in Thor: The Dark World. Veteran HBO director Alan Taylor has enough experience across genres to marry the various worlds and tonal changes together, but it’s a tricky marriage that doesn’t always work. At times the movie is a far flung science fiction piece rife with space ships, teleporters, gravitational anomalies and aerial dogfights. At others, it’s a fantastical film, complete with rock monsters, dark elves and sword fights aplenty. Least successfully, it’s also a romantic comedy starring Jane (played by Natalie Portman) and her screwball crew.
Like the main character, the movie is at its most comfortable when it’s hitting things hard with a big hammer, and the film’s final battle doesn’t disappoint, as it mixes the playfulness, action and derring-do that made the everything leading up to it worth the trip. Like the universe it lives in, Thor: The Dark World works, but just barely. And during its quiet moments, you can practically hear Taylor straining to keep the whole thing together.