It’s time to look at what most consider to be the worst MCU film of the bunch. Is Thor: The Dark World really that bad? Not really, it’s okay, but when you’re surrounded by films of very high quality and you’re just okay then you do end up looking far worse. Let’s take a good look at it anyway, and see if my opinion matches that general fan consensus…
In ancient times, the gods of Asgard fought and won a war against an evil race known as the Dark Elves. The Elves’ ultimate weapon, the Aether, was then buried in a secret location. Countless years later Jane Foster finds the Aether and becomes its host, forcing Thor to bring her to Asgard before Dark Elf Malekith captures her and uses the weapon to destroy the Nine Realms – including Earth.
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
No matter the film, these two will always be in “The Good”.
Much like the original Thor film the standouts are Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Loki (Tom Hiddleston), though this time round there isn’t a character arc for our titular hero, whereas Loki gets all the fun. Thor is helping to keep the peace in various realms but is always thinking about his love interest back on Earth in Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), who is studying odd activity as a rare convergence of the Nine Realms is causing the barriers between them to weaken (without knowing that’s what’s causing it, obviously). She ends up being infected with what we soon learn is an infinity stone known as the Aether, a weapon that the leader of the long-dormant Dark Elves Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) wants to get his hands back on to extract revenge on the Asgardians that wiped out his people (and his family in some backstory that was sadly cut from the film…) So that’s the basic set up, Jane is taken to Asgard which leads to Odin (Anthony Hopkins) to discover the Aether and give us some exposition about the Dark Elves, who then attack Asgard head-on.
A few fun action scenes and the death of Thor’s mother later and our hero frees Loki from prison and prepares to take Jane to Malekith in order to kill him before he reclaims the Aether, a risky plan that Odin doesn’t like. Thor recruits his old friends Heimdall (Idris Elba), Volstagg (Ray Stevenson), Fandral (Josh Dallas) and Sif (Jaimie Alexander) to aid his, Loki and Jane’s escape in a really fun chase sequence. It’s here where Loki whining and complaining is at its most fun, and earlier scenes in the prison showed a softer side to his character, although given his trickster nature you’re never sure if it’s genuine. Thor and Loki try to stop Malekith but only succeed in giving him power over the Aether and seemingly getting Loki killed, although soon after Thor leaves the area its shown to be a false image so Loki can escape his fate behind bars.
I can see my house from here! …. Okay, that’s a complete lie but still, right country anyway….
Malekith arrives in London to activate the Aether at the moment all Nine Realms converge and therefore return the universe to the infinite blackness he loves, but instead Thor arrives and the two have a good old fashioned superhero/villain showdown. As they do Jane and her old Earth-bound allies Erik (Stellan Skarsgard) and Darcy (Kat Dennings) (plus Darcy’s intern/boyfriend Ian, played by Jonathan Howard) use some scientific equipment to destabilize Malekith’s portal thingie. It’s a perfectly fine spectacle that ends with our heroes triumphant, eventually leading to Thor returning to Earth to be with Jane and Odin revealed to have been replaced by Loki at some point during all of this. Throw in a mid-credits scene where we’re introduced to The Collector (Benicio del Toro) who is given the Aether to seal in his vault to both tease the up-coming Guardians of the Galaxy film and to set up a scene much later on in the MCU, and that’s your lot!
Like I said there are some good and exciting scenes, plus Loki is still great fun, but it definitely isn’t on the same level as a lot that came before it, or indeed comes after it.
All that make-up and prosthetics and you still get short-changed. That’s got to be extra annoying!
The main problems with the film are firstly a generic and underdeveloped villain in Malekith, something that was a fault of the post film editing, by the sounds of it. All he does is speak a bit in a made up language with his right hand man Algrim (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, and yes I copied and pasted that…) and then fight a few times out of vengeance before being defeated. It’s a waste of a character and a waste of Christopher Eccleston, really. The other thing is the other half of the hero-villain equation: Thor himself is far more… plain. He’s funny on only a few brief occasions, he doesn’t go through any kind of emotional journey or character development or anything like that, he’s just the plain hero type and it really stands out compared to his two previous appearances and certainly future appearances!
Due to our lead duo being just… dull a lot of the bits in between the action set-pieces really bog the film down, to the point where by the time you get to the final confrontation you just don’t really care anymore, despite visual treat on display (nice to see a bit of MCU Britain, anyway…)
The Dark Elves are creepy, I’ll give them that. Can’t see them as the next Teletubbies anyway.
Thor: The Dark World isn’t a bad film, but it’s decidedly average, which in a “cinematic universe” full of really enjoyable films makes it stand out as bad. While Chris Hemsworth is still good in the role Thor in this film is given a plainer hero role while his foil in Malekith is severely underdeveloped, it’s only really Loki that comes out of the film with another top-class performance. It’s not bad, but if the MCU were a TV series it would one of those episodes you could easily skip over…