Nothing Unexpected in ‘Thor: The Dark World’

Photo courtesy of Disney Pictures
Photo courtesy of Disney Pictures

By Susan JAMES

Thor and his mighty hammer return in this sequel to the successful 2011 Marvel comic book based movie. It’s richer, darker and even more breathtakingly CGI’ed than the original. And once again Chris Hemsworth as Thor looks hunky, with or without armor, and as rigid as his hammer while Tom Hiddleston’s Loki steals every scene he is in. Most superhero/archaic god movies demand an acceptance of their mythology to spin their stories and make them believable. Here a clutch of screenwriters, led by Christopher Yost, has borrowed so freely from earlier film mythologies (“Lord of the Rings,” “Star Wars”) that sometimes it’s difficult to remember which storyline you’re following.

The movie opens with a portentous voice-over by Odin (Anthony Hopkins) explaining that a race of beings known as the Dark Elves existed before the beginning of time. Because their hatred of the present universe was great, they sought out a mysterious substance known as the Aether (think wispy curls of smoke that can change color) that once in their possession would allow them to destroy said universe and everything with it. But a great king of Asgard, ancestor of Thor, defeated the Dark Elves in battle and sealed the Aether away where none could find it. (If you’re muttering, “The ring of Sauron” here, you just earned yourself 10 points.) Naturally someone is going to find it and that someone turns out to be Thor’s beloved Jane Foster (Natalie Portman).

With the finding of the Aether, Malekith (Christopher Eccleston), leader of the Dark Elves who has been in suspended animation, wakes up to reclaim it and destroy the universe. (One question that this plot always raises is why would sentient beings that obviously exist as somebody somewhere want to destroy the universe and become nobody nowhere?) Eccleston, who played the 10th Dr. Who, is a fine actor that is tasked here with looking sinister through heavy facial make-up and speaking the subtitled Thorian dialect of Elvish with an aggressive accent.

Before he destroys the entire universe, Malekith wants to take vengeance on Asgard for vanquishing him so many eons ago. Both Odin and Thor take issue with this and ultimately looped into helping oppose him is Thor’s treacherous, ambitious, charismatic foster brother Loki.

Hiddleston’s Loki is the most human element in a movie that has an entire complement of human characters, from Portman’s Jane Foster to Stellan Skarsgård’s Erik Selvig, dancing naked at Stonehenge and prancing through the physics lab in his tidy whitey’s. But Loki has gotten all the humor and the cleverest dialogue and it is that which humanizes him, making him by far the most interesting actor in an outstanding cast to watch.

There are battle scenes, many of them, but they don’t sink the film and the final confrontation at the Greenwich Naval College in London is dramatic enough to keep you riveted to the screen even though you know what the ending will be. The film’s creators have tucked a number of unexpected cameos by other Marvel heroes in here and there which for aficionados of the genre offer some surprises. Thor may be mighty and there is always that hammer, but it is Loki who keeps things interesting.

See you at the movies!