First thing’s first: I am not a fan boy.
I grew up a committed Disney kid, so I've never read Marvel comics, have never been to Comic Con, never had a midnight marathon of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and I think Agents of SHIELD has a long way to go before it becomes watchable.
And because I thought the first Thor was completely underwhelming, I walked into this screening ready to get more of the same. And maybe that was the perfect frame of mind to have, because all that said, with those expectations, Thor: The Dark World was fun, funny, and, overall, a really good ride at the movies that should keep casual fans entertained.
Directed by Alan Taylor (Game of Thrones), and written by Christopher L. Yost (Thor), Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (Captain America) from Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's original "The Mighty Thor" comics, the film continues the story of the hot, hot-tempered, hammer-wielding Norse god we all know, while the themes are rooted in the familiar, familial conflicts: Loki wants to prove his worth to his father Odin; Thor wants to trust his un-trustable brother Loki; and Jane, the woman from the other side of the tracks – er, galaxy- wants to help her man – er, Norse god - overcome.
Thor: The Dark World tells the story of Malakith, the leader of the Dark Elves of Svartalfheim, played by Christopher Eccleston, and their ancient battle against Asgard, realm of the Gods. The film clocks in at just over an hour and a half, and the script, because of its dependence on the ancient war of a made-up civilization, is heavy with exposition, some handled well, and some very obvious and eye-roll-worthy.
The opening is about five minutes of action exposition that tells the history behind Malakith and the ancient weapon Aether (pronounced “ether”), an ancient weapon of desctruction. When Thor's true love, Jane the Scientist (Natalie Portman) is infected with the Aether in a galactic portal in present-day London (yes, it's a stretch, but one I didn’t mind), Malakith is awakened from hibernation and immediately begins his hunt for her. To protect her, Thor takes her to Asgard, where she meets his people and moves from the love interest to a central plot character. (Sidenote: This is one of those character decisions where it actually makes sense, unlike, say, Man of Steel, where Amy Adams ends up on a bomber in the middle of a war.)
There's also a solid exposition scene at both the beginning Act 2, and just after the midpoint. The first is more obvious as Thor, Jane, and King Odin discuss the history of the Dark Elves and Aether. It's not completely thrown in your face, but there are enough "let me tell you a story" and "What happened next" questions that made me roll my eyes a bit. The second, however, is a structurally solid sequence of Thor and his team discussing an action plan that is intercut with action and comedy.
And it was those moments that made me feel like it really was a solid script. It’s filled with a lot of snark and some truly funny moments, as well as several visually surprising story elements. At one point in the midpoint battle, Loki simply sits and reads a book in his cell with the jail literally exploding around him.
The characters are also more realized than they ever were in Brannagh’s film. We see the lost love between Sif and Thor. Idris Elba’s Heimdall has a much more pronounced role, and there’s a great moment between Thor and Loki where they state their true character simply and completely:
Thor: Satisfaction is not in my nature.
Loki: Surrender is not in mine.
The midpoint is clear, huge, and turns the story into an entirely new direction, and at the beginning of Act 3, I literally was thinking, “How the hell are they going to get out of this?”
All in all, Thor: The Dark World has a lot of complicated story points, but at it’s heart, it’s an action film and Taylor does a great job in making sure it doesn’t take itself too seriously. And it comes together in a fun and satisfactory ending that had the audience in applause, which, as Mckee says, “Wow them at the end, and you've got a movie.”
And one last thing: stay after the credits.
And then… stay after those credits.