Thor: The Dark World (2013)
As I wrote in my Iron Man 3 review I am a fan of the Marvel Studios movies. My least favorite movie of the series was Thor so I wasn't too excited about this one. I held out hope that Thor: The Dark World would be an improvement over the original but found it to be a lateral move. Director Alan Taylor has mostly done TV work but I guess his Game of Thrones credits helped get him this job. The only other thing I've seen from Taylor was the pilot for the TV show The Playboy Club. I didn't care for it but thought the premise could've made for a good movie. Taylor's next film will be Terminator: Genesis.
The best part of Thor: The Dark World, like the first Thor movie, is Loki. Tom Hiddleston puts in yet another dynamic performance as Loki and does a great job drawing from his background as a Shakespearean actor. It's kinda funny that Loki is a more interesting and nuanced character than Thor, who is supposed to be our main character. But since Loki has been portrayed so well I can't really complain about this. I'm also not sure if there was much more to the Thor character in the comics as I have never read them. While Chris Hemsworth has a nice presence as Thor, he's not the greatest actor. However, he has a good chemistry with Hiddleston and their scenes together are not just the best in the movies of some of highlights of the entire franchise. Thor's companions, the Warriors Three along with Heimdall (Idris Elba) and Sif (Jaimie Alexander), get a bit more screen time in The Dark World. I particularly liked the scenes where they plan to break Loki out of prison and how each one kept telling Loki not to betray Thor, or else! I thought the humor worked in Thor and it's just as good this time around. Another strong point of the film are the stunning visuals ranging from the Aether to alien planets and even creative portal battles.
The Dark World has Loki and great production values but there are several flaws. The weakest part of the movie is the bad guy, the Dark Elf Malekith (Christopher Eccleston). Malekith's motivations aren't strong. He once battled Thor's grandfather, Bor, over a powerful weapon called the Aether. Bor defeated Malekith, gained the Aether, and hid it in safe place, but Malekith is able to escape into suspended animation. Malekith wakes up due to the release of the Aether and wants it back. Malekith doesn't even get that much screen time which is odd since he is supposed to be the main villain. We should've gotten to know this character and his motivations much better as it would've made the conflict and final battle more meaningful.
The relationship between Thor and the human Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) is phoned in again. It doesn't help that Portman is one of the least convincing scientists I've ever seen in a movie. While Loki is trying to discover who he is and what his place is in the universe, Thor's biggest decision is whether his love interest should be Jane or Sif. This brings in some conflict but is basically dropped as the story progresses to include Loki more.
Also like in the original Thor movie, the scenes on Earth aren't as good as the Asgard and cosmic scenes. While it made sense for Thor to be on Earth a lot in the first movie, this time there is too much time spent on Earth that could've been used to play up the fantasy elements.
Some people found Darcy (Kat Dennings) annoying in Thor but I thought she was fine as the comic relief and at the very least had more of a persona than Jane. This time I just didn't find her schtick funny except for one joke that was a callback to the first movie and the fact that she has her own intern despite being an intern herself.
The Dark World brings us a little more into the cosmic aspect of the Marvel Cinematic Universe but not much is set up for Phase 2 outside of the after credits scene. I've been watching the TV show Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and there was an episode, "The Well," which followed up on the events of The Dark World. I would've liked a stronger tie-in to the movie such as a cameo appearance but the Asgardian Beserker staff made for a cool MacGuffin.
I don't need another Thor movie (honestly I'd rather have a solo Loki movie or give a new Marvel character a chance) but Thor 3 was recently announced thanks to the success of the first two as well as the popularity of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a whole. Next up for Marvel Studios is Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which will be released in April 2014.