We now know that earth is but one of nine realms, known beyond our planet as Midguard. We know that we’ve been visited by beings from another realm known as Asgard, beings so powerful that they spawned mythology and were thought to be gods by ancient cultures. We know that this visitation led to all sorts of issues for New York and led to the formation of a loosely-knit team of heroes called the Avengers.
What we didn’t know until now, but what Asgardians at least knew, is that once in a very rare while, the nine realms become perfectly aligned. Gravitational and reality-bending phenomena occur during this alignment, and the release of powers that were previously impossible can occur. This alignment is known as Convergence, and Convergence is where we begin Thor’s second installment in the Marvel cinematic canon, two years after his original disappearance back to Asgard.
The last time Convergence occurred, a war-mongering race called the Dark Elves sought to unleash a power known as the Aether. While the Dark Elves were defeated by Odin’s father, the Aether itself is unable to be destroyed, and was buried deep in an unknown place in some un-named realm where it would never be found…until, through the events taking place in Convergence, a hapless Jane Foster not only stumbles upon the Aether, but is possessed by its power.
And nothing brings Thor into the battle more quickly than his true love being in danger.
Thor: The Dark World outshines Thor’s first film in every way, and I say that acknowledging up front that I loved the first film. In this second film, though, we see Thor as every bit the reluctant hero, not seeking any glory for himself, and even less eager in the character flaw that is his love for a good fight. Here, we see Thor nobly defending the one he loves, and defending the earth that he has sworn to protect. Yet, we still see Thor as the warrior he is, and as he brings Mjolnir to bear as he rushes into battle (and his first entrance onto the screen is an outstanding one), you’ll find yourself cheering more than one jaw-dropping occasion as he fells his enemies.
This film leaves you with no doubts that, when the lightning sears the sky and Thor of Asgard swoops into the battle, things just got serious.
And, while every super-hero story must revolve around that climactic battle of good against evil, that battle is not what this movie is about, at least not in the physical sense. The battles that are fought within the characters are so much more profound, and stay with you after the film ends so much more. They wrestle with impossible hope, they wrestle with grief, they dig deep for courage. Each of our major characters in this film franchise are developed at a much deeper level in these two hours, skillfully painted by the Yost, Marcus, and McFeely. We find ourselves standing taller at Thor’s belief and hope that even the most evil can be redeemed, and stand for what he believes, even when it means possibly being ostracized by the father whose favor he so desires. We sympathize with Selvig’s self-doubt, and we warm to Jane Foster’s scattered distraction against what she feared would be a broken heart. We even find ourselves touched by a level of humanity in Loki that we never thought possible, even if it is a fleeting one.
The pacing of the film is superb. You find yourself knowing that someone is going to die in these battles, and I felt the anxiety well up in my stomach as I was completely uncertain as to who that might be. The comic relief is expertly-timed, and prevents the tragic moments in the film from becoming overbearing. This superb craft on the part of the director shines even more when combined with outstanding performances by each actor involved. Hemsworth gives a range to Thor that we had yet to see prior to this film, and Portman’s few seconds of scattered dialogue when she first encounters Thor again accomplishes more for her character than many actors could accomplish in an hour. Skarsgard brings a new dimension to Erik Selvig, who has not fared well since the invasion of New York, and, of course, Hiddleston continues to evolve Loki in a haunting way. We also see Odin’s faults at the fore, thanks to a top-notch performance by Sir Anthony Hopkins.
The visual effects are epic, and draw the viewer through an exploration of the nine realms with breath-taking expanse. These visual effects are also quite prominent throughout the film, as the numerous CG artists in the ending credits will attest. If you’re the sort of purist who thinks that a good film doesn’t involve a green screen, then you may have problems with this.
I should also mention…and I won’t do spoilers here…that you should be prepared for plot twists.
Otherwise, in fairness, I’m really trying to come up with a reason that one wouldn’t enjoy this movie, whether or not you are a comic book fan. Perhaps this is because Marvel studios has done so well at making those who weren’t already fans into fans. This film, as objectively as I can see, though, is simply well-written, well-acted, and well-directed, and it’s a high-fantasy adventure that found me as reminiscent of Dungeons and Dragons at times as it did the comic books of my youth. Thor is, perhaps more than any other hero in the Marvel universe, and hero of conviction, and will defend what he believes to be right and good despite the cost. His films continue to hold a unique place in the Marvel universe as he continues to be a hero to which even heroes aspire. Make the time to see this if you haven’t already (this review comes a couple of weeks after it’s release). You will not be disappointed.
And, in case you haven’t learned this yet (although I can’t imagine how you wouldn’t have), stay through the credits for not one, but two hidden endings. The first made me think of classic Dr. Who, and the second…well the second is just simply what we were (im)patiently awaiting for the other two hours.