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"Thor" is Marvelous Entertainment

Thor: The Dark World—Dir. Alan Taylor (Walt Disney)—3.5 stars

Tom Hiddleston and Chris Hemsworth star as uneasy brothers in "Thor: The Dark World."
Tom Hiddleston and Chris Hemsworth star as uneasy brothers in "Thor: The Dark World."
By Amy Friedman, Crimson Staff Writer

The latest in Disney’s new overhaul of the Marvel comic world is the surprisingly charming second installment in the “Thor” franchise, “Thor: The Dark World.” As with many recent Marvel films, “The Dark World” gives equal weight to wry wit and hammer-clashing battle. Though assuredly a superhero flick, “The Dark World” rises above expectations thanks to its pithy humor, gorgeous visuals, and the creation of a perfect supervillain in Loki.

Despite the consistent use of scientific terms and Norse mythology,  it should be made clear that the plot of the story is ridiculously convoluted. As stated pretty clearly in the title, “The Dark World” is a classic battle of light vs. dark, good vs. evil. The villainous Dark Elves want to use a powerful “Aether” to remove light for all nine realms of the universe when the realms converge. This is explained by numerous gods and physicists throughout the film. Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), excited by the strange physics surrounding the portal between realms, accidentally falls through it and finds herself infected by the long-lost “Aether.” Returning to Earth poisoned by this substance, she has no hope but Thor, who flies down and whisks her off to Asgard. To save Jane from the Dark Elves, Thor must ask for the help of Loki, the trickster god. If it all sounds scientifically and logically suspect, that’s because it is. It’s Thor, for gods’ sakes.

Tom Hiddleston’s Loki is one of the main reasons this film works as well as it does. In Loki, the Marvel franchise has found what no other superhero film has: a villain that can span more than one film. Because Loki is Thor’s brother (and, you know, dreamy beyond all belief) it is never clear whether or not his character is wholly sympathetic or purely evil. One of the flaws of movies like “Man of Steel” and even the new Batman films is that the audience knows basically beyond a shadow of a doubt that the main character will not die. But even though Thor is never in danger in “The Dark World,” but this is not the case for Loki. In fact, when he plays the villain, he has to lose for “good guy” Thor to win. This complicates the audience’s attachment to Loki, for while many root for him—or at least don’t want him to lose—we also fear that he can’t possibly win out. Hiddleston has injected mischievous life into Loki’s character, and he steals every scene. Throughout the franchise, Hiddleston’s character is the only one that really gets to explore any depth—exploring his paternity, his family, his need for power—and he plays the part well.

As with the first film, the romance between Jane Foster and Thor leans into the silly high school love story gimmick without ever letting it get too schmaltzy—kisses never finish, music gets cut off, and a reunion scene in the rain stays dry thanks to a convenient new anti-gravity field. Thor even endears himself to the audience by making a jealous joke about Chris O’Dowd (who is perfect in his cameo as the suitor who doesn’t stand a chance against a Norse god). As with many recent blockbusters, the film relies heavily at times on the 3D gimmick, adding too many birds and tricks of falling glass to do anything but distract the audience. The gimmick can’t keep up with fight scenes and doesn’t always fit with the film’s tone, which seems to break away a little from the latest 3D formula action movies. The visuals, however, do deliver, and anyone who wants to see the film should make a point of seeing it on the big screen. Unlike the first “Thor,” the sequel is more “Star Wars” than storybook myth.

Despite being a sequel, “The Dark World” wastes no time with synopsis. The Marvel universe does a good job of maintaining the continuity of the events of blockbusters like “Thor” and “The Avengers” without confusing audience members who stayed home from those films. At the open of “The Dark World,” Loki is in chains for what he did to New York in “The Avengers”—he even gets a little slap from Jane Foster—but he could just as easily be locked up for trying to kill his brother in the first “Thor.” When Thor finally returns for Jane, she cries, “You were in New York!” signaling that she saw him fighting with the Avengers.

“Thor: The Dark World” delivers upon what it promises and will easily satisfy anyone looking for a fun weekend blockbuster. Those who enjoy a 3D popcorn flick bursting with over-the-top CGI, epic battles, and humor created through random acts of physics won’t be disappointed.

—Amy Q. Friedman can be reached at

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