Star Trek trekked into darkness. Not to be outdone, Thor’s doing a whole dark world. So how does that work out?
Not too bad. It’s an unfocused movie with a reasonably complicated back-story, but it’s got enough action, special effects and, more importantly, solid humor to carry you through when things threaten to get ponderous. Plus it’s got the whole Avengers afterglow working for it, which guarantees good box office. Honestly, if you’d told me ten years ago someone would make a blockbuster out of Thor, the guy with the hammer named Mjolnir, I’d have laughed. Yet here he is with his own successful franchise.
The movie begins like the previous one, with a voiceover giving you pertinent history. It’s a little weaker this time. The first movie had a historical war against Frost Giants, which is simple. Asgard good, Frost Giants not so good… Go. Also, the idea of Frost Giants is pretty intuitive even if you never read the comics or the original mythology.
Well, now we’ve got Dark Elves. What, like the Keebler guys gone bad? No, they’re Elves with spaceships. And weird masks. And some kind of primordial force called the Aether. And they live on a dark world, which is actually more of a dark green world once the Asgardians kick their ass.
Got all that? Good, now forget it. A leftover dark elf called Malekith gets revived by the pull of the Aether in the present day. He sets out to destroy Asgard and remake reality as a really dark world the way it should have been if the Asgardians hadn’t kicked his ass the first time around... Go?
See, I told you. Frost Giants are better.
Anyway, the nine realms of Asgard have been pretty chaotic after the events of the first Thor movie and the Avengers. Thor and friends (Sif, Volstagg, Hogan and Fandral) have been busy restoring order. Coincidentally, they finish just as Jane Foster, the mortal for whom Thor pines, finds a rift between worlds, caused by a rare alignment of the Nine Realms, that leads her to become the host body of the Aether… Uh, Go?
All right, forget everything I just said. Dark Elf Malekith wants the Aether. Jane has it. Thor takes her to Asgard. Malekith attacks with his spaceship. Lots of fighting ensues.
Strip it down to that, and it works pretty well. The salvation of it all is humor, especially Tom Huddleston as Loki. Said humor is provided by humans (Jane’s assistant Darcy, her intern and Professor Eric Selvig of Avengers fame) and Asgardians alike. An example of the deft self mockery is when Thor enters Jane’s apartment and carefully hangs Mjolnir on a coat peg. And Huddleston is all but a one-man show at times. His take on Captain America, trying to capture stolid virtue, is worth the price of admission alone. Fortunately, the writing is up to the task when Thor and Loki must team up to battle some guy called Kurse (don’t ask). It manages to convey the two brother’s mutual mistrust, anger and, yes, love in a way that elevates the proceedings above the normal blockbuster.
Of course the elves get the Aether. Then there’s a knockdown drag-out portal fight in London where the humans save the audience’s potential confusion with some choicely timed sight gags. Thor wins. A nice little twist at the end, too, as blockbusters go.
So long Dark Elves. You really could have used a little more color. It’s done wonders for Asgard.