Stepping foot on Asgard again for Thor: The Dark World feels like coming home to something comfortably familiar. Now that Thor's whole origin business is done and out of the way, we're finally given the chance to see these characters as they were meant to be.
When Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) accidentally unearths the Aether, a weapon that could throw the universe back into darkness, it awakens the dark elf Malekith (Christopher Eccleston), an ancient Asgardian enemy who wishes to use the Aether to bring about the destruction of all the Nine Realms. It's up to the mighty Thor (Chris Hemsworth) to save them all, but he can't do it alone. In Asgard's darkest hour, Thor needs the help of the last person he would expect to ask...his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston)!
Thor: The Dark World stands out as a flashier, more honest film than its predecessor. Thor gets to show a more complex and sensitive side of him, Odin (Anthony Hopkins in a scary good performance) exudes more imposing authority, and even Rene Russo as Frigga gets to kick some dark elf ass. You don't mess with the queen of Asgard! And in no surprise to anyone, Tom Hiddleston stole the spotlight with a fantastic performance as Loki. He gets to cut loose in this film, more so than in previous Loki outings, with more quips and schemes you can shake a god of mischief at. And I absolutely loved that the movie dabbled more into the relationship between Thor and Loki, painting them as brothers who hate each others guts while knowing deep inside they'd risk their lives for each other. Aww.
But killer performances ain't worth squat unless you have a killer story to go with it, and unfortunately, Thor: The Dark World suffers from some pretty jarring storytelling. Story beats jump from heroic to tragic to comedic with little rhyme or reason, resulting in painful mood whiplash. At one point a tragic scene was directly followed by a weirdly comedic bit, leaving you to pick up pieces of your heart on the floor while crying!
And don't get me started on the massively missed opportunity that is the movie's Big Bad, the dark elf Malekith. I was really hoping he would rival or even one-up Loki's schemes in the first film, but limited screen time meant little time to build up Malekith as a believable threat. It says a lot that the most boring parts of the film were the ones with Malekith in them! A sad and monumental waste of Christopher Eccleston's considerable talent.
But despite the topsy-turviness of the entire movie, it's still got all the things we came for: a lot of Thor smashing stuff, Loki being a Magnificent Bastard, and a few laughs and moments of awesomeness in between. Thor: The Dark World is a louder, shinier and funnier Thor movie, and if the ending is any indication, the ride ain't over yet.
Oh and for goodness sakes stay until after the credits.