I've been looking forward to the second installment in Thor's story ever since I saw the first back in 2011--but at the same time, I've had some concerns. What I loved most about the first movie--Thor's fish-out-of-water experiences during his exile on earth--would have to be absent this time around. After all, Thor's spent considerable time on earth by now (okay, so it was spent in battle with the other five Avengers in what has come to be known in the Marvel universe as The Battle of New York).
As it turns out, however, the God of Thunder still has a lot to learn about this planet. Though Thor: The Dark World is decidedly darker than the first movie, it still manages to deliver enough in the humor department, mostly thanks to the big guy himself (Chris Hemsworth, who I suspect was created in a lab somewhere just for this role) and his wayward adopted brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston, who's made being a bad guy a good thing).
Most of the usual suspects are back: Natalie Portman as Jane Foster, who's been waiting not-so-patiently for two years for Thor to return; Stellan Skarsgard as Dr. Erik Selvig, damaged by Loki's possession in The Avengers, is behaving erratically (running around naked at Stonehenge in front of TV cameras is pretty erratic, don't you think?) and toting a huge bag full of prescription drugs...Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings), who finds a little romance in the middle of chaos...Odin (Anthony Hopkins), who, let's face it, is never going to be named Father of the Year...Frigga (Rene Russo), the only person in the Nine Realms who Loki actually loves (who do you think taught Loki that bag of tricks?)...Heimdall (Idris Elba), Sif (Jaimie Alexander), and the Warriors Three (Ray Stevenson, Tadanobu Asano and Zachary Levi, replacing Joshua Dallas as Fandral)--all committing treason with Thor and Loki in order to save Asgard and avenge Frigga's death--the result of an invasion of Asgard by Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) and his Dark Elves, searching for the substance that can restore the universe to total darkness.
Thor knows he can't trust Loki, but also knows this is a war he can't win without his brother. "Trust my rage," Loki suggests.
The best dialogue in the movie is, without a doubt, between Thor and Loki. The visuals are stunning--Asgard is even more beautiful than I remember it from the first Thor (Asgardian funerals are resplendent, and their prisons are downright classy), and the action is intense, as the battle rages on throughout the Nine Realms via portals similar to the one in which the Chitauri invaded New York in The Avengers.
As with the first movie, my favorite moments involve humor--Thor hanging his mythical hammer, Mjolnir, on a coat rack; trying to take the subway to Greenwich; squeezing into Jane's small vehicle (I'm still trying to picture Chris Hemsworth in a Formula One racer in Rush!); Stan Lee's cameo in a mental hospital; and the end credits scene involving something from Jotunheim that came to Earth through an open portal and remains in London. I would love to see Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) and his Agents of SHIELD be summoned to deal with it!
I'm going to have to disagree with the reviewers who refer to Thor as "a meathead." An intelligent person is smart enough to know he doesn't have all the answers and seeks out those who do; a meathead is too dumb to know he's dumb. Thor is far from stupid.
The movie's ending leaves a few important unanswered questions, and the first of the two end-credits scenes offers a foreshadowing of things to come.Thanos, anyone?
My only disappointment: not enough romance. Thor's a pretty hot guy with two women, Jane and Sif, clearly in love with him...yet he doesn't seem to have done the horizontal samba with either of them. I realize this is Disney, where the only place you can find sex is in a dictionary, but come on! You don't have to be graphic--just fade to black as movies used to do! A guy cannot possibly look like Thor and still be a virgin! He had one shirtless scene in the whole movie, and he was alone. Now that really stretches credibility to its limits.
I'll bet Loki's been in more than a few ladies' chambers....