Five years ago I don’t think anyone would believe me if I told them that not only would we have a good Thor movie, but now we have a second movie and spoiler alert, it’s as good if not better than the first movie.
Nearly everything that Marvel studios has done is unprecedented. No one believed they could make a B level hero like Iron Man into a major A list blockbuster. No one believed they could make a true Avengers film happen. Now, as Marvel enters the second film of Phase 2, they are truly in uncharted territory.
You could argue that the first Thor was a fluke. I know I heard a lot of people say that it was their least favorite movie of Phase 1. I really enjoyed the first movie, but I see that it carried the heavy burden of having to set up a lot and was cursed with more than one info dump exposition speech. I’m still amazed the movie actually happened and that it came together well.
Now it’s 2 years since the first Thor and the whole cast is back for Thor 2: The Dark World. How does Thor fair in his second solo outing? I think it went pretty well. Again, like the first film it does have it’s flaws, but there is so much to enjoy that it’s easy to overlook a few minor flaws.
The story more or less picks up right where Avengers ends, with Thor and Loki returning to Asgard so Loki can face punishment. He is locked away in the dungeons, meanwhile nefarious forces from before the dawn of time led by Christopher Eccleston have begun plotting their return.
This is where we hit the first of the film’s flaws, the story. It’s a standard “ancient alien has returned to end all life as we know it” story, and it works, but it requires a heckuva lot of backstory to set up the film. In fact the first few minutes of the movie are a bit like Lord of the Rings in space. However, we do benefit from the world building of the previous movie so that we already understand that there are 9 realms, the Asgardians oversee everything, etc. After establishing the villain and their motives we can jump into the story pretty quickly.
By the time we return to Earth it has been nearly 2 years since the events of the first Thor movie. Thor left Jane Foster behind saying that he would return and she hasn’t heard from him since, except she saw Thor on TV fighting the Battle of New York and he didn’t even call. She is in London doing science-y stuff that is really never quite explained, but her heart doesn’t seem to be in it. She is even going on dates, but after you’ve fallen for a god, would you really settle for the guy from Bridesmaids?
It quickly becomes the most awkward date ever and emphasizes one of the film’s strong points, the humour and writing. This movie has a lot of laughs, and none of them feel forced. It’s clear the filmmakers have been taking note of what worked in the Iron Man films and the Avengers. In what has become a huge trend to make superhero movies dark, broody and filled with angst, seeing humour and heroes enjoying themselves is like a breath of fresh air. I loved the Nolan Batman movies, but they were hardly a fun time. The Marvel films have excelled at finding the fun, without making things seem silly or playing too hard for laughs.
As the movie progresses we quickly see that not only have all of our characters from the first one returned, but nearly all of them have something to do and get at least one moment to shine in the spotlight. We get some great character devolpment and it’s nice to see the side characters get some attention. In fact, without spoiling too much the major emotional turn of the second act is brought on by a secondary character who was criminally underused in the first movie. Here they prove their worth, it’s just a shame that we wont get more of them in a third movie.
I don’t know how much of this development was planned in the first movie or if the filmmakers just took advantage of the incredible cast that had been put together already.
The only parts that I felt could’ve benefited from more screen time were Sif and the Warriors Three. I feel they had more to do in the first one than they do this time around. If anything it just speaks to how well these characters are setup, that we want more from everyone.
Most of the action in the movie is well done. The villains attack with a brutality that makes this movie a bit darker than it’s predecessor. In the first movie the climax was really just one small very Hollywood backlot looking town getting blasted by the Destroyer. Here the action is scaled up, but it is still within reason and mostly focused to one or two small areas. Man of Steel this is not. The final battle has an inventive twist where heroes and villains literally appear and disappear at a moment’s notice.
One major action set piece does feel like something out of the new Star Trek movies. It was pretty close to taking me out of the film. It’s hard to justify that a culture that mostly fights their battles with hand to hand weapons would also have Star Trek style shields and anti-aircraft guns. Again the flaws in the movie are minor considering everything else is so enjoyable.
In the end, where does that leave us? Thor: The Dark World is a good movie, with a terrific cast and solid writing.
Don’t forget to stay through the credits as there are two post credits scenes. Fans of the comics will find a lot to enjoy from the first scene. It helps to set the stage for the other movies coming and builds on the teaser from Avengers.
Marvel is continuing to be the trailblazer here and not shying away from anything that may be too fantastical. They are fully embracing their characters and stories. It’s worked in the comics for 50 years, why can’t it also work as a film?