When the MCU is on a hot streak it’s nearly untouchable. Be it the original Iron Man to the devastating Infinity War, Marvel tends to bring the fun, excitement and drama to a level of consistency generally unheard of for a series that’s run for so long. However, in the rare occasion the tried and true formula fails, you get Thor: The Dark World.
That’s not to say that T:TDW is an unwatchable mess, quite the opposite, it’s a VERY watchable mess (Marvel’s greatest talent is everything they make is at least likeable) but it also leans heavily into all of the Studio’s established faults too.
For example, at this point of their career Marvel had a “weak villain” problem where all their antagonists (except Loki) were merely single serving, and basic and Christopher Eccleston’s Malekith may be the most bland of the lot. He’s not particularly threatening either, at one point getting bested by Renne Russo’s Friga in one on one combat in a scene that instead of making her character stronger only serves to make the primary antagonist weaker. Quick hint: you want a villain to be a worthy adversary for your protagonist, maybe don’t have them getting their butt handed to them by the hero’s mum!
Plus Thor’s earth bound supporting cast truly have overstayed their welcome, their comedy scenes now being annoying skits you have to wade through in order to get to the good stuff. A capable and endearing cast try their best but and score the occasional laugh out loud moment (Stellan Skarsgärd mostly, putting in some serious overtime to wring out some chuckles) but mostly it’s all too played out.
Yet despite all of the above, one thing Thor: The Dark World has in it’s corner is that it is by far the most interesting episode of the Shakespearean Thor & Loki show Marvel has ever done. During their rocky relationship from brothers to enemies and back again, it’s this point in their constant back and forth that draws the most interest. Neither the full blown Avengers villain of his last appearance or the untrustworthy sidekick in Thor: Ragnarok, Loki’s guilt and rage exploding in all directions (especially inward) makes his uneasy alliance with his brother against the Dark Elves spectacularly interesting. An explosive argument on their journey to the titular Dark World promotes a heated discussion that ranks of one of the best scenes that’s ever included the Asgardian siblings.
Hemsworth leads an incredible charm offensive once again in the title role and it’s the best Thor has ever looked in his movie career but you can tell the rot is starting to set in as Marvel still seems uncertain what tone to ultimately settle on with perhaps it’s most difficult character to translate (thank God then for Taika Watiti). Hiddleston’s Loki is also still as effective as he ever was and extra points go to a latex encrusted (Killer Croc from Suicide Squad) for a great creature performance as super charged mega-elf, Kurse but you get the distinct impression everyone else (I’m looking at YOU Anthony Hopkins and Natalie Portman) is phoning it in at such a level you have to marvel at how strong the on set Wifi must have been.
Perky action and strong performances from the two best characters make Thor: The Dark World an easier meal to digest but a threat-free villain and run of the mill stakes makes you worry that this franchise is beating a dead Norse…