The Marvel Comics juggernaut continues, this time with the hammer-wielding Asgardian Thor — part two.
As we have learned, the life of a super hero offers little time for basking in glory – it’s always one crisis after another, usually with the future of life at stake. Even supposedly vanquished foes manage to slip away and save themselves to fight another day.
“Thor: The Dark World,” opens with a prelude, narrated by Odin (Anthony Hopkins), king of Asgard, recalling that thousands of years earlier, a race of beings, the Dark Elves, despite having access to some force called Aether, were defeated by Asgardian fighters. The Aether, seized by the Asgardians — and looks like a demented DNA chain — cannot be destroyed, so it is encased in rock and buried were it cannot be discovered.
Back to the present, Thor (Chris Hemsworth), following his adventures on Earth, has been busy restoring peace within the nine realms. Loki (Tom Hiddleston), for his transgressions, has undergone a dressing down by his adoptive father, Odin, and sentenced to life in an Asgardian prison.
Thor returns to Asgard triumphant, but with lingering issues. It’s been two years since he left Earth and left scientist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) in a lurch. Odin, praising Thor’s efforts, offers fatherly advice, suggesting Thor forget about any relationship with an Earthling.
Meanwhile on Earth, Jane is clumsily trying to recover from Thor’s disappearance with a blind date that gets interrupted by intern Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings), who brings in evidence of an anomaly that might be a wormhole. During an investigation, Jane falls into the wormhole, landing next to the stone tomb of the Aether, which has opened a crack in the rock and manages to slither into Jane, making her a host to it.
On Asgard, Heimdall (Idris Alba), watcher of the universe, reports to Thor that he no longer can see Jane. So Thor returns to Earth, where Jane’s hands-on-hips, where-have-you-been interrogation gets interrupted when it is obvious something inside her is going crazy. Thor grabs her and takes her back to Asgard.
The escape of the Aether from the rock has aroused Malekith (Christopher Eccleston), leader of the Dark Elves, who has been in some sort of deep sleep but now is ready to resume his efforts to plunge the universe into darkness.
Malekith’s attempts to seize Jane and extract the Aether is thwarted by the Asgardians, but at a big cost, and in the aftermath Thor and Odin have differences on strategy, leaving Thor with an only option of committing treason against Asgard. The intrigue is heightened as he seeks help from Loki. Thor knows he cannot completely trust Loki, even as Loki says, “Trust my anger.”
The screenplay by Christopher Yost, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, based on a story by the late Don Payne and Robert Rodat, has some deficiencies, most notably presenting a villain that is devoid of any character or depth. Why Malekith seeks a universe in darkness is never explained. This guy just does not want to yuk it up occasionally – cut loose, live and love and party. And of course he has absolutely no sense of humor.
So thank goodness for Loki with his suspicious allegiances and snarky comments, and Darcy with her can’t-take-life seriously foolishness. They freshen up what is a story on the brink of going stale. It gets to the point that Thor and Malekith seem relegated to secondary roles.
On the plus side, Hemsworth is a mighty presence as the honorable Thor and Portman keeps Jane on an even keel — not too helpless but still vulnerable in a battle of super forces. Stellan Skarsgard adds silliness as the brilliant but eccentric (seen as crazy) scientist Erik Selvig. The addition of Ian (Jonathon Howard) — perhaps as compensation for a zero personality like Malekith — as an intern to the intern (Darcy) makes for a few chuckles but ultimately is just another distraction
What would be interesting — and possibly irritating after a while — would be a link-up between Darcy and Loki.