THOR: THE DARK WORLD REVIEW (GRADE: B+)
It is to the immense credit of Marvel Studios that they've not made a single bad film since they launched in 2008 with Iron Man. The internal consistency between all these films, the overlapping stories and character arcs, makes for a truly impressive tapestry. While Thor: The Dark World doesn't achieve the heights of The Avengers, it is nevertheless a rollicking adventure.
There's a lot to juggle in this sequel; there's characters from several different worlds who need satisfactory arcs, themes from Thor (2011) and The Avengers (2012) to expand upon, mythology to explain, villains to introduce, romance to further, punchy one-liners to provide, and slam-bang action sequences to deliver. For the most part, director Alan Taylor (Game of Thrones) and his team of several screenwriters have done an admirable job.
Fans of the Thor-Jane love story will be satisfied, as will those who enjoyed the Shakespearean family dynamics of the first film. Tom Hiddleston's Loki remains a crowd-pleasing villain while Anthony Hopkins lends his considerable nobility to the role of Odin. Rene Russo gets to do some pretty awesome things here. The cast is loaded with talent and I could spend several paragraphs praising them all. There's battles and fights, a thrilling chase-sequence, plot twists, heartbreak and, despite the film's rather gloomy midsection, a surprising amount of solid belly laughs in the terrific third act. What's more, composer Brian Tyler delivers a marvelous musical score.
With so much going on, it was perhaps natural that the new villains would get the short end of the stick, especially since the writers seem more enamored with exploring the Thor-Loki dynamic. Despite being well-designed, menacingly-acted, and given a plot device to “make it personal,” the villains here are too simply-defined to be of more than passing interest. This weakens the film, as does the almost nonexistent explanation of certain man-made objects that, conveniently, have the power to save the day.
If the story gets a tad sloppy, however, the film is easy to forgive when there is so much inventive action, so many memorably-played characters, so much good humor, and so much genuine emotional investment for audiences to sink their teeth into. Not to mention, Chris Hemsworth takes his shirt off, which was enough to justify the ticket price for the three audibly gasping geriatric females to my left in the theater. Oh well, at least this time their lust-object was of age. Thor: The Dark World isn't the year's best superhero film, but it is a lot of hammer-wielding fun, and that's enough. Oh, and do yourself a favor: stay all the way through the closing credits. There are two “bonus scenes.”
CONTENT OVERVIEW: Thor- The Dark World is rated PG-13. There is one s-word and a few mild profanities. A man is seen mostly naked (his private area and buttocks are blurred out) on a television newsfeed; he is later seen in a button-up shirt and brief underwear, both scenes are played for comedic effect. A man and woman kiss several times. A man says that his ex-girlfriend “slept with so many other guys.” There is plentiful action violence, including stabbings, shootings, punching, kicking and, in one startling scene, a hand is cut off. Characters are overcome by a dark and evil substance and the visual effect may frighten small children.
MESSAGES TO DISCUSS: Like Satan, the villain in this film wants to rule and cover everything in darkness and despair (D&C 82:5). Light dispels darkness, however (Acts 26:18). That light is found in courage, kindness, selflessness, and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. Thor's reluctance to assume the throne is similar to that of the sons of Mosiah, who preferred serving instead of ruling (Mosiah 29:3).