Like any well-made movie in a lucrative film franchise, “Thor: The Dark World,” opening Friday, will leave you with questions only a sequel can answer.
Will Thor take his place as king of Asgard? What will become of Thor and his human love, the beautiful astrophysicist Jane Foster? Will the Nine Realms ever truly be safe from evil alien warlords?
We can wait for those answers. The most pressing question of all is this: Will Loki ever get his own film?
Yes, it’s Thor’s world, hence his name in the title. And the magnetic Chris Hemsworth, with his massively chiseled arms and amiable screen presence, owns the role. But Loki has now taken over his third film, including the previously released “Thor” and “The Avengers.” In fact, only months ago, reshoots were done when producers realized “Dark World” needed more Loki. Wise choice.
Playing Thor’s brother, a man consumed by an obsessive need to be king, Tom Hiddleston deftly keeps audiences guessing over Loki’s motives and allegiances and is equally adept at spewing grand speeches and being the comic relief. (His pummeling at the hands of the Hulk may be the most hilarious moment in superhero films.)
“Dark World” is set two years after “Thor” and a year after “The Avengers.” The first film found an arrogant Thor exiled to Earth by his father, the king, where he quickly fell in love and fought to save the planet from a diabolical plan set in motion by Loki. In “The Avengers,” Thor joined forces with other Marvel superheroes to again save the Earth from a diabolical plan involving Loki.
As “Dark World” opens, Loki, looking like a goth rock ’n’ roll god, is banished to prison by his father (played with a bombastic, regal air by Anthony Hopkins). On Earth, Jane (Natalie Portman) has gotten into trouble by falling into a gravitational anomaly where her body becomes a host for “aether,” an all-powerful energy force. Thor rushes to Earth and takes an ill Jane to Asgard against his father’s wishes. But parental anger is the least of their troubles.
The “convergence” has started, an event that happens every 5,000 years when the Nine Realms – including Earth and Asgard and some historically not-so-nice places – align, opening portals that allow free movement between worlds. Ready to make his move when that happens is Malekith, leader of the thought-to-be extinct Dark Elves, who appears with his creepy masked army to “unleash the aether” and overtake the realms.
It’s a lot of story to take in, and that’s a problem. “Dark World” gets mired in too much exposition, losing the lightness and sly sense of humor that made the original “Thor” and “The Avengers” so entertaining. (The screenplay is credited to three men, including Buffalo’s Christopher Markus, plus two “story” writers.)
And because much of the story is set on Asgard, as awe-inspiring as that fantasy world may look, we don’t get many of those “wink wink” fish-out-of-water scenes played so charmingly by Hemsworth that gave the other films real spunk. (There is a particularly hilarious moment, though, when Thor hangs his hammer on a coat hook in a London apartment.)
It takes Loki’s release from prison to jump-start the film, and then we’re off. Add in a few more scenes of Stellan Skarsgard as Erik Selvig, the professor with “a god in his brain,” plus that great brotherly banter between Thor and Loki, and now you’ve got yourself a film.
The 3-D is just OK, but “Dark World” has stunning visuals in other, unexpected ways: a golden, lacelike force field, two warriors fighting through a blood red storm, the breathtaking depiction of souls leaving bodies and turning into stars. Scenes of Thor wielding the best weapon ever – that awesome hammer – are particularly visually striking, yet fun.
The final scene – at least the final scene “before the credits” (hint: don’t leave) – made me want to scream in delight like a kid and had my mind racing with questions. Bring on the next film.
Thor: the dark world
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins, Natalie Portman
Director: Alan Taylor
Running time: 111 minutes
Rating: PG-13 some suggestive content and intense sci-fi action/violence.
The Lowdown: Thor fights to protect his loved ones and the Nine Realms – including Earth – from the destruction of the Dark Elves.