Thor: The Dark World is about as good as any superhero movie involving a quest for an all-powerful primordial ooze can be. It’s silly and preposterous, loaded with things that explode in all manners of impossibility, and happens to be heaps better than the first Thor, which is saying something, because that movie was an awful mess.
This time around, Thor — the God of Thunder, muscles, and blonde hair extensions — and his hammer must save not just earth, but the entire universe, from a band of ancient Dark Elves hell-bent on returning the cosmos to darkness. They intend to do this with the help of a substance called Aether (like ether, get it?) that predates the entire universe, needs a living host for maximum power, and renders its vessel with extraordinary powers to blow stuff up. Conveniently enough for the plot, the universe is in the middle of a 5,000-year cycle where nine galaxies or some such are in perfect alignment. Head dark elf Malekith plans to spread the Aether through this sort of wormhole between worlds and behold, instant dark.
Writing those words, Thor: The Dark World seems even more absurd, and it is. But you know what? I don’t care. The movie is a lot of fun. I have no issues with ridiculousness, as long as I’m entertained; that’s one sign of a good film. It maintains its pitch of action, is funny in spots, and is even a little sweet at times. Thor’s love from the first movie, Jane, is back and becomes an unwilling target of the Aether’s powers of possession. She’s a fine partner for Thor, although I appreciated more Jane’s assistant, Darcy (Kat Dennings), a flighty dingbat with her own assistant (Jonathan Howard) who has a nice running gag that people can’t seem to remember his name.
Chris Hemsworth is a likable enough actor, and he has a lot of fun with Thor, particularly with the moments where he has difficulty assimilating on earth. At one point, he boards the London underground and must ask for directions to Greenwich. But the movie really belongs to Tom Hiddleston, as Thor’s mischievous half-brother, Loki. If you recall from the first movie, Loki tried to blow up New York. Now, he’s imprisoned on his home planet of Asgard for his crimes by his own father, Odin (Anthony Hopkins). When Malekith unleashes hell and attempts to destroy Asgard, Thor busts Loki free and enlists his help. Together, they take on the forces of evil in standard superhero fashion, although the question of whether Thor can trust his brother is up for debate. Hiddleston brings a certain charm to Loki that makes us root for him even when he’s being bad. There’s a glint in his eye that lets us know how much he relishes his sabotage. It’s little wonder Loki and Hiddleston have both developed a feverish cult following. Too bad he won’t be in Avengers 2.
In the end, Thor: The Dark World is harmless escapist entertainment, good for a couple hours of fun. Should you put too much stock in it as a serious superhero entry in the same vein as, say, The Dark Knight? Absolutely not. That’s not what it’s trying to be. What you see is what you get: omnipresent goo, dark creatures, bright light and explosions, Loki doing his very best to undo anything good, and Thor smashing everything in sight with that hammer. Does that about sum it up?