The guy with the big hammer is back! He is still mostly the straight man in a story that mixes Shakespearian family drama with mythical mumbo-jumbo. Mind you, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and his Asgardian kin are not Gods, because that could cause all sorts of controversy among the believers of various ‘legit’ religions. The movie takes the Lord of the Rings approach by throwing you right into an epic battle with explanatory voice-over. It introduces the movie’s villains economically, making no compromises to people who may need a moment to transition from their daily routine to this fantastical world. You’ll either have to go with it or just go.
In time, you do stop worrying about the plausibility and practical aspects of life in Asgard and the other realms. What becomes more of a problem is some really silly science being used on the earthbound side of the story. The mythical worlds are so far removed from reality that applying credibility seems inappropriate. But hanging a whole lot of gibberish pseudo-science off two fake-looking devices with a dubious-looking remote control , and making the grand finale hinge on the vague workings of it, is annoying. Sure, I can understand that these doohickeys simply do what the script needs them to do, but they are such obvious plot devices that the lazy writing is hard to miss. The writers have some fun by playing around with the effect the thingamajigs cause, and even use it for some good comic relief, but it does throw you out of the story. The writers expose themselves too much as puppet masters.
Now, all this makes it sound like I didn’t have a good time watching Thor: The Dark World. But it is fun, in a cheesy, over-the-top kinda way. Most of the cast from the first movie is brought back in, including the great Tom Hiddleston as Loki, though I don’t quite like how the movie handles him. In-between this movie and The Avengers, he does seem to be spending an awful lot of time hanging around in a cell. And being a trickster, a character you can never get a handle on, he risks going from intriguing to boring in the end. Nathalie Portman is back as the love-interest, brought together ‘by fate’ according to Thor, though I’d say it was the script, working really hard to maneuver her into place. I like Portman in the role and it’s always a joy watching her slap people in the face. Her assistant Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings) works well as the comic relief, though the funniest moment involves a very quick and unexpected cameo from one of Thor’s former comrades-in-arms. Idris Elba also returns, as gate-keeper Heimdall, a lot more well-known by now and still looking hot despite the colored lenses. I look forward to seeing him in the Mandela biopic.
The main problem with Thor: The Dark World is one of tone. Sometimes it takes itself very seriously, sometimes not at all. That can work if the comedy is in the dialogue and the interplay between characters. But as a viewer, you do want to feel that the writers are dedicated to telling a solid, well-thought out story and are not just having a laugh.