Thor: The Dark World, despite it’s abundance characters and scenic locations, of is a rather simplistic film. Which is not to say it isn’t an entertaining film. It is, just don’t expect Shakespearean complexities.
Thor (Chris Hemsworth) has been busy keeping the peace in The Nine Realms since the Bifrost Bridge was destroyed. He has just about finished putting all the fires out when an ancient enemy of the Asgardians, Malekith (Christopher Eccleston), reappears. Malekith is a Dark Elf who remembers time before creation and desperately wants to return there. He almost succeeded centuries ago, using a supernatural force call the Aether during a convergence of the Nine Realms. He was defeated by Thor’s grandfather, Bor, who hid the Aether away as Malekith went into stasis, awaiting the next convergence.
The convergence arrives in the present day and Malekith awakens, in search of the Aether. The Aether, in a strange twist of fate, has found itself melded to Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), which sets Malekith after her and therefore brings Thor back into her life. Thor must protect Jane while protecting Asgard while trying to save the world from destruction. To do this, he calls on his imprisoned brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) for help. But that might be the worst thing he could do.
The film proceeds at a fairly brisk pace, with plenty of spectacular action scenes and laugh-out-loud funny moments. But it does so with a brutal, cause-and effect storytelling economy. Why did this happen? Because this happened. Why did that happen? Because that happened.Outside of Thor and Loki, there is little room for shading or nuances.
Case in point, Malekith. His entire story is told in a voice over by Odin at the start of the film. We know what he wants and we know how he sets about to get it. We don’t really get a reason why (Vengeance? Quest for Power? A hope to recapture what he once lost) or anything that would make him a three-dimensional character we can relate to. He is just the threat, one against the entire universe, that Thor must defeat.
We get the legal minimum of characterization from the supporting characters. Whether it be fight scenes where they can show their personalities (Sif, Fandral) or just making them stark raving mad (Selvig), they only get enough personality to serve the plot’s purpose and that’s it.
And, granted, this is because Thor’s supporting cast is huge, even with the Warriors Three reduced to the Warriors Two (Hogun [Tadanobu Asano] gets relegated to his home realm at start of the film and stays there throughout) and to give everyone a moment to shine, that moment has to be short and sweet.
Thor and Loki fare much better. Hemsworth does an understated job playing Thor as a well meaning clod with moments of brilliance. His arrogance and ego from the first movie has been pared down to a stubborn pursuit of a doomed love with Jane (Any pairing of a demigod who can live thousands of years with a human who can live maybe 100 years, tops, can only end in tragedy).
And Tom Hiddleston once again shows us why so many fans want a Loki film. It would never work, because Loki needs work in the background to be effective, but you can see why people would wish it would work. Loki steals the show with every scene he is in. You can tell Hiddleston loves playing the character too.
Your enjoyment of the film will come down to whether or not you can lose yourself in a bare-bones popcorn flick. I did, and had a great time. But the film has flaws that might irritate some viewers. Your mileage may vary.