Chris Hemsworth and his abs must fight to keep Borg-knockoffs with elf ears from destroying the universe in Thor: The Dark World, a movie that, I guess, lives up to the standards of its Thor predecessor.
I described its predecessor as “eh” and gave it a C+, so that’s not saying much, but what do you really expect from a B-plot Marvel-movie franchise?
Thor (Hemsworth) is back in the nine realms — one of which is his home world, Asgard — fighting the good fight to restore order after something or other that had to do with either the end of The Avengers or the last Thor movie, I couldn’t really tell you because there is a lot of mythology happening here. Because of this inter-world peace-keeping, he hasn’t had much time to visit Jane (Natalie Portman), so she’s trying to get on with her life. But when Darcy (Kat Dennings) discovers that their Official Science Equipment-omonitors are beeping, Jane tries to discover what all the geo- electro- MacGuffinotic disturbances mean. Also, she’s hoping Mr. Abs will show up and they can do some smooching.
Buried in a whole lot of what might be called Marvel chatter, the plot boils down to this: Thor has to take Jane back to his home world — and meet his parents Odin (Anthony Hopkins) and Frigga (Rene Russo)! — because she has been infected with Aether, a thing that a group called the Dark Elves (who look a lot like Borg with Spock ears) plans to use to plunge the whole universe into permanent darkness. Thor’s first plan to deal with the Aether and the Borg Elves leads to much death and destruction in Asgard, leading to a “plan b” that involves Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Thor’s much more interesting adopted brother who is now in Asgardian jail on account of destroying New York City — but not the new schawarma restaurant — in The Avengers.
There is a lot of “in The Avengers” or “you’ll remember from the first Thor” type stuff in this movie. Dark World feels, at times, like an episode of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. but with less compelling writing and characters. Thor, the guy, is a lovely bit of eye candy. And Thor, the sequel, seems like an excellent employment project for graphics arts types, judged by the credits, which, yes, I sat through to see yet another post-credits, next-movie teaser. (It features Benicio del Torro as The Collector, a character slated to appear, if Wikipedia can be believed, in something called Guardians of the Galaxy, the very name of which is exhausting me already even though the movie isn’t scheduled for theaters until August of next year.) There is a lot of work involved in this movie, a lot of remembering and rule-learning for not a whole lot of reward. There’s nothing all that compelling about Thor himself, abs aside, and Hemsworth has, like, negative chemistry with Portman — they don’t just repel, they create a black hole in the movie into which whatever charm the characters have individually starts to disappear. And, at a few points, the CGI — which is kind of the foundation for a movie that takes place mostly not on Earth — looked like maybe a few more graphics artists should have been hired.
Here’s what Thor: The Dark World has going for it:
• Tom Hiddleston. I don’t recall feeling all “well hello, trickster god” in previous movies, but he is by far the most watchable character here, one who has chemistry with everyone and everything he encounters.
• Idris Elba. Under-used, but briefly offers hope that something interesting is about to happen.
• Kat Dennings. The movie has even less use for her than it does for Elba and yet clearly writers and directors like her and the sarcastic-girl energy she brings.
The movie where Darcy and Loki have to work together to stop CGI from destroying Idris Elba — now there’s ridiculousness worth two hours of my life. Thor: The Dark World feels more like a really detailed DVD extra for serious fans only. C+
Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, and some suggestive content. Directed by Alan Taylor with a screenplay by Christopher Yost and Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely, Thor: The Dark World is two hours long and released by Marvel Studios.