I liked the first Thor movie, but I didnít love it. My main concerns were:
Jane Foster had nothing to do. She was a cypher. No reason for Thor to have any interest in her beyond the physical. Lokiís motivations were not well communicated. Somewhere between script and final cut his story arc got confused, undercutting a great performance with some odd in-plot actions. The Asgardian cast, especially Sif and the Warriors Three, were woefully underused and played no part in the final resolution on Asgard. They were forgotten. Thorís boss level fights with both the Destroyer and Loki were too easy.
Clearly, someone on the scripting team of Thor 2 had the same worries. The Dark World learns from the first movie, building on its successes, avoiding most of its mistakes. The end result is a very strong, engaging film that can properly be described as a spectacular.
Tom Hiddleston did a marvelous job again of stealing every scene Loki was in, and even a couple he wasnít.
The battles were well handled, with clear choreography and good effects. Each was given a different style and rhythm, which helped define separate conflicts with different stakes and perils.
One of the nicest things about this movie is the grace-note reintroductions of pretty much all of the cast. Each is defined in just a few seconds, be it of action, comedy, drama or whatever. Then almost everybody got another, different moment that offered their characters more depth.
Special commendation goes to Dr. Selvigís live-TV Stonehenge streak and his lecture on the Nine Worlds.
My Thor 1 problems didnít recur. The Jane Foster issue was neatly solved by having her stumble across the main plot, then absorb the Maguffin of Doom so she became the football that everyone was fighting to hold. Jane got to do heroic stuff, she was able to interact with pretty much the entire cast this time due to an extended Asgard trip, and she played a key role in beating the baddie at the end. Job done. I still prefer Sif, though.
I was particularly struck with how well Tom Hiddleston was able to dominate a scene where unstoppable Kurse was smashing down Asgardians left and right in the background while Loki sat quietly and read a book.
Lokiís arc in this story was far clearer, more emotive, and nuanced, and it set up Thor 3 very well indeed.
I would have liked more time for Fandral, Hogun, and Volstagg. At least Fandral and Volstagg got solo scenes to shine, plus the odd character bit. Hogun got sent home early, and apart from a three-second cutaway near the end is absent from the rest of the movie. Sif had a little more to do, but sheís screaming out for one of those ďMarvel One-ShotĒ shorts that appear as extras on the DVDs. Frigga, Odin, and Heimdall all had reasonable parts which helped the story along in different ways.
Janeís friend Darcy had her role develop through interaction with her sidekick/ intern/ romance interest Ian Boothby, who might as well have been named Shaggy.
Special mention goes to the spaceship assault on Asgard and Thorís final multidimensional showdown with Malekith. The build-up of Mjolnir making its way back to Thor across worlds was a very effective way of amping up to the climax.
The Dark Elves and the Dark World were the weakest part of the film. The Dark World was the most visually uninteresting setting in the movie, a dim grey quarry. Dark elf ships are black CGI knobbles with blue holograms; Iíd say Geiger meets Tron but that would make it sound much more interesting than it was.
Christopher Eccleston was given nothing to do as Malekith. He didnít get to banter, to seduce, to enchant, to trick, or to do anything than play heavy fanatic baddie #1. His motives, choices, and background remain opaque except for another info-dump pre-credits voiceover. It was tell, not show. Waste of a great actor.
Fortunately, despite its title, The Dark World wasnít about Svartalfheim, its inhabitants, or the maguffin they coveted. It was more about responsibility, choice and consequence, and family. Thatís why the Thor/Loki scenes worked so well; Everyone enjoys an archenemies team up against a common foe plotline.
There are some lovely post-credit teases too (two of them), although one seemed to go completely over the heads of the non-comics-literate audience; even more obscure than the Avengers alien saying "To fight them is to court death."
Iím very happy with this movie, which leaves the Asgardian portion of the Marvel movie franchise in fine shape, corrects the problems of the previous outing, and leaves a huge, huge hook for more to follow.
And boy, that Mjolnir is persistent.