While critics and audiences were divided on the first Thor, it was financially successful enough to warrant a sequel. After The Avengers was released, plans were in motion for the sequel to be the follow-up to Iron Man 3. However, original director Kenneth Branagh would not return for the sequel, but instead directing duties would go to Alan Taylor. Taylor’s previous credits include TV shows like Game of Thrones, Mad Men, and Boardwalk Empire. However, before Taylor came on, the film was originally to be directed by Patty Jenkins, then known for directing Monster. Ultimately, she left citing “creative differences”, and this almost led Portman to quit, but she stayed due to contractual obligations. Much of the original cast would be returning, save for Joshua Dallas as Fandral, who was replaced by Zachary Levi. So, just a few months after Iron Man 3, we have Thor: The Dark World.
For his crimes, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is imprisoned on Asgard while Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and his comrades repair the damage. On Earth, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) is continuing her research in London when her intern Darci (Kat Dennings) drops by. Turns out strange portals have been opening up around the area, and Jane accidentally falls into one. She’s teleported to a strange world and taken over by The Aether, a powerful weapon capable of creating dark matter. With The Aether awakened, the ruler of the dark elves Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) sets out to retrieve it. After Thor brings Jane to Asgard, the dark elves attack, leading Odin (Anthony Hopkins) to lockdown Asgard. Thor makes an unlikely alliance with Loki to take Jane off-world somewhere to keep her safe and remove The Aether. The dark elves catch wind of this, and it’s up to Thor to stop them.
I’m just going to come right out and say it: this is the weakest film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While Thor had its problems, it at least had some more good qualities to balance the weaker ones. Here, it’s like they took the weaker elements of the first one and just amplified them rather than improving them. For instance, many of the human characters, especially annoying characters like Darci, are given more screen time and more annoying. Even before I mentioned Portman almost quitting, you can tell from what her performance that she’s had enough of this. I’ve complained before about the slower scenes dragging the other movies down, but it’s much worse here. The pacing here is so slow and dull that it’s pretty easy to lose interest in what’s happening pretty quickly. From a storytelling perspective, it’s just very uninteresting.
Even many of the fantastical elements are pointless, especially the villain, who’s so cliche, it doesn’t matter. This movie has plenty of good actors, like Anthony Hopkins, Renee Russo, and Stellan Skarsgard, but they’re completed wasted. If I can say any positives, I will say that many of the visuals have some creativity to them. Also, the charisma of Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston combined makes the viewing worthwhile and is easily the best part. Honestly, I felt there was way better chemistry between Hemsworth and Hiddleston than there was between Hemsworth and Portman. Again, that could be due to Portman not really caring, but it’s pretty telling when your central romance is uninteresting. As negative as I’m sounding, I do want to love this film, but I just can’t. While not one of the worst superhero movies, Thor: The Dark World is a blemish on an otherwise excellent series.