Watching Thor: The Dark World tonight, I got the feeling that Hollywood might have finally figured it out. In theory, a sequel should always surpass its predecessor, although as we all know, many have tried and famously failed. But a new trend seems to finally be breaking through. X2 was better than X-Men. Spider-Man 2 was better than the first. And now that I've seen it, I can tell you Thor: The Dark World… is better than Thor. (And the fact that these are all Marvel productions, that's food for anther discussion.)
I thoroughly enjoyed Thor, directed by Kenneth Branagh, when I only saw it for the first time just this spring. In fact, I watched it again the same week. Which is saying enough to imply that my hopes were high for the sequel. So I was really looking forward to tonight and I was not disappointed.
Thor 2 was helmed by a different director, Alan Taylor, which typically always spells trouble in my book when they change the director, but I take my hat off to him. What I admire is that he managed to capture the tone that Branagh set in the first film flawlessly – even perfected it in a way. He brings to the table a duality which almost never works successfully in any film, but here, does so perfectly: Taylor made Thor 2 notably darker, yet at the same time more humorous. I take my hat off to the writers as well – they put in a ton of great jokes, all at the exactly right moment. Had this been done even a fraction less tactfully, the film would have sunk like a bag of bricks, like so many others have. I found myself (and the audience) laughing my butt off one moment, and feeling very serious and engaged with the on-screen emotions the next. Even when it happened abruptly, it still never felt inappropriate. Now that's good entertainment. Two thumbs up.
The actors all wear their roles like a custom-made suit. It's obvious that Chris Hemsworth has really grown into his character, third time around. This guy IS Thor, hands down. The same goes for all the other actors, they were all perfectly comfortable in their roles and respective environments. The one that intrigued me most, however, was Loki – personified absolutely magnificently by Tom Hiddleston. Much like Hemsworth, it seems he was born to play this role. He captures all the slyness, all the arrogance and all the torment of a man almost unable to bear the weight of his own ego in a single flicker in his eyes. And then that grin… Perfection. The way Hiddleston plays Loki is strangely captivating. You know he's totally wicked and cannot be trusted, yet at the same time you can't help but really like him – you might even end up rooting for this guy, and I'm not sure many other actors would have managed this.
All the special effects were as good as one should expect them to be these days. I have nothing much to say there, except that it was all terrifically eye-pleasing, and Asgard looked even more beautiful than before. It was all convincing and very well done.
Still, I have not completely explained why T:TDW is better than the first. Actually, I might not fully be able to. It's mostly a feeling. As much as I was entertained the first time, I was even more entertained now. It was more action-packed, more exciting, darker and it just had a great deal more adrenaline.
The only thing that I think was weaker in this film, was the character of Jane Foster. Her character was just less interesting, kind of blank. I actually don't remember much of her at all, except that she slapped Thor a couple of times and she had all this creepy stuff coming out of her… Also she was somewhat of a damsel-in-distress most of the time with the look of a scared kitten on her face, and that's not exactly how we like to see our ladies nowadays. It's so common to see women being perfectly independent now, that it's a little weird to see a grown woman with "three degrees in physics" (as Darcy so poignantly points out) scared and shivering like a little girl. Most of the time, Natalie Portman just didn't carry her scenes very strongly, and that's strange coming from such a fine actress. So maybe one of the actors was actually a little out of place after all, thinking about it.
Having said that, that's pretty much my only complaint. Every other element in this film was very solid, the story was very good and they absolutely nailed the pacing. Those two hours went by in the blink of a eye.
Thor: The Dark World is wonderfully entertaining and a definite must-see for every Marvel fan. In fact – at the risk of enraging the Marvel Gods – this might just be pretty stiff competition to X-Men… Watch out Wolverine, I think I have a new favorite superhero. (November 2013)