Published Feb 25, 2014Thor was always a bit of a tough comic to get into. Employing arcane language and relying on an uneasy mash-up of Norse mythology and modern Western culture, it also starred a hero with whom nobody could ever really identify. Not only is this guy the heir to a throne, he's an immortal god to boot. His problems are not so much our problems, you know?
And yet, in both Thor (2011), Kenneth Branagh's clever transformation of the comic into a Hollywood spectacle, and the tentpole extravaganza The Avengers (2012), most of these problems were smoothed over by a knowing wink of self-reference. Basically, when Thor (Chris Hemsworth) got to be too Thor-like, which is to say arrogant and self-important, everyone made fun of him.
This humanized the thunder god in ways no number of tender love scenes with his human crush (Natalie Portman) could ever accomplish, and in the process, it gave Hemsworth room to play his character as a cross between a fearsome warrior and a punchline. It really worked, especially as it played off of Kat Dennings' gleeful performance as Portman's snarky millennial lab assistant.
Unfortunately, this minor entry in the ever-expanding universe of Marvel films doesn't quite know what to do with itself. In every way a sequel, Thor: The Dark World sees the brave Asgardian saving Earth from his trickster brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and a group of alien evildoers (yet again) but fails to build anything worthwhile on the scaffolding established in the original. Certainly it struggles to make us feel anything approaching genuine peril; as end-of-the-world battles go, this one is rather ho-hum.
A loud, action-filled placeholder for the next Avengers picture, Thor: The Dark World is so afraid to commit to anything resembling a permanent statement that even when it appears to drop a huge bomb, Marvel Universe continuity-wise, it's just a fake out.