Thor was probably my least favourite of the Avenger build up films. Not that it was a bad film or anything, but Iron Man was just awesome, and the pulp atmosphere of Captain America was perfect. Maybe it beat Iron Man 2, but not by much. However, one thing that really struck with me was that Chris Hemsworth was ideal for the role.
He still is. Perhaps even more so here. It was only a few months ago I watched Hemsworth in F1 biopic Rush, and looking at him here I can't see anyone but the Norse God of Thunder. However, far more than it's predecessor, this takes the inhabitants of Asgard further away from Godhood and further into kick-ass aliens territory.
If anything Marvel have achieved here what parent company Disney missed with John Carter*. It takes some high fantasy concepts such as Dark Elves and Asgardians running around with swords and shields and merges it perfectly science fiction. Never has Thor felt more science fiction than it does here. The Elves go about in massive spaceships and run around with blasters, then there's the best sci-fi ground battle since Hoth. Elven airspeeders flying past Asgardian defense turrets, with their own viking-esque longboat speeders – who ever designed them deserves a drink – joining in the fight too. It even has Odin outright state they aren't Gods, just to drive the point home.
And after setting up all of this with the first movie, we're now treated to a much larger look at Asgard. I reckon a good half to two thirds of the film it set in Thor's hometown. Though this time Thor has the good thinking of taking his lady friend along with him for the trip. Dad's not happy though, and here is far less the wise king we saw and now, after teaching his son humility, has decided he needs none. Thor is now the much more level headed of the two, his decision to take Jane to Asgard not driven by his personal feelings but by the seriousness of the matter. Odin ignores that and goes to send her away, not even prepared to listen to anything. And this is before the moment when it could be excused. Then there's Odin's closing scene which leaves me with one big question. How?
On the other side of things you have Malakith, aka Christopher Eccleston, who honestly, is a bit flat. No great scenes or drive really, a bog-standard motivation. Except Eccleston's performance keeps the whole thing afloat and instead of being the weak point of the film he keeps the ship strong, despite the material he's handed.
Then of course there's Loki. Marvel have realised just how much of a star they have with Hiddleston and despite taking a beating in The Avengers he manages to get a decent role here as well. Before I saw it I was worried it would be half assed, shoehorning him in because of his popularity. That's not what happens. His use in the film is brilliant, and makes perfect sense. To say any more would be to spoil, and for a change I'm actually trying to keep those out.
Thor: The Dark World, doesn't do much wrong. Nor is it that deep either. Afterwards, you're left thinking “that was cool”, no burning discussion points, good or bad. If anything Lady Sif and the Warriors Three don't get enough screen time, but Thor has one hell of an ensemble cast outside of Hemsworth, Portman and Hiddleston, so someone had to get shortchanged, and as consolation Heimdall gets more screen time, and more Idris Elba is never a bad thing. There's also a cameo in The Dark World that is just fantastic, and its not the usual SHIELD lot either, which makes it even better.
Within the Marvel movies as a whole I think Thor: The Dark World is up there. Definitely higher than its predecessor, almost on par with his fellow Avengers best films, but not quite. Though considering the quality of Marvel's films so far, that's pretty exceptional.
*For the record I quite liked John Carter, but Disney should have been up front and left the name as John Carter of Mars. This current trend of simple name's for films is rubbish. If Die Hard was made today it was be called John McClane, and I'm not sure that I'd see a film called that. Though it might finally put an end to Hollywood using John for every single male hero ever.