The beginning of Thor: The Dark World has audiences wondering whether or not they’ve entered into yet another Lord of the Rings installment. That’s because Anthony Hopkins’ Odin intones a preface to what otherwise is a lighthearted romp in such a way as to make us wonder about the state of humanity. Nonetheless, Thor rebounds from this weighty opening and proves itself worthy of the Avengers’ stable of stories.
Chris Hemsworth again proves himself an able and adroit hero as Thor, the golden-locked, hammer-wielding god who is loath to ascend Odin’s throne. He’s got the abs, the delts, the pecs—indeed, the whole anatomical package, but what makes his character so compelling is his innate humbleness and sense of humor. This is much in evidence in his interactions with his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston), the bad son who, in The Avengers, attempted to take over the world, and who here is imprisoned in a sort of home-arrest hell until big bro Thor attempts to lure him to the good side. Much of what makes Thor: The Dark World so enjoyable is Hiddleston’s scrumptious depiction of that gleefully tormented antihero.
The movie delves into that usual superhero theme of somebody bad trying to take over the world, and in this case it’s a bunch of Dark Elves, led by Christopher Eccleston, who have it in for Odin and his realm. Scientist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) ends up inhaling a substance called aether, which is essential for the Elves’ plan of world domination. The fact that Jane and Thor don’t have much chemistry between them is beside the point—the action involving Thor, Loki, Jane and their minions more than makes up for the lack of romantic subplot.
Like its Avengers predecessors, Thor works largely because of its ability to blend a lot of humor into its core battle of good versus evil. For every momentous battle, such as that between Thor’s mother (Rene Russo) and the dark side, there are great instances of sly cheek and humanity, such as Thor hanging his hammer on Jane’s coat rack, Jane’s assistant (Kat Denning) struggling to maintain some sense of balance as all else falls by the wayside, and Thor boarding the London tube mid-battle. Hemsworth’s ability to carry the mantle of a superhero at the same time as being somewhat self-deprecating and humble aids immensely to making Thor: The Dark World as pleasurable as it is.