As the saying (kind of) goes: The Loki is in the details.
The comparison of a sequel is unavoidable, but when you consider that not only is Thor: The Dark World a tie-in to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but also a direct sequel to – you guessed it – Thor, there’s a lot of work to make it fit. Throw in the fact that Thor’s director, Kenneth “The Dutch” Branagh, has been replaced by Bored to Death and Game of Thrones alumni, Alun Taylor, it must have had the Marvel execs a little worried they couldn’t continue the formula that benefited Iron Man 2 - even though this particular concoction has whiffs of formulas old.
The Dark World starts familiar enough, but there is a little difference (those details again!). An exposition heavy intro, narrated by Odin himself, Sir Anthony, kicks off the proceedings much like it’s predecessor, setting up the villain, what’s to come and the McGuffin. The particular difference here is the nigh sci-fi presence of the dark elves – somewhere between Legolas and Nosferatu. There’s something a little jarring about their presence and design. So much so that at one point they almost turn Asgard into Naboo.
There is a certain weight that is lost to some exchanges that Branagh pulled off with aplomb in the first Thor – the stripping of Thor’s title a particularly powerful example. The result is a flatter beginning with occasional highlights. However, this a story less about fathers and sons and more about brothers. There is an “No they wouldn’t” game changer half way through the second act, that not only raises the stakes but escalates the already tense relationships of our Asgardian family. The movie really kicks into gear here and offers something the original perhaps did not: Real peril. A trick quite hard to pull off when your dealing with gods.
That cheeky change of it’s predecessor’s detail does pay off elsewhere and quite often. Even the "Warriors Three" are a little more swashbuckling – the introduction of Thor & Co. in their first battle is good, not-so-clean fun! It’s worth mentioning that Sif and Frigga (Jamie Alexander & Rene Russo respectively) have roles more rounded and meaningful than in Thor’s previous outing. Most importantly, Odin seems more war-torn and a victim of pervading hubris. Whereas, Thor has more grace and nobility befitting the future king of Asgard. Loki is once again played with equal measure of elegance and gusto by Tom Hiddleston. It could be very easy to copy the villain we know from Avengers, but instead we see a more damaged Loki wrestling with his identity.
Fear not, the action is deftly handled also. There’s a bilgesnipe-load of sequences, that entertain and delight. They vary from sword and shield dust ups to mano a mano knock-down-drag-outs. There’s even a sequence where Mjolnir seems to be rushing to the aid of it’s owner while he plays rea- life Portal.
It isn’t perfect, but Thor: The Dark World doesn’t disappoint. It does enough to keep in with it’s Marvel siblings without losing site of the reason you came: to see Thor’s story.
3* - Plot-hell-o