Marvel Studios’ meteoric rise in the entertainment industry didn’t come without some stinkers along the way. Following the introduction of the God of Thunder in 2011’s Thor comes Thor: The Dark World, which is described by Disney+ as “Thor’s most dangerous and personal journey yet.” The second movie in the Thor trilogy may be dangerous and personal for the crown prince of Asgard, but neither of these ingredients contributes anything meaningful to the narrative.
Thor: The Dark World boasts many elements that serve to make this a better story; it’s not all Dark Elves droning on about returning the universe to one of darkness. The dynamic between Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is as strong as it has ever been, but unfortunately the two share a dismal amount of screen time. This is ultimately what this movie has been and will continue to be remembered for in the history of the MCU — bad components that throw a wet blanket over what little there is to be enjoyed.
‘Thor: The Dark World’ Review: A Movie Plagued by a Weak Antagonist and Poorly Written Characters
Of the many things that severely weigh down this film, perhaps none are heavier than the central antagonist, Malekith (Christopher Eccleston). There is not a single point in Thor: The Dark World where the leader of the Dark Elves is even remotely interesting. The best villains are the ones you can sympathize with or the ones you’re absolutely terrified of; Malekith is neither, wanting nothing more than to “bring the world back to a time of darkness” all the while constantly sending his minions to complete his tasks. He’s underdeveloped and poorly performed with a forgettable character design, all reasons he is one of the worst MCU villains.
Another factor that sucks the life out of Thor: The Dark World throughout is the choice to write Jane Foster’s (Natalie Portman) character as a device to relocate the Aether (the fluid form of the reality stone). On the brink of a brilliant scientific discovery, Jane is pulled away from her work and into a space war pitting the Asgardians against the Dark Elves. Her role in this space war? Someone who constantly needs saving or protecting, who is later used as bait in a ploy to destroy the Aether. At the film’s end, she is left not working on anything important, just waiting for Thor to return to Earth once again until the two reunite in the post-credit scene.
Both Jane Foster and Malekith headline the biggest thematic problem at the center of Thor: The Dark World, which is a lack of commitment to any of its many underdeveloped elements. In the first Thor movie, Jane Foster says, “Magic is just science we don’t understand yet.” This pattern is remarkably present throughout a film that refuses to answer any of the questions it presents. How does all this scientific equipment work, and how is it being used to stop a world-ending event? Why did the Aether choose Jane? Why is all of this happening now? “Don’t worry about it.” Thor: The Dark World answers, “Just enjoy some hammer-smashing action and floating red liquid!”
Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston Breathe Much-Needed Life Into ‘Thor: The Dark World’
Despite its many shortcomings, Thor: The Dark World offers an insightful look into Thor and Loki’s relationship, however brief it may be. The brothers don’t reunite until the halfway point in the film and are together for a mere 10–15 minutes while they devise a plot to destroy the Aether and save Asgard. The problem here is redundancy. It’s entertaining to watch Thor and Loki disobey their father and scheme up a plan with the Warriors Three, but where have we seen this before? That’s right, the same thing happens in the first Thor movie, almost to a T. It begs the question: did the filmmakers watch the movie they’re supposed to be basing this sequel on?
The fact that one of the Odinson children turned out okay is a testament to Frigga’s (Rene Russo) parenting, considering they have one of the worst fathers in the entire Marvel Universe. In his second MCU appearance, Odin (Anthony Hopkins) proves himself a terrible dad to both of his sons, refusing to support Thor’s relationship and actually telling Loki his mother is the only reason he isn’t dead. That’s right, Odin would have killed his son if not for his wife’s counsel. Loki’s crimes in The Avengers are undoubtedly heinous, but are they really enough to warrant filicide? You tell us, Odin.
Two other undeveloped aspects that trouble Thor: The Dark World are Thor’s relationship with Heimdall (Idris Elba) and the choice to kill Frigga. Heimdall is consistently regarded as Thor’s best friend, but the two rarely spend any time together in the Thor movies. Heimdall may not be the best protector, given his title is “All-Seeing” and he never actually sees any threats coming, but Elba and Hemsworth have a delightful chemistry that deserves further exploration. Killing Frigga also comes dangerously close to fridging, especially considering her death and funeral are over in less than five minutes.
Frigga gives her life to save Jane, but unfortunately, the writers didn’t deem it necessary to give Jane a meaningful arc to make this sacrifice worth it. This is yet another troubling example of Marvel Studios’ checkered history with female characters in its earlier days. Fortunately, Frigga goes on to serve an important role in Thor’s arc in Avengers: Endgame, reminding him and the audience that the true measure of a person is who they are inside, not who they failed to become.
The Legacy of ‘Thor: The Dark World’
In its impressive collection of 32 movies to date, there may be no film with less of a legacy than Thor: The Dark World, except for maybe The Incredible Hulk. This is the last solo Thor movie that proudly maintains the Shakespearean atmosphere, and the majority of character development accrued in this project has long since been discarded. Thor went on to receive a complete reinvention in Thor: Ragnarok and The God of Mischief has undergone a makeover of his own in the hit Disney+ series, Loki.
Thor: The Dark World is widely condemned as the worst movie in the Infinity Saga, and one of the worst in the entire MCU to date, but it serves as a reminder of just how far Thor has come. At least fans of supporting MCU characters like Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings) and Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) have this project to revisit if they’re craving some time with their favorites.
‘Thor: The Dark World’ Is a Forgettable Chapter in the MCU Experience
While Thor: The Dark World may have the least rewatch value of any movie in the Infinity Saga, it’s what classifies as a good YouTube movie. There isn’t much reason to sit down and rewatch this film in its entirety, but there are some sweet moments, including a Chris Evans cameo as Captain America, that are worth revisiting. Thor: The Dark World will ultimately be remembered as a small bump in the road in a very successful franchise.
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'Thor: The Dark World' Review'Thor: The Dark World' Review
- Thor and Loki dynamic
- Hiddleston's performance as Loki
- Some semi-fun action
- Weakest MCU villain of all time
- Narratively a complete slog
- Loads of unanswered questions
- Feels ridiculously inconsequential