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Thor: The Dark World Sets Up the Rest of Marvel's Phase Two |Spoilers|

Astghik Poghosyan ’17 / Emertainment Monthly Staff

When it comes to superhero movies, formula is always followed: by the end of the movie, the good guys win. Because of this, there’s an aspect of expected predictability when entering the theatre and preparing for the show. Ultimately, it’s what happens in between the beginning and the end of the movie that establishes its quality and success.

With Kenneth Branagh (Director of Thor) stepping down and passing on the mantle to Alan Taylor, Thor: The Dark World takes on a much darker edge. Taylor has previously directed various episodes of the well-known HBO show, Game of Thrones and he carries that gritty atmosphere into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Taking on a Shakespearean-esque approach to story-telling, the movie opens with a flashback to historical incidents pertaining the Dark Elves and the Asgardians through an over-voice narration by Odin (Anthony Hopkins). He tells the story of how thousands of years ago, the Dark Elves, lead by their ruler Malakith (Christopher Eccleston), tried to turn the world into darkness by the use of a weapon called the Aether. Defeated by Odin’s father Bor (Tony Curran) who buries the Aether, Malekith retreats and swears revenge on the Asgardians.

The Dark Elves in Thor: The Dark World. Photo Credit: Jay Maidment. © 2013 MVLFFLLC.  TM & © 2013 Marvel.  All Rights Reserved.
The Dark Elves in Thor: The Dark World. Photo Credit: Jay Maidment. © 2013 MVLFFLLC. TM & © 2013 Marvel. All Rights Reserved.

While the opening is quite similar to Thor, the narration provides the audience with a clear idea of who the common enemy is and what their intents are. The scene changes to guards escorting Loki (Tom Hiddleston) to the throne room of Asgard where Odin declares his verdict of life-long imprisonment for his crime against earth in The Avengers.  His brother Thor (Chris Hemsworth) on the other hand is battling throughout all the nine realms, trying to re-establish peace after the destruction of the bi-frost.

Meanwhile on earth Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings) are both in England tracing magnetic fields that were similar to the ones in New Mexico. After Jane is accidentally pulled into the Dark World and has the Aether use her as a host, Thor takes her to Asgard in order to aid her. Malekith senses the presense of Aether and attacks Asgard with the intentions of taking back the Aether and turning the world into the darkness. Thor enlists Loki’s by breaking him out of his prison, and with the help of The Warriors Three and Lady Sif takes Jane to the Dark World where he plans to destroy Malekith and the Aether as soon as it is exposed and vulnerable.

Chris Hemsworth in Thor: The Dark World. Photo Credit: Jay Maidment. © 2013 MVLFFLLC.  TM & © 2013 Marvel.  All Rights Reserved.
Chris Hemsworth in Thor: The Dark World. Photo Credit: Jay Maidment. © 2013 MVLFFLLC. TM & © 2013 Marvel. All Rights Reserved.

The character development that happens between Thor and Thor: The Dark World is tremendous. Loki is one of the characters whose change has been quite drastic, and Tom Hiddleston does a spectacular job playing this out. In between his crazed agenda in The Avengers and this film, two years have passed with him being locked in a cell. While in the previous movies all his actions seemed to be fueled by madness, there is an eerie calmness to him in this movie that isolation has bought upon. On the other hand, Loki lives up to his status as a trickster and The God of Mischief, which was clearly seen when he shape-shifted into Captain America (Chris Evans) or turned Thor into Lady Sif.

While the overall film is quite grim, Taylor manages to integrate a healthy amount of Whedonesque humor to balance it. Most of it revolves around the interactions between Loki and Thor, making the movie more Disney family friendly.  Chris Hemsworth’s acting brings not only a regal Norse-god and well-known superhero to life, but makes him relatable on a human level.

Natalie Portman and Chris Hemsworth in Thor: The Dark World. Photo Credit: Jay Maidment. © 2013 MVLFFLLC.  TM & © 2013 Marvel.  All Rights Reserved.
Natalie Portman and Chris Hemsworth in Thor: The Dark World. Photo Credit: Jay Maidment. © 2013 MVLFFLLC. TM & © 2013 Marvel. All Rights Reserved.

Thor and The Avengers were solid foundations that introduced the audience to new characters and realms, giving Thor: The Dark World the chance to take those and develop them further, both internally and externally. Aesthetically, Asgard has become much more stunning and the audience is presented with glimpses of other areas besides the castle. Furthermore, there is development into the Asgardian culture that establishes itself as a realm of its own instead of simply a background home to Thor. Having said that, Taylor utilizes the nine realms in the third act and final battle between Malekith and Thor as they jump from realm to realm. The introduction to most of the nine realms places the Marvel Cinematic Universe into a more understandable cosmic context.

In the ever present post-credits scene, Lady Sif and Volstagg visit The Collector and give him the Aether for safekeeping, claiming that they already have the Tesseract and having two Infinity Stones close to each other would be dangerous. As they leave The Collector says ‘One down, five to go’ which create a nice set up as to what to expect from Marvel Phase 2.

Grade: A

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