I went and saw Thor: The Dark World yesterday. Thor was always my favorite comic book hero growing, probably due to my love of Norse mythology as kid that predated my comic-reading days
(Aside: yes, I realize that Marvel's Thor deviates from actual Norse mythology, and I plan to have a blog post on that issue in the next few weeks.)
The plot concerns the return of the dark elves from their home of Svartalfheim (literally, "dark elf land"), one of the nine worlds which also include Asgard (home of the Gods), Midgard (Earth), Jotunheim (Land of the Giants, seen in the first Thor movie) and others. The dark elves are headed by their semi-immortal leader Malekith, who seeks to undo the universe and return it a state of darkness, extinguishing non-dark-elf life in the process.
I wondered about the presence of Malekith, since the first Thor movie featured the Casket of Ancient Winters as a relic of the frost giants of Jotunheim. In the comics, it belonged to the dark elves and Malekith, who used it to set free an ancient fire demon known as Sutur, who planned to set the nine worlds afire and usher in Ragnarok. So elements of both movies are drawn from Walt Simonson's epic storyline, widely considered to be one of the best runs in the comic's history.
The movie has a series of convenient coincidences to propel the plot, such as Jane Foster's unlikely involvement in the world-breaking events, which seem like just a good reason to get her back with Thor. At the end, Malekith is of course defeated (what, this is no spoiler!) through a fair display of deus ex machina, but it's a comic movie, so okay. There are some clever surprises and a few neat sequences, including Thor's hammer trying to return to his hand while is tumbling between worlds, causing erratic flight corrections to hammer's path.
Dialogue was serviceable, the best of which is the non-stop yakking between Thor and Loki, which varies from fraternal to bloodthirsty. Tom Hiddleston plays Loki with an impressive intensity of emotions, as previously. Anthony Hopkins returns as Odin with much less reserve and spends a lot more time chewing the scenery. Sif and the Warriors Three are back and have about as much impact as they did in the first movie. There are some early hints of a love triangle between Sif, Jane, and Thor, but that was quickly discarded in favor of the action. It's too bad because two minutes of development could have made that aspect much more interesting for the characters. Darcy & Erik Selvig (who played a pivotal role in the Avengers), also return – again – with minimal story impact.
The real star of this film, though, is Chris Hemsworth. He plays Thor with confidence, he appears to both be growing into the role and as an actor, and I think he is probably the number three guy which the public associates a comic book character, after Hugh Jackman (Wolverine) and Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man) – which means he can milk this for a long time. As of last night, Thor 2 has pulled in about $150 million domestically and $330 million overseas. I'd say Hemsworth has established his bona fides as a superstar.
And I have to say, I am amazed at just how well the Marvel movies have turned out over the past 10-12 years. Sure there have been misfires but short of Nolan's Batman trilogy, the DC comic movie universe has been almost a complete failure. Ironic since the DC comics themselves are often considered to be better written.
Of course, I stayed through the credits to watch Marvel's preview stinger, which will be totally non-sensical to anyone who isn't a comic fan, but (highlight for spoilers) I bet money it points to next year's Guardians of the Galaxy movie, and it was cool to see Benico Del Toro as the Collector. So there is that.
Overall, I was satisfied. It was pretty typical comic book fare. Fans of Marvel's movie-verse will eat it up, others may be left wanting.