‘Thor: The Dark World’ has a light touch

The second installment in the Marvel Norse god series, “Thor: The Dark World,” is more amusing than the first and has a lighter touch. There are still plot holes that you could march a relatively small legion of Asgardians through, but if you’re going to this movie you’re probably not expecting logical plotting.

In the 2011 outing, Kenneth Branagh directed with a screenplay by committee (Ashley Edward Miller, Zack Stentz and Don Payne). Branagh bowed out for this movie (replaced by Alan Taylor), but luckily for us, he cast Tom Hiddleston as Loki although Hiddleston originally auditioned for Thor. Aussie Chris Hemsworth looks heroic enough, but Hiddleston as Loki is more interesting.

“Thor: The Dark World” was written by Christopher Yost, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely with the story by Don Payne and Robert Rodat. “Thor” was created by Stan Lee (who has a cameo), Larry Lieber and Jack Kirby.

What’s created a stir online for “Thor” has been Hiddleston. On the promotional tour, Hiddleston has charmed audiences everywhere. At San Diego Comic-Con, he came out in full Loki gear.

At the D23 Expo, he apologized for coming out in regular street clothes, but sang a few bars of “The Bare Necessities.”

In Korea, he got up and danced.

Post-2011 “Thor,” I have fallen in love with Tom Hiddleston and hope that the continued success of the “Thor” franchise will further enable him to take on less lucrative projects such as “The Hollow Crown” series. Maybe Hiddleston can team up with Branagh for some Shakespeare in the future. But let’s get back on the Norse god track in the Marvel Universe.

I’ve always complained about the odd mix of accents between brothers Thor and Loki and father Odin (Anthony Hopkins). Can we blame it on the mother (American Rene Russo)? I think not, but don’t worry…”Thor: The Dark World” doesn’t attempt to resolve this linguistic issue any more than it attempts to explain why brilliant astrophysicists are either sexy, fashionable women like Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) or dotty, doughy men like Dr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard).  At least, unlike “Pacific Rim,” the scientists don’t work alone. Foster has an intern…who is a poli-sci major because somehow that makes sense in the Marvel Universe as it might not in a regular university type universe. Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings) is cute, but funny, sort of in the way Disney cartoons always need a cute sidekick type of cute. As a complete break from the reality of internships and grad schools, Darcy the intern has an intern, Ian (Jonathan Howard).

“Thor: The Dark World” has its beginnings in the distant past because, we are told, “Long before the birth of light, there was darkness.” Bor, Thor’s grandfather and the father of Odin, fought with the Dark Elf Malekith (Christopher Eccleston). Malekith has a weapon called the Aether (because like Thor’s hammer, all good weapons have a name). The Aether, a mysteriously red gaseous substance that can invade bodies, can’t be destroyed, but it can be contained. It is buried, “deep where no one will find it.”  While Bor thought the dark elves had died, Malekith and his trusted lieutenant Algrim (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) and a few hundred followers are actually in suspended animation.

Thor has been busy attempting to bring peace to the Nine Realms. It has taken two years, but he’s finally finished and we see him in the final battle with Sif (Jaimie Alexander) and Fandral (Zachary Levi) in Vanaheim with Hogun (Tadanobu Asano). This is a racially diverse cast which is good but would be better if some of the key heroes were non-white (and even found true love).

When the movie begins, Jane Foster is in the place that defines whiteness, the United Kingdom. She’s on a date with the doughy non-scientist Richard (Chris O’Dowd), but Darcy saves her from this awkward date. You’d think a brilliant scientist would want to date other scientists except we see that our other scientist, Selvig, has gone completely bonkers, streaking (running around naked) at Stonehenge. That’s a case of tourists seeing more of England than they may have intended.

Darcy has discovered a place where the laws of gravity don’t apply and before you can say “Where are the car keys?” Jane has been transported to another dimension where she discovers the Aether and becomes infected. The release of the Aether brings Thor to Earth and he takes Jane to Asgard, but the release of the Aether also reanimates the dark elves. All of this happens because of the Great Convergence–a rare occurrence when the Nine Realms align and various places become wonky portals to other realms. That means more fun than a door-slamming comedy of errors, but with a more serious directive of saving lives in an interplanetary scale rather than finding true love.

Of course, there is true love, or as close to true love as you can get in the Marvel Universe. Thor is a hunk and we get a nice loving shot of  Hemsworth’s abs and chest. This is the most cleavage you’ll see in the whole movie. The special effects are top-notch, but the plot fails to explain why the Asgardians use swords when they also have machine gun-like weapons that shoot something better and more deadly than bullets and have sporty vehicles that fly (and why the Asgardians don’t need seat belts to keep them on board despite high speeds and evasive maneuvers).

We also don’t learn why the technology the dark elves had thousands of years ago, hasn’t been brought to Asgard (or, again, why their hand combat technology is limited to swords). There’s at least one scene where you might think about the 1981 “Raiders of the Lost Ark” where a swordsman brings a scimitar (knife) to a gunfight. Despite bringing a knives and swords to a gunfight (and a hammer named Mjolnir), the Asgardians will in the day. You know this, already, right?

To defeat the dark elves, Thor will have to team with Loki and spring him from his prison. Loki, has, according to Odin, failed to feel  gravity of his crimes.  Loki feels betrayed that he thought being a king was his birthright, but has been told by Odin that “your birthright was to die as a child” but Odin saved him.

In prison, Loki has already seen the dark elf take the mysterious burning black ember and become a monster warrior that even the Asgardian prison cannot contain. Although the attack on Asgard failed, Malekith will return because Foster has the Aether. Thor needs Loki’s help to escape and save both Jane Foster and Asgard. Together, they’ll even use a bit of Loki’s trickery. Some Asgardians will die, but are they really dead? Is anyone really dead in a Marvel Universe that can bring back Agent Coulson?

What “Thor: A Dark World” gets rights is there more comedy and not just between the sidekick intern and the sidekick’s sidekick. The banter between Thor and Loki has humor between the points of godlike anger and arrogance.  “Thor: The Dark World” is an improvement over the first “Thor” and long live Loki.

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