Malekith is played by Christopher Eccleston, and half the time speaks a made-up "dark elf" language. I understand that the idea is to give them credibility, but while reading captions it is very hard to pay attention to anything else, so while I was halfheartedly trying to do both, I did neither. Malekith sadly ended up a rather generic bad guy. His sidekick, however, made up for it a little by being impressively creepy and intimidating.
|This is neither Malekith nor his number one, just some typical creepy elves...|
There's also a secondary plot resolved at the end of the second act, and its climax was more climatic than the third act, which sets up a huge climax, but then falls short. (See spoiler #1 at the bottom of this post) The main plot has an intriguing premise and it slowly builds throughout the film until it reaches enormous proportions. It was so great that, apparently the writers had a hard time figuring out how to beat it, and their solution was underwhelming. (See spoiler #2)
I doubt it needs saying, but Loki is what I enjoyed most out of this film. All Loki needs to be his incredible self is the equally incredible Tom Hiddleston, who is as good as ever here, (as always) but it's interesting to see the slight changes that different directors have directed in the character. Branagh's influence on Loki made him pitiable; Whedon's made him an awesome villain, and this director, Alan Taylor made him unpredictable, and mysterious. And Taylor did nothing wrong -- Loki is still by far the best character in the film, and funnier than ever -- but he seems to just be humoring us Loki fans instead of actually being interested in developing the character for himself, and appreciating the importance of a character like that. (Spoiler #3) No matter how small a part he is, he's still a step above, so why not include him more throughout movie, and let the movie benefit from the boost? The majority of Loki is seen in the second act, and that was definitely the peak of the film.
|Loki takes up light reading.|
All the concentration was centered on Thor and Jane, and I'll get to them in a minute, but what is it they have against Fandral, Sif, Hogun, and Volstagg? They had bigger roles in the first film, and I was hoping they'd get some more development and screen time for this one. Especially since Zachary Levi is now playing Fandral. But no, we're only teased with the characters' development, and they're only used until they're not necessary anymore. Levi does get more than the rest, but Jamie Alexander's Sif is only shown enough so we know she's jealous of Jane, and Hogun and Volstagg get next to nothing.
|And that's not even mentioning these guys. The supporting roles from Earth. Though they do get more screen time than their Asgardian counterparts.|
If attention had been more evenly spread it wouldn't have mattered at all that the hero, Thor's character arc was more like a flat line... or flat-line. Starting out as a great hero with no personal problems, he didn't have anywhere to go -- a common problem with sequels, and something of a catch 22, as it would be arguably worse to redo the character's original arc than for them to have none. The main drama with Thor this time around is between him and Jane. (Natalie Portman) She's hurt and confused that it's taken this long for him to return, but really there's not much drama to be had here. Everyone knows Thor is way too gentlemanly to ditch Jane, no matter how petty (and tiny) and clingy she is.
Besides being slightly more boring as a flawless hero, Thor's character was much improved since his first solo. He wasn't a blooming idiot anymore, and was wise to the ways of Earth as he should be. Still, he doesn't belong there, so there are some very subtle fish-out-of-water moments with one being exceptionally hilarious. (Spoiler #4) Still, the only time he really come to life is when he's bantering with his cheerfully evil brother.
|They really do act like brothers. You can almost hear Thor saying, "Loki! Stop it, you're annoying me!"|
The Dark World may be more confused, but is definitely prettier than its predecessor. The special effects got an upgrade, and were used to their best advantage. Asgard was breath-taking, and beautifully developed to a realistic, living city, slightly reminiscent of something out of The Lord of the Rings. On Earth, instead of being in the middle of nowhere, we get to see London and Greenwich, and two or three other realms in a little less detail. This huge increase in scope is probably the best improvement on the first Thor film. You can see where the budget went, and it is far from useless.
Action scenes also felt the good effects and are longer and cleaner and more epic in true Marvel style. They've found their formula, and will not be abandoning it anytime soon. On one hand this is good, because it guarantees a certain quality, and on the other, bad, because formula is the edge of a slippery slope that ends in a rut -- and Marvel may have slipped down it already.
But in the end, Thor is... solid -- and his movie is too. It was consistently funny with two particularly great jokes, (Spoiler #4 & 5) and it never turned too cheesy, or dull and generic that I couldn't enjoy it. It may not have met my grandest expectations, but it succeeded in its purpose of being a fun, visual and action-packed Marvel blockbuster, and a great backdrop for Loki to shine against. Not that last part? Watch the movie, and see for yourself.
|The end. Thor is now protecting you from evil spoilers.|
WARNING: SPOILERS! If you haven't seen the movie, I have located the spoilers here, away from the rest of the review for your convenience to avoid. If you have seen the movie, read on, and I ironically apologize for the inconvenience.
Spoiler #1 - The secondary plot has to do with Jane being infected with a substance which Malekith needs to succeed in his plan. The whole second act revolves around Thor and Co. trying to get it out of her while still keeping it away from Malekith. This plot was way more interesting and involving than the main one, and it resolved awesomely with Loki playing for the bad side, but really for the good side, but really for his own side.
Spoiler #2 - In the end Jane tinkering with her data-collecting Earth technology is the key to ruining Malekith's plan thousands of years in the making, which really brings the epic climatic levels down a lot.
Spoiler #3 - He puts his death scene at the end of the second act, and even though he didn't really die, he doesn't appear again, and the third act suffers the loss. And while I'm on the subject -- the death scene wasn't traumatic enough, so as soon as they walked away from the body and cracked a joke, I knew he was fine.
Spoiler #4 - When he hangs Mjolnir on the coat rack -- brilliant.
Spoiler #5 - When Loki turns into Cap. I did not see that coming and it was great -- in fact that entire scene was hilarious.