'Thor: The Dark World' occupies an odd space in the Marvel-inspired movies, and that's not good. First, let's look at all of the movies: 'Iron Man' was great (even exceptional), spawning 'Iron Man II' (overblown) and then the final (?) 'Iron Man III' (redeemable from II, but not that much better, save for the "barrel of monkeys" action. All told, Iron Man had a compelling story to begin with, then kind of petered out.
Captain America was also underwhelming, especially given the history of the character. This movie should have been amazing, yet the backstory was watered down. Both Hulk movies were barely interesting, and that leaves us with Thor.
I have always had a problem with Thor as a character, but I blame my own biases for that. I just don't like medieval fantasy stuff. Combine this with the fact that I truly believed Marvel was pumping out movies just to populate 'The Avengers' with characters the average movie-goer would be familiar with, and I really thought 'Thor' (the first movie) was just going to be another poorly-written excuse for a comic book-driven movie. Turns out I was wrong-I set my expectations quite low, and it was fairly easy to exceed this level. 'Thor' was a good, solid movie-plenty of action despite the fantasyland Asgard action, almost-believable love interest (if you can get past Natalie Portaman's doctor-cum-schoolgirl crush on Thor), and sometimes amusing comments from her intern (played by Kat Dennings). Watch it more than once, and you really start to like the movie. But the biggest secret weapon that Thor contained was Loki; as a villain, Tom Hiddleston is amazing to watch. So much so, he was the star of The Avengers. I really wanted to hate The Avengers for putting me through all the mediocre movies just to see an ensemble of characters from mediocre movies, but it was one of the best movies I had seen in years.
Which brings us to 'Thor: The Dark World'. When you know Loki is in a movie, your expectations invariably rise. Saving one's world is a common theme, so the next logical step is to save the universe. Somehow, this doesn't move the needle - if I don't care about Asgard, I don't care about the Nine Realms, or whatever it is that needs savin'. To enlist Loki's help to save the universe is a plot device, and it doesn't really work for this movie. Neither does the fact (that Dr. Jane Foster pointed out) where Thor could have visited her during his trip to Earth in The Avengers, and also before this trip where he needs her. The absence-makes-the-heart-grow-fonder scenes don't resonate, and we have seen this before. Also forced into the movie are the obvious attempts to lighten the mood with one-liners from Dr. Jane's intern Darcy Lewis. Somehow, I never bought into the darkness of not only saving Asgard, but the entire universe, so trying to lighten the mood was almost unbearable to watch. I am sure Dr. Erick Selving appearing in his underwear to show how kray kray he is might be funny to some, but it was reminiscent of AMC's first season of "Breaking Bad", where Walter White appeared in his tighty whities. Except Walter White really was in danger of losing his life.
Loki is still the main character, and he does his best to save the movie. But in the end, we all know that he and his mother's ability to project images of themselves will somehow mean no one really died. It's this type of false premise that damages 'Thor: The Dark World'. I'd rather them title it something else, because the darkness never really appears, and as a lifelong fan of comic books, saving the universe and killing characters off (only to reappear later) has already worn thin in movies.
I give this movie 71 points out of 100. Just a bit better (visually) than I expected, but story-wise, less than I wanted. I guess it's all based on your expectations for Thor as a character. I think he and Loki are much better off as part of an ensemble. It's like making a movie about Hawkeye-don't expect too much.
Christopher's Take: While my colleague Lisa is lock step with Lee's view of this film, so much so she didn't even feel the need to write anything as they would be repeating each other, I won't be quite as harsh on Thor's second film. It is a suitably entertaining action yarn, but my disappointment was alleviated if for no other reason I didn't go in with the same elevated expectations that my trusted colleagues entered the film with. Call it a learned lesson from a couple of lackluster Iron Man sequels and a sliding Marvel Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. television show.
Lee is correct, Loki is the defacto star of the film, not to take anything away from Chris Hemsworth who solid as Thor, just kind of trapped playing the straight man to the guy that has all good lines and the dope wardrobe. Also, the sequel is a step down from the original as director Alan Taylor lacks the same subtle touch that director Kenneth Branaugh brought to the first film. There is more action, just less heart. Plus, as Lee mentioned, I don't know where the 'Darkness' was. I know everything has to be dark nowadays in the comic book world, and I don't mind, and rather prefer that this sequel wasn't all that dark, but to that point they could've left the word out of the title.
Still, 'Thor: The Dark World' did manage to entertain despite its flaws.