When Marvel laid out their grand plan for a cinematic universe that would culminate in an “Avengers” movie every few years, they seemed to have thought out every possible angle for success. Each phase would feature, say, an Iron Man, Captain America and Thor movie before transitioning to another mega-successful “Avengers” film. Now that the first “Avengers” shattered all ideas of how big a superhero movie can be, everything else seems pretty flimsy and stale in comparison. The standard fare won’t cut it anymore. Marvel films need a little something extra to survive in a post-“Avengers” world. “Iron Man 3” worked because it made things more personal for Tony Stark. Next up in Phase Two for Marvel is “Thor: The Dark World.”
“The Dark World” opens in a “Lord of the Rings”-esque prologue, talking about these dark elves who ruled before the nine universes, or whatever, were created. Led by Malekith (an unrecognizable Christopher Eccleston), they waged war against the Asgardians of old. Before their defeat, in true Sauron style, Malekith swears he will return to destroy the nine universes. Or whatever.
Fast forward to the present day. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is hanging out with his friends, beating up giant rock monsters. His human love interest Jane (Natalie Portman) is stuck going on boring dates in London… until she happens upon the Aether, this ancient weapon that cannot be destroyed. Her discovery awakens Malekith, who returns to attack Asgard in true “Star Wars: The Phantom Menace” style. Or whatever.
“Thor: The Dark World” might have been really entertaining… had “The Avengers” not smashed every other Marvel film to bits with its scale and action. The problem is there’s nothing special about this “Thor.” At all. Malekith is a standard villain, walking around spouting generic bad guy phrases like, “I will have my revenge” and “We will destroy them.” Blah, blah, blah. The plot is a smorgasboard of bits from other films, so nothing feels fresh or new. The first “Thor” at least had a blast with its fish-out-of-water story, as the humans, especially the women, stood in awe of Hemsworth and his massive Norse God muscles. A little of that happens in “The Dark World,” but not nearly enough.
No, “The Dark World” tries to hang its hat on a bunch of silly Norse mythology in an effort to open up the cosmos in the Marvel universe. It’s a worthy endeavor, especially since it helps pave the way for what may be the most interesting comic book film in years with 2014’s “Guardians of the Galaxy,” but its done in such a silly, haphazard way that you can barely keep up with it all, much less care to keep up with it. Even Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, who can always be counted on for a little fun, fails to keep the ship afloat.
Marvel may have created the blueprint for a successful cinematic universe, but they better bring more to the table than what “Thor: The Dark World” has to offer, which is merely a placeholder until the next “Avengers” film. Otherwise, people won’t care when they actually do try and get creative and original with their films. Or whatever.