Plot: Thor (Chris Hemsworth) has returned to Asgard as a hero, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is imprisoned for his transgressions, and the nine realms seem to be safe, but of course, there is always a dark side. As he handled business elsewhere, Thor was forced to leave his newfound love Jane (Natalie Portman) behind and while she is a strong woman, his actions have taken a toll on her emotions. When she discovers a mysterious wormhole, she ventures inside and vanishes, only to return to her panicked friends and even the arrival of Thor, who was made aware when she disappeared into the portal. Soon it becomes clear that whatever happened inside that wormhole, Jane is infected with some kind of supernatural presence, but can even Thor handle the potential darkness that the presence could unleash?

Entertainment Value: I appreciate that Thor: The Dark World tries to take a darker, more serious approach, given that most Marvel movies ignore emotional beats and go for cheap laughs. But The Dark World is unable to commit to that approach and leans back on the usual Marvel cookie cutter elements too often, which compromises the times it gets things right. In other the other Thor movies, massive moments are treated as if nothing happened, even if it involves the deaths of important characters, but here, they’re given more respect. I love that this movie allows those emotional moments to breathe and have space to mean something, as that is so rare in Marvel’s vapid movie series. In those serious moments, The Dark World shines, but it is thrown off balance by trying to shoehorn in the typical Marvel elements, while also never finding a good pace to the dramatic stretches. So we are left with rather unremarkable runs of time and poor attempts to force lame humor into the material, with some effective elements woven in, not a consistent or memorable end result. This might be a bad movie, but it at least makes an effort to do more than tell dad jokes and constant, low end CGI, which is more than most Marvel movies can claim.

Chris Hemsworth returns as Thor and while I still don’t think he was a good choice, he at least gets a chance to perform a little here. He handles the light emotional moments well and to me, he is better in this more restrained take on Thor, as opposed to the high camp, slapstick version from the other two movies. I don’t think Thor needs to be hip and cool above all else, but clearly there’s an audience for that. Anthony Hopkins once again turns in the best work and he has some great moments here, but the material is middling even at its best, so don’t expect some of his better work here. Tom Hiddleston continues to be fun as Loki, but as would become the pattern for his character, Marvel treads the center and refuses to let him loose in either direction. We also have Natalie Portman, Idris Elba, Rene Russo, and Christopher Eccleston, as well as many other familiar faces, so it is an impressive lineup. Of course, most of the cast is given little to do, so much of the potential is drained from the promising ensemble. I appreciate the rare attempt by Marvel to showcase emotional depth, but the halfhearted approach sinks Thor: The Dark World.

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