With the success of The Avengers firmly cementing the global resonance of the Avengers brand, the general audience has gotten in a sense, the size and enormity of this Marvel world. With The Avengers, we see that each and every one of these superheroes, their lives, their troubles, their individuality, and the characters that populate their sphere, are indeed interconnected. These events then, all in one world, has created an interesting dichotomy for Marvel and their individual movies.

Iron Man 3 felt entirely underwhelming, not because Tony Stark’s latest adventure was boring or dull, but because he felt alone and isolated from his newfound superhero friends. It was difficult to parse the events happening in his story without thinking, “why aren’t Hulk and Captain America there to help him?”

Yes, it is a suspension of belief, but it was enough that it crept into the idea that after The Avengers, we now have to go back to singular protagonist films.

So comes Thor: The Dark World, whose characters and actions undertaken in the previous outing became the backdrop and on-going conflict in The Avengers. The sequel to Thor comes a few years after the events of New York and sees Thor (Chris Hemsworth) defending the Nine Realms from a host of evils permeating different worlds. In the backdrop we have the Dark Elf Malakith (played with menace by Christopher Eccleston) who has long plotted to return the realms to complete darkness. He ultimately becomes a serious threat and we are given an intergalactic conflict we haven’t seen in… well, two movies.

Caught up in between are Thor’s earthly friends Jane (Natalie Portman), Professor Selvig (Stellen Skarsgard), and Darcy (Kat Dennings) who become part of Earth’s defence in a new battle against Malakith.

What new director Alan Taylor brings is a more easy-going attitude to the film. The sense of humor that was hinted at in the first is let loose with clever one-liners and likeable and enjoyable characters. He does well to present Loki (Tom Hiddleston) as the “is he or isn’t he a bad guy?” through the film and much of what happens unfolds at a good pace. The Dark World wins out because the film travels between Asgard and Earth in unobtrusive fashion, giving the audience a thrilling sense of the enormity in which these universes are connected.

Unlike Shane Black with Iron Man 3, Taylor is given a much bigger canvas to paint on thanks to these realms, and we’re taken away form the darker, more foreboding instances to moments of cinematic grace and beauty. Asgard gets a deeper look at than in the first film and we’re met with some scenes that give the audience a genuine sense of awe.

Yet as London comes under attack by a menace that seems far greater than the Chitauri, a small part of our mind asks where Tony Stark or the Hulk or Captain America are and why they’re not here to help. Nonetheless, while it does come to mind, it does not take away from the enjoyability and reflection of The Dark World. We’re meant to separate these lone films from what we have become accustomed to in The Avengers, and it’ll just take time, and/or a really good film to do it.

These standalone films must now once again become appetisers to the next Joss Whedon feast of spoils in Age of Ultron and judging Thor: The Dark World on these merits, we’re actually given a good return. The post-credits scene is a good reminder that Marvel is planning another significant venture outside of the next Avengers film and serves as a nice introduction to this next step (stay for it). If you’ve soured a little from the depreciating value of Iron Man, prepare to buy right back in as The Dark World is easily one of the best entries into the Marvel canon pre- and post- Avengers.

THOR: THE DARK WORLD
Directed by: Alan Taylor
Written by: Christopher Yost, Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Idris Elba, Stellen Skarsgard, Christopher Eccleston, Anthony Hopkins
Produced by: Marvel Studios / Walt Disney Pictures

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