Director: Alan Taylor
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Christopher Eccleston
Have I Seen it Before: Tragically, it has been the most recent film I’ve seen at the drive-in. It is also the MCU movie I have probably re-watched the least.
Did I Like It: And there’s probably a reason that I haven’t watched it all that much.
I’ve always known this movie was at or near the bottom of many and my own personal rankings of the Marvel movies. I think it hits me in the opening few seconds. It’s not a moment like Superman IV: The Quest For Peace (1987) where something is truly, deeply wrong with the film and there is no chance of improvement. It is more banal than that. Odin (Anthony Hopkins) opens with a sweeping narration about what the Dark Elves are and why Malekith (Eccleston) has a beef with the Asgardians. Now, if you must open your big visual blockbuster with a VO—and I’m not entirely convinced this one does—you could do a lot worse than Hopkins. But, man, do I already want a nap after all that. The film is packed with this warmed-over fantasy banality that the film can never quite come together fully for me.
It is not completely without it’s charms. The pleasing qualities of the first Thor (2011) and what would become the bonkers fun of its successor Thor: Ragnarok (2017) are here, they’re just in highly rationed amounts. The tragically underused Heimdall (Idris Elba) gets a goodly action sequence or two to call his own, whereas he is appears content to just glower and watch for the rest of the series. The score—by MCU score secret weapon Brian Tyler—is actually one of the best of the whole series. Chris Evans’ cameo is quite a bit of fun.
It isn’t a bad movie, really and truly it is a testament to the MCU that they haven’t made an objectively (your mileage may vary) bad film. Nearly every other much shorter film series has a stinker. It’s just so pointedly obvious that everyone involved here—except for perhaps journeyman filmmaker Alan Taylor—is capable of so much more.
Now, that all having been said, if this review makes you put this film in the “non-essential” category, I don’t know if I would go that far, either. Missing The Dark World will make a large portion of the middle hour of Avengers: Endgame (and some truly enchanting expositioning from the freely wacky Thor) largely incomprehensible, and would rob that far more amvbitious film of some decent emotional beats. If that isn’t a recommendation (if a slightly damning one), then I don’t know what is.