Of all the Avengers franchise characters, Thor is probably the least interesting, but Thor: The Dark World (2013) is superior to the original in just about every respect. While the first film coasts on the charms of Chris Hemsworth and the usual bag of Marvel superhero action tricks, the sequel brings a lot more to the table, including a fast-moving, coherent plot and an improved and highly entertaining ensemble feel.
An ancient threat reawakens when the Dark Elves, led by Malekith (an unrecognizable Christopher Eccleston), return from a long hibernation after supposedly being vanquished by the Asgardians. Malekith’s plan of revenge is to bring death and destruction on the Nine Realms during the convergence, by unleashing a powerful, mystical substance called the Aether. The only problem is, the Aether has been found, and accidentally taken, by Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), during her investigation of a strange dimensional anomaly. This paints a target on her back, of course. Enter Thor (Hemsworth), who hies Jane off to Asgard to protect her. When war starts between Asgard and the Dark Elves, he’s forced to go against the orders of his father, Odin (Anthony Hopkins), to hatch a plot to save her — and foil Malekith’s plot.
The sequel has everything the original had: Hemsworth’s charms, the devious trickery of Loki (Tom Hiddleston), exciting action, humor, and eyeball kicks galore. But it also improves on the original: it more successfully integrates the Asgard and Earth stories, deepens the sibling rivalry of Thor and Loki, has a better look (especially the Asgard sequences). And the well structured script affords more entertaining chemistry for the cast. In Asgard, Thor’s friends and family — well played by Hopkins, Rene Russo, Idris Elba, Jaimie Alexander, Zachary Levi, and others — is given more to do, and give more depth to Thor’s background. But the real fun is with Jane’s scientific team, where Dr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Starsgaard) and intern Darcy (Kat Dennings) are much more involved and add great comedy to the proceedings. The splashy, London-based battle at the end is among the most clever and entertaining Marvel universe finales so far. Ultimately it delivers the wild, fun ride one would expect, a great comic book blockbuster.