By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)
The Aether may well be what the scientists of Earth would call Dark Matter if audiences needed a clearer definition. A better explanation is that it is a fifth element that the many forces in Thor: The Dark World are after. Some seek to control it and others want to bury it.
In this latest Marvel Universe movie, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) has to protect the Nine Realms from being destroyed by it. Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) is out to control this quintessence but in the last great war in the realm of Asgard, Bor (father of Odin), sealed it away and tossed it out into the multiverse for it to be lost forever. This introduction sets up the rest of the tale, and viewers are best advised to make notes of everything, or see this film again in 2D.
The IMAX and 3D conversion does nothing to add this film. The story, however, is a vast improvement over the first. Plenty of pseudo-science gets played up, and some may wonder if Asgard is nothing but a technologically advanced society. Not everyone who lives here are gods. Some are just the Norse warriors taken from the mortal plane when their time there was done, and now they serve different masters.
Picking up from where the Avengers movie left off, Loki goes to trial for his crimes against humanity. From Jane Foster’s (Natalie Portman) point of view, it’s more or less continuing from the first Thor movie. Two years have passed and she tries to continue her life without the man of her dreams. She’s still starstruck, and her lunch date with another man does not bode well. But when her intern Darcy (Kat Dennings) interrupts, her life gets a kickstart to what this movie is about. There’s a mystery afoot: apparently in some areas of London, the laws of human physics no longer apply. Items float on their own accord or disappear off somewhere when thrown through the ‘abyss.’
In the meantime, in Asgard, there is talk about a rare convergence that sounds like it is straight out of occult theory. The Nine Realms will converge soon — that is occupy the same linear plane of existence — and the veil between worlds will be very thin. Anyone who can control this Aether can either snuff all of Creation or sit back to bear witness to a multi-verse for all the beauty that’s contained therein. Malekith has plans on destroying it because of all the sorrow that he’s lived through.
Eccleston does a great job at being gently sinister. Viewers see that Malekith is a soulless man. Although most of his time is spent speaking in an Elvish tongue, that does not limit this actor from giving a certain air to this character. This Dark Elf has this presence of being continually frustrated with the world and regally confident when he leads his clan. He looks like he can give Sauron from Middle Earth a pounding if they ever crossed paths. But other Lords and Masters occupy this film too. Sir Anthony Hopkins finally gets to play Odin as the All-Father with an Arthurian flair. He succeeds at showing that Odin is not just a king, but an embodiment for what a feudal order represents in this world. Freya (Rene Russo) shows what life is like as the Queen of the Gods. Unlike her traditional role in Norse myth, that of a goddess of love and fertility, this character has been redefined to that of a divine mother, a protective force of the universe. This interesting twist is worth noting because she shows that she cares for the imprisoned Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and even tries to prevent Malekith from finding Jane.
But for the character everybody loves to hate, Hiddleston finally gets to play Loki as he is known in legend for. He’s a conniving son-of-a-gun and this actor certainly loves playing this aspect up. He was born to play this character. Although this trickster does not get the fate he’s known for in myth, to be chained to a rock with venom from a snake dripping upon his face, the intonations towards his mythical significance is thankfully not forgotten. To see Loki released will mean the coming of Ragnarök, and with this film, it is about the end of days for several universes. He does get shackled in chains in a different regard and that’s a nice nod by the writing team of Christopher Yost, Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely to acknowledge.
They do create a story that is about the Twilight of the Gods; their time with mortal men is over. But that will not stop Loki from achieving his fondest desires, to sit upon the throne of Asgard. As for how that will happen, viewers will have to stay tuned for what Marvel Entertainment’s has in store for Phase 2 of their action plan. Thor: Dark World succeeds in keeping viewers glued to the narrative. However, this movie suffers in its pacing. The second act feels drawn out and the last went by too fast. The approach felt long-winded since it teeter totters between the romance that wants to bloom between Thor and Jane and the cosmic threat that’s looming. Interestingly, the chemistry between Hemsworth and Portman is not as verbose as Hiddleston and Hemworth’s. There’s a lot more energy in the latter that’s worth noting. Perhaps a bromance is happening?
As for what will happen next for this Marvel universe multi-movie story-arc, the hints of what will happen next may not happen until Guardians of the Galaxy releases to theatres. As for how the next film, Captain America: Winter Soldier, fits in to this scheme, the answer is not immediately apparent. Viewers will have to wait for April 4, 2014 to find out.
3½ out of 5