The Second Act
Not only is the story generic, but there's also not really that much of it. The first act has at least a laudable sense of mystery, the third has some satisfying payoff, but the second act is nothing but busy work: the equivalent of stalling for time. Natalie Portman at least has the good sense to spend most of it asleep (not the best use of an Oscar-winning actress, we'd volunteer), but poor Hemsworth and Hiddleston have to trudge around the world's least interesting planet to set up an obviously telegraphed shock (if you really thought Loki had cut Thor's arm off, congratulations on seeing your first ever movie), and a death that ultimately has no stakes. It drags terribly, it's drab on screen, and it's decidedly lacking in the wit that leavens the film elsewhere.
While we're glad that Marvel employed a photographer with a tripod with three legs of the same length for the sequel, we can't say we're particularly enamored of the photography here. Kramer Morgenthau takes over from the original's Haris Zambarloukos, and while it's handsome enough in spots, it's a rather drab and dour affair, visually, for much of the film. Morgenthau and Taylor have both worked on features, but TV is their bread-and-butter, and while that works to the benefit of the film in terms of grounding it in a kind of reality, it also makes it look rather flat, quite often. Despite what felt like 70% of the first "Thor" taking place in the same New Mexico street, somehow Branagh's film had a more cinematic scope. This sometimes feels closer to "Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D" than it does to "The Avengers."
Thomwhere In The Middle
The female characters
Recently, Natalie Portman brought up the fact that "Thor: The Dark World" passes the Bechdel Test and, on the whole, has a number of seriously strong female characters. Portman's Jane has more to do this time around, even though she frequently looks bored and for the second half of the movie is possessed by some evil goop from another galaxy. Kat Dennings fares better; she gets all the best lines and has a hunky love interest in the form of her sub-intern. One thing that holds seemingly limitless potential, but doesn't get developed nearly enough, is a potential love triangle between Thor, Jane and Sif (Jaimie Alexander), an Asgardian warrior who is also super adorable. Having the "office wife" idea transposed to mythological proportions is a brilliant one, and giving the two female leads some conflict and tension is more than necessary; it's downright ideal. But there were clearly a few threads of "Thor: The Dark World's" storyline that had to be shaved down, and this relationship was one of them. Yes, "Thor: The Dark World" passes the Bechdel Test, with some of the better female characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but if the Sif/Jane/Thor love triangle could have been developed further, it would have made this superhero saga truly super.
So, what do you think? Do you have think "Thor: The Dark World" threw down a hammer of quality or did it swing and miss? Was there anything they could've done better? What did they get right? What can Marvel fix for future movies? Let us know below. -Oliver Lyttelton, Drew Taylor