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Published November 7, 2013

I am a giant geek. There, I admitted it. I like sci-fi and I like fantasy, I like comic books and I loved Thor 2: The Dark World.

This film opens with narration that felt positively Lord of the Rings-esque: Dark Elves led by Malekith the Kursed, orc-like creatures and Asgardians battle it out to stop the universe getting consumed by nothingness. If you’re not really into superhero lore, these opening minutes can drag a bit, but all you need to know is: Malekith wants to use a superweapon called the Aether to destroy the entire universe. Simple enough, right?

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Thor 2 demonstrates wonderfully something I think that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has over DC. Where DC’s film forays have resulted in critically acclaimed films, they’ve all been gritty or dark. And sometimes both gritty and dark. (Read the italicised in a Samuel L. Jackson voice, please.) While I acknowledge that formula works for DC, the MCU gleefully smushes together fantasy and sci-fi, and rejoices in what appears. Elves can pilot spaceships and wield anti-matter bombs, Norse gods use magic that is just advanced science, and they can fight each other using laser guns and swords. Why not?

On top of that, just because there are action-heavy moments doesn’t mean that the story is sacrificed. Action sequences in blockbuster superhero movies can be tiresome – I recall being impossibly bored during the action sequences of Man of Steel (thanks a lot, Zack Snyder) – but Thor 2 forsakes the huge, hour-long showdowns in favour of skirmishes and occasional all-out battles. The battles in this film aren’t for the sake of action – most of it worked towards forwarding the plot, and they’re even punctuated with humour. There’s an excellent moment with intern Darcy (Kat Dennings) and her own “intern”, Ian, involving a suspended gravity car and a group of Dark Elves.

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A vast amount of CGI went into this film. Like, the economy of a small country amount of CGI. While I do think that superhero/action/sci-fi/fantasy films sometimes sacrifice actual storytelling for many, many explosions, The Dark World does okay on that front. There’s a beautiful scene after a battle in which the Asgardians send their dead out to sea on boat, setting them on fire and releasing lanterns into the night sky.

While Thor 2 gives us a much more satisfying portrayal of female characters such as Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) – she gets to actually do a lot of science-y looking stuff instead of just talking about it like she does in the first – it’s weak on side characters. Sif and friends appear only now and again to aid in various tasks, while Freyja, the Queen of Asgard, has some glorious moments that are unfairly cut short.

Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is of course front and centre, what with the film being named for him. His glorious god-body gets some gratuitous lingering shots, and he’s much more likeable in this sequel compared to his oafish debut. And as for Loki (Tom Hiddleston)? Let’s just say that he gets a rollercoaster of a character arc in this film. Watch out for him.

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All in all, Thor 2 was a satisfying sequel, filled with humour and action. Again, I would’ve liked to see a bit more of the side characters, but there’s only so many minutes. As a part of the MCU, it’s excellent (there’s a cameo from Chris Evans), but leads to the inevitable thought: where are the rest of the Avengers? The entire universe is in danger of disappearing, where are you? Still, forgiving that niggling plot hole, this is an excellent watch for anyone, whether you’re invested in the MCU or not.

Also, and this hardly needs saying if you’re a fan of Marvel’s films, stay after the credits. All of them.

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