Thor 2 offers dazzling visuals, problematic plot

Warning: This article contains spoilers for Thor, The Avengers, and Thor: The Dark World.

If you go to see Thor: The Dark World, prepare to get hammered by stunning visuals and intense action sequences. The newest Marvel film, a sequel to 2011’s Thor, was released last Friday.

The film follows Thor (Chris Hemsworth), a character based on the Norse god of thunder, and his mortal love Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) as they fight the forces of Malekith (Christopher Eccleston), the Dark Elf. Malekith is after a force known as the Aether, which Jane accidentally gets tangled up in when the boundaries between the nine realms of the universe are weakened.

A large part of the film takes place on Asgard, Thor’s home, which provides a beautiful backdrop and a welcome change from the almost entirely Earth-bound Marvel universe. Asgard is filled with flowing water and grand buildings, all set against the vast expanse of outer space.

The story is pretty straightforward with requisite action sequences peppered throughout. The events all lead up to a phenomenon called the convergence, when the gateways to each of the nine realms line up and become visible to the eye.

In addition, weak spots in the boundaries will transport anything that goes through them to another realm. These weak spots make the final battle especially exciting: Thor battles Malekith while they tumble and fall through random portals into the other realms.

While the premise of this film is stronger than its predecessor’s, the story is halting at points because there is almost too much going on at once. Odd lines of dialogue end scenes awkwardly and a hint at a love triangle is never fleshed out or directly addressed.

On that note, although the romance between Thor and Jane sets the action in motion, there’s no real depth to the relationship. For all the screen time the pair has, they never address the major issue between them: the fact that Jane is mortal and Thor will live for thousands of years.

Granted, they are in the midst of fighting evil, but everyone else around Thor brings it up, from his estranged brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston), to his father Odin (Anthony Hopkins), to his friend and implied love interest Sif (Jaimie Alexander).

Exposition is another subtle problem throughout the film. At the end of Thor, the Bifröst, a bridge between the various realms, is destroyed, trapping Thor in Asgard and separating him from Jane.

Thor was then seen in The Avengers, with no explanation as to how he got there or whether the Bifröst had been repaired. He did not reconnect with his lover until the beginning of The Dark World, and only then it was because he feared for her safety. Furthermore, there was almost no explanation as to how the Bifröst was repaired — only that Thor and his friends were fighting battles to restore order.

Too much exposition can kill a story, but perhaps a little more in the film would clear up a major question. The

filmmakers could have replaced the ill-conceived love triangle with something that clarified or even furthered the story.

Acting-wise, Hiddleston stole the show again, portraying the trickster Loki with an electrifying mix of vulnerability and aggression. In one particularly memorable scene, Loki and Thor fight just like normal brothers, and Loki’s sharp wit matches each of Thor’s barbs.

Hemsworth excellently portrays Thor’s strength and fighting skills and transitions to more emotional scenes fairly well. Because he has chemistry with Portman, the filmmakers could have played up the relationship a little more, fleshing out who they are as a couple, since they haven’t actually had any time to do so.

Portman has a more challenging role than in the previous film, since she is suddenly thrust into another realm, but she fails to instill any reaction to this change in her character. Upon first stepping into Asgard, Jane seems unfazed by the glowing rainbow bridge and vast kingdom that lies in front of her.

In a film in which not everything is quite what it seems, one of the highlights is a character’s surprise appearance. It stayed under wraps very well, and is a nice nod to previous Marvel films. Make sure to stay through all of the credits so you don’t miss either of Marvel’s trademark bonus scenes.

Thor: The Dark World is a hearty sequel, serving up equal parts drama and action and even a bit of lighthearted humor at points. While imperfect, it proves to be entertaining enough for viewers to leave them on the edge of their seats, waiting for the next installment.