The basic plot is that before there was light, the universe was in darkness and inhabited by the Dark Elves. In an epic battle between Odin’s father and the Dark Elves, Malekith, the leader of the Dark Elves sacrifices most of his people in an attempt to use aether, a primordial substance. The aether is lost, and the Dark Elves are defeated, with Malekith (incorrectly) believed to be dead.
The story jumps to the present day, where Jane Foster is pining for Thor, who is in Asgard. Meanwhile Malekith is preparing to make a comeback. The Nine Worlds are aligning, which is allowing travel between the worlds. (Don’t ask, it really doesn’t make any sense when you think about it. Just like the scene with Eric Selvig streaking at Stonehenge makes no sense.)
Jane falls through one of the passages and is contaminated by aether. So she travels with Thor to Asgard, which comes under attack by Malekith. This leads to a sequence of chases and subterfuges that drive the second half of the movie. The character of Loki is well used, and his relationship with Thor is one of the strong parts of the movie.
There are some great visual effects. The movie isn’t so much a superhero tale as it is science fantasy. And reasonably well done science fantasy at that. The cast works well for the most part. Renee Russo shows she can handle a sword quite well. I think she’s been in the wrong movies.
The only real problem I had with the show was Thor’s love life. The filmmakers went out of their way to indicate that Sif is interested in Thor. Yet he chooses Jane Foster. The former is a kick-butt warrior woman, while the latter barely rises to the level of a damsel in distress, one who only takes an active, as opposed to passive, role in events near the end. Sticking stakes in the ground is hardly exciting, even if they are high tech stakes designed to prevent the end of the world.
Yes, I realize the story is probably following the basic story arc in the comics. I say “probably” because of the Marvel movies of recent years, Thor is the only one I never read. If there had been any real chemistry between Chris Hemsworth and Natalie Portman, maybe I could have bought it. I just didn’t see any sparks there. In the few scenes between Sif and Thor, there was plenty of chemistry between Jaimie Alexander and Chris Hemsworth. Personally, I think he should have chosen her. I certainly would have. She can more than handle herself in a fight. Thor wouldn’t have to constantly be running off to save her.
These gripes aside, I was surprised at how good Thor: The Dark World turned out. The Marvel adaptations are setting a high standard for superhero movies. I hope DC can come close. Given how underwhelmed I was with Man of Steel, I’m not holding out much hope, especially with Ben Affleck cast as Batman.