If there's one thing you have to commend the separate Marvel Cinematic Universe films is the potential for variety. We've seen all the characters introduced in either The Avengers or their individual solo movies. Each character brings something different to the table. Thor stands apart from the others, just by the fact that he's not from Earth. For a Thor solo movie, the trick is finding the balance between Asgard and his connections to Jane Foster and Earth.
With this marking Thor's third movie appearance, the decision was made to try to go make him more larger than life. While in the first movie we got a decent glimpse at Asgard, there is definitely a bigger feel here. We also see more of the Nine Realms as there is plenty of chaos that has erupted across them. It's a visual feast with plenty going on everywhere.
Even though there is a lot to see in The Dark World, the biggest problem is there are too many characters to be seen. This results in short glimpses at certain characters which leaves you wanting more. For a movie that was originally described as containing big adventures on Asgard, we don't actually see much of Thor's fellow Asgardians. If you thought there'd be a lot of Sif and the Warriors Three on screen, you'll definitely be left hungry for more. They do appear and have some great scenes. Just not as much as you would expect or hope.
The movie focuses on Malekith, the Dark Elf, an ancient enemy of Asgard. He is after a certain object which, in a way, leads to Jane and Thor being reunited. Soon a war erupts across a few of the different Realms but rather than feature Thor and an army of Asgardians, the movie veers into the direction of pairing Thor and Loki.
As you may have heard, Loki's presence is largely felt, despite not appearing throughout the entire film. Tom Hiddleston really shines in the role and while the filmmakers do capitalize on this, it's surprising they didn't try to utilize him even more. You're almost left with a strange feeling of wanting more of the other Asgardians but more focus on Loki as well.
There are a few elements to movie that give it a slight odd feeling. The first is the amount of humor and silliness thrown in. It started gradually but with Loki's snarky attitude and the return of Darcy Lewis and Erik Selvig, parts of the movie could be labeled as a comedy. The humor is good. Without it, the movie could easily be dry and not as interesting. It started feeling like too much but I have to admit some moments did make me chuckle.
There's a strange mix to good old fashioned Asgardian fighting and heavy sci-fi elements. We've seen that some of the Asgardian technology is more mechanical versus having a mystical or godly nature. There is a feeling of unbalanced during an attack scene where it's clear the Asgardians have some pretty advanced weapons yet their main army still relies on shields and swords. (Spoiler: it doesn't go too well for many). This sci-fi feeling could be meant to get us ready for Guardians of the Galaxy.
Then there's Malekith. As the main villain, it's almost difficult to fully grasp his motivation. He places the blame for some loss on Asgard but it really doesn't feel like that's justified. He wasn't a bad villain (in terms of quality villains). He just wasn't a great one.
For a two-hour movie, parts of it, especially in the beginning take a little while to kick the movie into gear. Once the movie and action are going, there are other moments where it feels a little rushed. Things start happening very quickly.
Overall, it is an enjoyable film. Loki and Thor are great together. There are plenty of nods to the existing Cinematic Universe. There's plenty of action and humor. At the end of the day, the fact that you'll be entertained is what's important. It may not fully be the pure Asgardian Thor movie we might want, but there are plenty of good elements with scenes of the different characters jumping into the spotlight, albeit for brief moments.
Thor: The Dark World should make fans of the Cinematic Universe happy. It's not perfect but there is a lot to like. The bar has been set pretty high. It's easy to go into this movie with high expectations. It's a good way to spend a couple hours and you'll feel like you're with old friends. It's just too bad certain key moments were spoiled in the trailers.
(And don't forget, there are mid-credits and after-the-credits scenes you won't want to miss).