I admitted I didn’t like Thor when I first saw it but I ended up warming to it as I learnt more about the Marvel Universe, but Thor: The Dark World I loved from the very first showing. Part of that might have been because by that point my crush on Tom Hiddleston had developed and Loki gets a great airing in this film, but I think the main reason I love it is because the vast majority of it doesn’t actually take place on Earth.
A lot of it takes place on Asgard and in the wider universe. What is happening on Earth the majority of the time is incidental until it becomes important. I also love that Jane isn’t joined at the hip to Darcy and Selvig. They are given a plot of their own until the main plot and the subplot intersect in the climax of the film. Thor: The Dark World is just better structured and it is very much character driven.
Thor is so concerned about making sure that Jane is saved that he is even willing to rely on Loki to help him. Part of Loki’s willingness to help will come from his desire to avenge their mother, but I can’t help but make a parallel to the Harry Potter films when I watch the second Thor film. When Thor, Loki and Jane are on Svartalfheim, Loki shields Jane during the fight. Every time I see that scene, I also see Snape shielding Harry, Hermione and Ron from Lupin after he has transformed into a Werewolf.
It betrays an aspect of his character you don’t get to see often; despite everything that has happened and everything that he has become, some part, it might be a very small part, is still good. He didn’t need to protect Jane, but he did. He didn’t need to have a very touching conversation with Thor on their way to the battle warning him that even if they save her now they will still be parted sooner than Thor would ever be able to cope with. He is looking out for his brother’s well-being. It’s what makes Loki such a great character, because he cannot be understood in terms of good and evil or black and white. He’s conflicted and grey, and just awesome.
Loki had been the best thing in the first Thor film, but in the second, everything else stepped up a notch and joined him. The storyline was more complex; the portrayal of Asgard and Asgardians was toned down to make then more relatable but no less majestic. The various battle scenes obviously had a bigger budget and weren’t just there to make up time in the film, and cover over the cracks in the plot.
Overall, the film is utterly brilliant. It is a great stand-alone film in it’s own right, but it has a massive impact on the wider Marvel Universe as well, not only because the Aether is likely to be important later, but because the character development in the film is likely to have a massive impact in later films.