Thor’s post Avengers story stays outside of the world of S.H.I.E.L.D., Iron Man and Captain America. It focuses squarely on Thor, Jane Foster and Asgard.
The story opens with Odin telling the tale of how the universe had once been in darkness, and after a time, the dark elves sought to plunge the universe back into the darkness. They were stopped by Odin’s father who had their weapon (the Aether) hidden deep below the ground of…somewhere. Jane Foster is doing the whole “Chasing Anomalies” thing and stumbles on the Aether which she absorbs. Thor shows up because suddenly the Bifrost Bridge has been restored. He brings her to Asgard, the Dark Elves show up, things go very badly and Thor is forbidden from heading out of Asgard. So Thor frees the imprisoned Loki for help in slipping out “unnoticed”. This is one of the film’s big set pieces. Eventually Thor tries to destroy the Aether and is unsuccessful, and the dark elf Malekith gets hold of it.
There is a battle on earth which nearly succeeds in destroying everything. But Thor saves the day (with help from none of the Avengers) and the universe does not blink out of existence.
Thor: the Dark World is not terrible. It has some real fun moments, mostly provided by Loki. And the action scenes are very well done. Taylor is a pretty accomplished television director, including Game of Thrones. He is able to frame exciting battle sequences. Hemsworth is likeable as Thor, Hiddleston’s Loki is entertaining as usual.
The film attempts to really show Jane Foster is a scientist. There is a cute moment where Jane asks if a magical piece of Asgardian equipment is a quantum field generator. The person working it states it is a “Soul Forge”. Jane asks if the Soul Forge transfers molecular energy from one place to another. The person responds, “yes”…and Jane quietly tells Thor proudly that it is a Quantum Field Generator.
Loki gets most of the best character moments, both in humor and drama. But the story has holes. Why do the Elves want to erase the universe? Why not bring in the Hulk to fight the nearly indestructible Berserkers? If it is not Odin on the Throne towards the end…just where is Odin. It is pretty average, especially in comparison to Captain America: the Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy. It also does nothing to advance the characters beyond where they already were. It is primarily to introduce the Aether, which will be part of the third Avengers film.