Thor: The Dark World is a film released in the Earth-11584 continuity of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It is the sequel to 2011's Thor, the second film in Phase 2 of the MCU, and the 10th film overall. Alan Taylor replaced Kenneth Branagh as the director of the film, after Lynne Ramsay left the project in early 2012 over creative differences. Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston and Natalie Portman all star in their respective roles from the first film. The film was a box office hit, making over $600 million at the global box office, but was not as well-regarded as its predecessor.
Following the success of the first Thor film in 2011, there was interest from Marvel at having Kenneth Branagh return as the director for the film. Branagh was quoted as saying that he hoped to explore more of the Asgardian world and the other nine realms in a sequel, and there was talk of either Hela the Goddess of Death or Skurge being used as the villain for a second film. All particulars were signed for a second film, although Kat Dennings decided not to return, citing work on her television show 2 Broke Girls as being the deciding factor. Natalie Portman also was not interested in returning unless her role was "significantly expanded". Ultimately, Branagh was not hired to return and was replaced by Game of Thrones director Alan Taylor after another director, Lynne Ramsay, exited the project. By late 2012 it had been reported that Portman would return as Jane Foster, while Christopher Eccleston and Margot Robbie had also been hired to play Malekith the Accursed and Amora the Enchantress respectively.
Production on the film began in late 2012, with the script undergoing heavy rewrites during production to accomodate Marvel execs who wanted more of Loki in the film, given how popular the character was. It has been rumored, though never confirmed, that the ending of the film involving Loki's death was changed to show he was still alive at the behest of these executives. Filming concluded on the film in February of 2013, with reshoots done merely two months before the film's release.
We open on the past, as three young boys are rambunctiously gettIng ready for bed. They are greeted by a young Odin, who tells them that they will visit Vanaheim in the morning. The young Thor insists he tell them all a story, and Odin obliges with the tale of the Aether. In ancient days, a race known as the Dark Elves spread across the universe from the dark realm of Svartalfheim, using the relic known as the Aether to extinguish the light of stars and plunge entire worlds into perpetual darkness. The ancient Asgardians, led by Odin's father Bor, led a war against the Dark Elves that eventually drove them back to the shadows, leaving Bor to claim the Aether for himself. He buried the relic deep underground on the barren wasteland that was Svartalfheim, and swore the keep the Dark Elves at bay forever more. As the three princes fall asleep for the night, we softly cut to the next morning, where they are led through the Bifrost to Vansheim, as we transition to modern times with a grown Thor
In present day Asgard, the realm of Asgard is struggling to maintain peace in the 9 Realms without the use of the Bifrost Bridge, which is still being rebuilt following the events of Thor. Odin can send warriors to other realms, but the process is taxing, and using the Tesseract for such things "invites other forces to Asgard," or so says Odin. On Vanaheim, the home world of Hogun of the Warriors Three, Thor leads his forces to suppress the rock trolls attempting to conquer it. With that successful, the Warriors Three are left on Vanaheim to keep the peace.
Back on Asgard, a trial is held for the war criminal Loki for his crimes in both the last film and in The Avengers. Loki says that he did what he did for the good of the Nine Realms, that his leadership would be needed, not the brute strength of his brother's. Odin sentenced Loki to an indefinite period of incarceration in the dungeons of Asgard. Once escorted there, Loki reconnects with Amora, a former pupil of sorcery who worked alongside him with his adoptive mother, Frigga. Amora tries to recruit Loki to a plan she's been working on, but Loki has no interest. When she mentions what he knows about the Dark Elves, Loki replies only of their extreme duplicity. Frigga visits Loki, but it is clear to her she cannot get through to her son.
Odin tells Thor that, as soon as the Bifrost is finished and peace has been restored to the Nine Realms, then he will be officially crowned king. Odin is surprised though that the prospect no longer holds the excitement it once did for his son, and correctly identifies that Thor's mind is elsewhere, namely Midgard. He tells his son that a king cannot rule when his body is one place and his mind another, and tells him to forget about Earth and leave the mortals to their own concerns.
On Earth, Jane Foster's theories concerning constructing stable wormholes have advanced dramatically, given the research on the Tesseract project and two further years of study from the Tucumcari incident. She and Dr. Selvig are in London, having been given a grant from a prestigious University, and are working towards building a stable bridging device with Asgard as a destination point. Selvig's concern for Jane is that she is more interested in reuniting with Thor, especially since she didn't get to see him on his recent return. He introduces her to an old graduate student of his, Ian, but the relationship doesn't go as planned. Jane makes an attempt to use the device, but an errant solar flare sends her to Svartalfheim instead of Asgard. While the portal is temporarily stable, she explores a bit around the area she was sent to, finding a liquid like substance nearby. Touching her hand in the pool, the liquid absorbs into her body like Mercury, and without warning she is flung back through the portal, though landing in a different spot several miles away due to the Uncertainty Principle.
On Asgard, Amora wakes up with a smile on her face, saying that it is time. Elsewhere, Heimdall informs Thor that the Bifrost is nearly complete, when he notices that Jane Foster, who Thor frequently asks about, has vanished from his sight momentarily. When she returns, he tells Thor that she is changed somehow. Thor immediately wants to go and find her, but is held back by Balder, who tells him that Odin has summoned them to the palace. Amora the Enchantress has escaped. Balder and Thor ask Loki what he knows, but he claims to have no knowledge of her whereabouts, though he does say she mentioned something about Malekith. Thor is told that the Bifrost is ready to test, and he flies off to check on Midgard first.
On Earth, Jane begins experiencing weird outbursts of power that she can't control, though she is reluctant to admit what might be causing it. After another date with Ian goes horribly wrong, angering Jane, she causes several traffic lights to blink out, causing a massive wreck. The police in London are called but unsure of what to do with the situation, when the Bifrost activates and Thor arrives to meet with Jane. After a bit of brief anger from the length of time from reunion, the two embrace and Jane explains some of what has happened. Thor whisks her back to Asgard to receive treatment.
Elsewhere, in the depths of space, a ship is seen approaching Asgard in the distance. Onboard, Malekith the Accursed senses that the Aether is nearby, something confirmed by Amora, who is revealed to be on the ship, having somehow managed to teleport away from the Asgardian prison. The two embrace as long lost lovers, Malekith commenting that since he contacted her telepathically a year or so ago, he's been looking forward to meeting her in person. Amora says she can lead the Dark Elf troops into Asgard, as she knows it better than anyone.
On Asgard, Odin is incensed with Thor bringing Jane to Asgard, but soon discovers the Aether within her. He tells the story of the Dark Elves, insisting that the Aether should have been destroyed with them. Odin agrees to let Jane stay on Asgard until the Aether can be safely removed from her...or until she dies from it tearing her body apart. Jane is introduced to much of Asgard, meeting Thor's brother Balder and the Lady Sif. It is at this point that Amora attacks with the Dark Elves. Unbeknownst to them it is a ploy attack, as Malekith takes another smaller group after Jane, where the Aether is located. Jane is at first protected by Balder, then by Odin himself. In the ensuing fight, however, Malekith is able to kill Frigga, before withdrawing with Amora. Odin becomes blinded by vengeance, swearing to keep Jane there to keep the Aether from falling into Malekith's hands.
Thor goes to the dungeons to Loki, seeking a way to escape Asgard and travel to the Dark World to lure Malekith away from Asgard. Loki agrees to his plan, if he agrees to clemency for himself. Thor reluctantly agrees. Loki, Thor and Jane travel from Asgard, defying Heimdall's sight (though he deliberately looks the other way) and picking up Sif along the way to join them. On the Dark World, the Dark Elves are revealed to have multiplied much more than originally thought, and nearly overwhelm the heroes. Loki apparently dies in the ensuing battle, with Thor and Sif witnessing the death. Jane is captured by Amora and brought to Malekith, who extracts the Aether from her. Thor attempts to destroy it, but fails. Malekith and Amora depart unexpectedly, when Balder arrives with Asgardian troops to recover Thor and company.
Thor learns from Odin that Malekith has seen something in Jane's mind that has made him want to travel to Midgard. Jane admits it must be the Field Bridge device that she had been working on. If it works like the Bifrost, then Malekith could in fact unleash the Aether throughout the Nine Realms and bring darkness to everything. Jane says they need to go the Earth right now, but Odin forbids it, saying they need a better strategy at the moment. An argument ensues, with Thor taking Jane's side, as well as Balder joining in the argument. Odin finally relents after he attempts to take Mjolnir from Thor again for his disobedience, only for the hammer to deem him not worthy. He sees he is overcome by grief, and not thinking clearly. He dispatches Thor and Balder to Midgard, with Jane in toe.
Arriving back on Earth, they find Malekith and Amora are already there, but find that Amora has been betrayed, Malekith intends to use her lifeforce to power the Aether. Jane tries to shut down the portal device before it activates, along with Dr. Selvig, while Thor and Balder fight Malekith. They are unfortunately outclassed by Malekith, but when Malekith goes to channel the Aether through Amora, the distraction is enough that they are able to reprogram the portal device to split Malekith into pieces throughout different realms, killing him.
In conclusion, Amora is led back to the Asgardian prison while Jane remains on Earth. Thor goes before his father, who says that Thor has proven himself a wiser man than even he, and that he is ready to give the throne to him, but Thor refuses it. He says he will defend the Nine Realms as their protector, but he cannot sit idly by and allow Midgard to continue to suffer as it has. He asks that Balder be considered to be king in his place, which Odin agrees to. Thor returns to Midgard to be with Jane as the film closes.
[We cut to a strange enclosed environment, filled with bizarre creatures and oddities contained within glass cases. The Lady Sif and Balder enter warily, looking around at the odd assortment as they are led in by a red-skinned girl named Carina.]
Carina: It is my humble joy to welcome you to Knowhere. And now, I present to you, Taneleer Tivan! The Collector!
[A white-haired man enters the room, bowing low before his guests.]
Tivan: This truly is an honor. To be greeted by a Prince of Asgard and his noble warrior. What brings you to my humble abode?
Balder: Can the act Tivan. You know exactly why we are here.
Tivan: Of course...the item.
[The Lady Sif reluctantly hands over the Aether contained within a sealed Asgardian container. Tivan takes it and eyes it carefully.]
Tivan: If I may be so bold...why not secure it in your own vaults?
Balder: The Tesseract is already on Asgard. Odin thought it wise not to keep two Infinity Stones so close together.
Tivan: Of course...very wise. It shall be safe with me here, amongst my collection.
Sif: See that it is.
[The two Asgardians leave, and as they do Tivan looks over the Aether once more, desire apparent in his eyes.]
Tivan: That's one down. Five more to go.
[Cut to Black.]
/ = / = / = /
[Fade in on the throne room of Asgard, as Balder gives an update concerning the Nine Realms and the storing of the Aether to Odin.]
Balder: We've secured the Aether with Tivan. It should be safe their.
Odin: As safe as it will be anywhere, I suppose. Is there anything else?
Balder: No...I'll leave you to rest father.
[Balder starts to leave, but Odin stops him.]
Odin: Balder, if you'd wait a moment. I feel that, in my dealings with Thor and Loki, I may have overlooked you and your qualities as a man and as a warrior.
Balder: I have never felt slighted Father.
Odin: I know that. But I feel that is more due to your countenance than it is any efforts on my part. Wouldn't you say?
Balder: Father....whatever your failings as a parent, they are easily justified by the burden you've born. You are the king we aspire to be like...the man I aspire to be like.
Odin: It brings me pride to hear that, my son. But know that I feel you are the Best of Us. And I know when the time comes, you will be the One we should aspire to.
Balder: Thank you Father...
[Balder smiles as he walks away, Odin looking down at him from his throne. As he leaves though, a veil is pulled back and the silhouette of Odin is revealed to truly be Loki in disguise.]
Loki: No brother...Thank You.
[Cut to Black.]
Summary of Changes
- The Bifrost has yet to be rebuilt in the beginning of The Dark World, only being completed about a third of the way into the film.
- This film introduces Amora the Enchantress as a secondary villain for this film, as opposed to Skurge being the secondary general under Malekith.
- The Warriors Three are left on Vanaheim for the duration of the film. In the original, only Hogun is left there while Fandral and Volstagg return to Asgard with Thor.
- The character of Darcy and her assistant are gone from this film. While Ian (Jane's blind date) does make an appearance, it is only a brief one. Dr. Selvig is also never in a mental institution in this film.
- There is no mention of a Dimensional Convergence or anything along those lines. Rather, Jane is attempting to replicate the technology of the Bifrost using Earth-based means. As an aside, her trip to Svartalfheim is inadvertently caused by a solar flare, and her travels also cause Reed Richards and companies ship to divert into that solar flare that creates the Fantastic Four.
- In the original film, the Dark Elves have apparently been "asleep for millennia." In this one, they have at least been active up to a year before it takes place, based on information that Malekith gives to Amora.
- Loki only joins Thor's party on the guarantee of clemency for himself.
- Balder arrives to aid the Thor and company as opposed to a random Asgardian general.
- The argument between Thor and Odin is expanded upon before Thor returns to Earth to confront Malekith for the final time. There, Odin is unable to lift Mjolnir because he is supposedly not worthy anymore (though it is just as likely that Loki has already taken Odin's place at this point, take your pick).
- Rather than the Dimensional Convergence, Malekith plans to use the Aether in accordance with the Field Bridge technology and Amora's magical powers. His death is caused in a similar fashion to the original film, using the Field Bridge in place of the signal enhancers.
- Thor suggests Balder replace him as king, rather than another solution to the rulership of Asgard. His reuniting with Jane also closes out the film, rather than serving as a post-credits scene.
- The original end of Dark World, where Loki is revealed to have been impersonating Odin, is moved to a post-credits scene and also involves Balder.
- Chris Hemsworth as Thor- The Crown Prince of Asgard, based on the Norse diety of the same name, with all the powers of the God of Thunder of Legend.
- Natalie Portman as Jane Foster- An astrophysicist whom Thor fell in love with during his banishment to Midgard in the first film. She is possessed by the Aether during the course of the film, driving the plot.
- Tom Hiddleston as Loki- The adopted brother of Thor and Balder, sentenced to life imprisonment for his actions both in the first film and in The Avengers.
- Kit Harrington as Balder the Brave- The younger brother of Thor and Crown Prince of Asgard.
- Anthony Hopkins as Odin- King of Asgard and father to Thor and Balder. Also the ancient enemy of the Dark Elves who emerge from the shadows.
- Christopher Eccleston as Malekith the Accursed- A former ruler of the Dark Elves who reawakens centuries later to reclaim the Aether and use it to remake reality for the 9 Realms through the magical powers of Amora.
- Margot Robbie as Amora the Enchantress- A former pupil of Loki and Frigga who betrays Asgard and follows Malekith, despite warnings of the Dark Elves duplicity.
- Idris Elba as Heimdall- Formerly the Keeper of the Bifrost Bridge, now an official warrior of the Court of Asgard still empowered with Universal Sight.
- Stellan Skarsgaard as Dr. Erik Selvig- A friend and colleague of Jane Foster who helps her in her attempt to build a permanent bridge between Asgard and Earth again.
- Chris O'Dowd as Ian- Another colleague of Jane's who has unrequited feelings for her.
- Rene Russo as Frigga- Queen of Asgard and Wife of Odin.
In addition, Tony Curran plays Bor, father of Odin, in an early flashback scene. Jaimie Alexander, Zachary Levi, Ray Stevenson and Tadanobu Asano also return as the Lady Sif and the Warriors Three respectively. Kat Dennings is only seen in archival footage, as she declined to return for the film. Benicio del Toro and Ophelia Lovibond cameo in a Post-Credits Scene as Taneleer Tivan and his assisstant Carina respectively. Stan Lee cameos as a pedestrian on the sidewalk, who is nearly bowled over by Jane when she teleports back to Earth suddenly.
The film failed to equal the critical success of its predecessor, but still managed to receive mostly favorable reviews. Review aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes scored the film at 66% with an average score of 6.2/10 based on 256 reviews. The site's critical consensus reads, "It may not be the finest film to come from the Marvel Universe, but Thor: The Dark World still offers plenty of the humor and high-stakes action that fans have come to expect." Critics praised the performances and chemistry between Hemsworth and Hiddleston, but criticized the focus on the Jane/Thor romance and the lackluster villains.
The film dominated the box office its opening weekend, earning $85.4 million dollars in the United States alone, 30% more than its predecessor did two years earlier. The film finished with a domestic box office total of $206.4 million, en route to a $644.6 million dollar box office total. The profit for the film was said to be in the $139 million dollar range, once all production costs were tallied together.