“Thor: The Dark World” marked the first Marvel Studios release after “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” kicked off. TV trailers on ABC promoted a followup episode tied into the events from “The Dark World.” While “Iron Man 3” set up certain storyarcs for “S.H.I.E.L.D.,” the TV show/movie tie-in would be groundbreaking in the Marvel Universe. Exactly how interconnected an episode remained to be seen. “Thor The Dark World” delivered an impressive sequel, arguably surpassing the first “Thor” entry. A quicker pace and more screentime for returning characters benefited the film. The only remaining unknown was how the “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” crossover would fare.
The follow up to 2011’s “Thor” offers a brief recap of the Dark Elves clash with Bor (Odin’s father). As the legend goes, the Dark Elves, led by Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) possessed a weapon, the Aether, with which they sought to destroy the universe. The elves along with their Aether were destroyed. Flash forward to present day, present being after the events of “Iron Man 3,” and the 9 realms are at peace. The troublesome Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is incarcerated, therefore a non-issue for Asgard, and all are at rest. Well, aside from the titular Thor (Chris Hemsworth) who is altogether unsatisfied with the heavenly wonders of Asgard. His thoughts return to earth, and more specifically, to scientist and love interest Jane Foster (Natalie Portman).
Meanwhile, Foster partakes of similar activities, though her yearning for Thor is much more productive. Rather than brooding like her Asgardian counterpart, she continues her diligent research, observing phenomenon that could signal Thor’s return to Earth. Strange occurrences continue popping up, a sign of the approaching convergence in which all 9 realms will align. Dr. Foster, aided by her up still unpaid intern Darcy (Kat Dennings) and Ian (Johnathan Howard), Darcy’s unpaid intern. Yes, that part went a little “Inception” there with the unpaid intern’s unpaid intern, but in the end it all adds up to resume building and comic relief.
Unfortunately, Odin (Anthony Hopkins) is a tad mistaken in his assertion that the Dark Elves and their Aether have been destroyed. Jane Foster stumbles through a portal, and becomes a vessel for the destructive weapon. Meanwhile, her colleague Dr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard) appears to have gone a bit bonkers, though why anyone would think a naked man running around Stonehenge isn’t normal is anybody’s guess. The Dark Elves storm Asgard, and despite the best efforts of the Asgardian defenses, including Heimdall (Idris Elba, in a graciously meatier role), the Aether is recovered. This of course leads the battle to earth.
“Thor: The Dark World” was an overall improvement from the original “Thor,” which is quite impressive considering that the kickoff title was well executed. The sequel however plunges ahead, foregoing the lengthy setup which bogged down 2011’s “Thor.” Additionally, it eliminates much of the goofy humor with Thor adjusting to Earth life. Renowned “Luther” star Idris Elba gets more screentime, a huge plus, and Tom Hiddleston steals each scene as the cunning but lovable Loki.
The “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” crossover however was not as well-received as “The Dark World.” Critics whined that the tie-in was tangential, and largely unrelated. Ok, so the follow up episode didn’t continue a major plot line, but it successfully accomplished its goal: to depict the aftermath of the battle, and S.H.I.E.L.D.’s role in damage control. Marvel films concentrate on the actual event, and normally there’s no mention of clean up. After the events of “The Avengers,” for instance, surely many S.H.I.E.L.D. resources went into restoring New York, and containing Chitauri technology (another “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” episode dealt with that). The show directly following “Thor: The Dark World” presented an interesting behind the scenes look at recovering an Asgardian weapon, and the potential destruction caused in the wrong hands. Nevertheless, “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” met considerable flack, and more specifically the hugely hyped “Dark World” crossover episode. The next Marvel Studios release, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” however, would deliver what fans and critics had been waiting for: a film deeply intertwined with ongoing, and future “S.H.I.E.L.D.” and Marvel lore. They’d simply have to wait until 2014.