Thor has always been a major fixture in Marvel Comics. Adapting the God of Thunder for the big screen is an interesting thing to do, and the 2011 film more or less succeeded. It wasn't a great movie, but it established Thor and his characters well enough. Audiences were introduced to the wondrous realm of Asgard. Sadly the Earth scenes were tedious, and the romance between Thor and Jane Foster was forced. Loki was nicely established as Thor's mischievousness brother. All in all it was a decent origin story from the MCU. The Dark World is an improvement over its previous installment. It's not a 5 star movie by a long shot, but director Alan Taylor delivers a solid flick.
The story apparently takes place one year after The Avengers. Loki is taken to Odin, which the latter sends away to the dungeons. (I really like how the MCU is basically one big comic book universe where events have effect and continue on to other movies.) Malekith, the leader of the Dark Elves, awakens and wants to bring darkness to the entire universe. Sadly, the thing Malekith wants has been inhabited by Jane Foster, so his mission is to get her. Thor can't have this, so in order to ensure victory he enlists the help of his estranged brother. Of course, even having the God of Mischief may not make them victorious.
The story is solid enough. The flashback with Odin's father taking on Malekith and the Dark Elves was well done, albeit slightly cheesy narration. In present day, we're treated to many scenes in Asgard. It's refreshing to see most of the film taking place away from Earth. Thor's portrayal is pretty solid for the most part. I've said this in the past, but I was never crazy about Chris Hemsworth's performance. He didn't seem so sure about the role in his film and was only slightly better in The Avengers. He's a bit of a cardboard version of the character from the comics. This film is is an improvement, though Tom Hiddleston stole the show away, Loki has cemented himself as the fan favorite character in the MCU. Some of his scenes are highlights, such as the one where he uses his shapeshifting ability to annoy Thor. Loki is involved in two unexpected but great plot twists.
Natalie Portman's portrayal of Jane Foster was alright. To me she's like Skye from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the girl we're supposed to like but ends up being more annoying than likable. Sif and the Warriors 3 sadly got a mild role in Thor. At least here they did a few things. It's a shame Sif is a side character, she would make a fantastic focus and a much better love interest for Thor. The chemistry between those two in their short scenes together is much more natural than him and Foster. Anthony Hopkins returns for another good portrayal of Odin. Sadly his role is minimal compared to the previous film, and the viewer actually finds himself/herself disliking him after he shouts, "As many as are needed!" when talking to Thor on how many of his men need to die in order to take down Malekith.
The antagonist, Malekith, is portrayed by Christopher Eccleston. Sadly, he's ultimately forgettable. Thor's mother, whom is one of the best characters in the whole thing, alone was more powerful than him. He just doesn't do anything, it's his right hand man Kurse that does all the hard work. Kurse is portrayed by Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje. He is by far the much more engaging antagonist, his fight with Thor was fantastic and easily more exciting than the lackluster climax. He actually knocks away Thor's hammer like it's paper! Kurse should have overthrown Malekith, the latter just wasn't as great as he could have been.
Thor's mother Frigga has one of the most powerful scenes in the entire MCU. She was actually a more engaging character than the majority. Jane's Foster quirky friend Darcy returns. She was actually genuinely funny, I actually liked her more than Foster. For some reason, Darcy has an intern by the name of Ian. This guy ultimately serves no purpose, other than for comedic effect. (And this film has enough of that without him.) Idris Elba's Heimdall returns for another powerful performance. Eric Selvig is nothing but comedy, and not the good kind. Seriously, I don't think anyone comes to a Marvel movie to see a guy streaking over property or walking around in underwear. The MCU loves comedy and hates gritty, yes, but this is borderline dumb.
The climax is alright, but laughable when compared to the final battle between Superman and Zod in Man of Steel. The falling-in-between-worlds portal is an interesting -but quickly turns into a lame- gimmick. There's virtually no blows thrown, instead they keep falling through portals. The ending nicely sets up Thor 3 or perhaps a storyline for a future Avengers movie. The mid-credits scene isn't too exciting, but an interesting setup for Guardians of the Galaxy. The after-credits scene is alright, nothing special but the very last part is funny enough to justify staying in your chair. The soundtrack is pretty solid. It has some good opera when necessary.
Overall, the Thor sequel is a good followup. The story is interesting and Loki steals the show. Thor is pretty good, and the fight between him and Kurse was fantastic. Unfortunately, Malekith is underwhelming. The sad part is that this is becoming evident with any MCU film not labeled the Avengers. The main female lead doesn't come close to the coolness of Lady Sif. Ultimately, The Dark World isn't a great film. The action is just sad when compared to Man of Steel. The film however still beats Iron Man 3 and is far from being called 'lackluster.' Though it is kinda disappointing when a 5 minute preview for Captain America: The Winter Solider gives the impression that it's going to be 10 times better than this.