Photo Courtesy of Marvel Studios

A universe in jeopardy, a woman to save, a brother in chains—just another day in Asgard for alien superhero Thor. Thor: The Dark World, directed by Alan Taylor (Game of Thrones), is a sequel to 2011’s Thor and boasts a stellar cast, including Chris Hemsworth (Rush), Natalie Portman (Black Swan), Tom Hiddleston (War Horse) and Anthony Hopkins (The Silence of the Lambs). It is a movie wrought with friendship and betrayal, illusions and harsh realities.

The film opens with a narrative detailing how Malekith (Christopher Eccleston, Doctor Who), king of the Dark Elves, crafts and tries to use a dark weapon called Aether to destroy the universe. Years after Malekith’s eventual defeat, Thor’s love interest Jane Foster (Portman) discovers and becomes infected by the Aether, causing Thor to take her back to Asgard in hopes of a cure.

The movie has some beautiful, heartfelt moments sprinkled throughout, and the dynamic between Thor and his treacherous brother (Hiddleston) results in some of the best acting that Hemsworth does throughout the movie. Hiddleston’s character, Loki, is more human than Thor, showing his inner and outer selves and expressing more emotion than the burly protagonist, further showing that he is not a true Asgardian. It is a running theme throughout the movie that Loki is not actually a son of Thor’s father, but rather an adopted child of an enemy race.

Loki took to heart the fact that he was adopted in Thor and in this sequel seems intent on playing the game for the throne of Asgard. This seems to be a juxtaposition, as he wants his birthright, even though he has no claim to his father’s throne due to  his lack of blood relation.

Although Thor is the main character in the film, the supporting performances tug at the viewer’s heartstrings. These characters often have just as deep a story, if not more so, as that of Thor and Jane or the ever-present evil that lurks in the shadows and slowly becomes stronger as the film progresses.

We see Loki, the true Loki, in a defining moment when Thor visits him in his dungeon prison. In a pivotal scene in Hiddleston’s portrayal of the character, the audience witnesses Loki’s transformation from a perfectly put-together and cunning manipulator, to a broken man sitting at the edge of his confines, bleeding and ragged.

In addition to Loki’s intricate tale of redemption, the story line of Dr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) slowly growing more and more insane after the events of the 2012 Marvel spinoff The Avengers, in which Loki held control of his mind, is quite interesting compared to the reactions of the other human characters from Thor.

The fact that all of the other human characters are completely fine at the beginning of this latest film, even though they have already experienced so much more than they ever could have imagined, is worth questioning. It makes Dr. Selvig more human, allowing him to become a more relatable character as the audience follows his journey, which at one point finds him in a mental institution.

A rather cliché trope in the movie is that of the defenseless woman that needs to be saved. Dark World furthers the damsel-in-distress stereotype through the characters of Jane and her assistant Darcy (Kat Dennings, 2 Broke Girls). Throughout the movie, the Asgardian women protect themselves and fight far better than Jane and Darcy can.

Frigga (Rene Russo, Lethal Weapon 3), Thor’s mother, fights in hand-to-hand combat against the evil Malekith, and Sif (Jamie Alexander, Kyle XY) is one of the best warriors in Asgard, holding her own even when outnumbered against fellow Asgardian soldiers. On the other hand, while Frigga is fighting, Jane hides behind a column. When Darcy is about to be attacked by dark elves, her intern Ian protects her. It is interesting that even the names of the Asgardian women are fiercer.

In defense of the human females in the film, some may argue that Jane uses her intellect to save those around her.

However, even though she figures out how to use Dr. Selvig’s instruments to save the universe, in the end it is Selvig who helps Thor. Selvig uses Jane’s idea for his instruments and protects Jane and Thor. Even when Jane’s intelligence is about to win over her scientific male counterpart, Selvig saves the day.

It is disappointing, but not unusual, that such a big movie franchise such as Marvel’s Cinematic Universe would continue this stereotype. After all, they deal in masculine super heroes because that is what sells in this modern age.

However, it would have been nice to see Jane physically protect herself against the terrors of the Nine Realms.

Overall, Dark World encompasses so many themes and storylines that manage to work together to create a very enjoyable experience.

By the end of the movie, the watcher is relieved and yet still anxious over the characters’ predicaments. This is a precarious position to be in, but it is also a position that ensures that Marvel’s legacy of Thor will continue, whether it be through another Avengers sequel or another Thor movie.

One thing is for sure, there will be a wide audience, including this writer, awaiting the next chapter in this epic saga.