Had Thor: The Dark World truly had the courage of what initially seemed to be its convictions, it would be more praiseworthy than it is, rather than feeling like yet another cog in the money machine, as Iron Man 2 did. It's a movie that depends upon the viewing of previous installments for you to truly get, yet it doesn't sufficiently advance the narrative to make itself essential. (I normally complain about movies that depend upon references to other movies, but here, those references are the best parts.) Idris Elba's Heimdall gets a bit more to do in it, which is nice, while each of The Warriors Three gets one key moment that feels like it was contractual. Anthony Hopkins, of course, pontificates, which is what he does best nowadays.
It's not a stinker by any means - in a vacuum, this movie would be a perfectly serviceable fantasy film. But as a Marvel movie, it suggests that these things are becoming progressively more formulaic, and coming so soon after the auteur-driven Iron Man 3, that's a problem. One reason to look forward to Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man, aside from their idiosyncratic directors, is that future continuity does not depend on what happens to those particular protagonists, so there's a freedom there to have them do more. Thor, as a character, is not unlike Loki at the beginning of The Dark World - kept in a gilded cage that reveals itself only when he tries to break free of it.
In case you were wondering, there are two credits scenes - one ties in to a future Marvel movie, while the other brings closure to the one at hand. And unless you're going to see the 5 new minutes of the next Captain America movie, the 3D is pointless and ineffective.
Thor: The Dark World opens in the U.S. Friday. All images above via Marvel.com