When I saw The Dark World in the cinema I was not a huge fan. I've long held that it is the worst MCU film and the only truly black mark on their release record (alongside Iron Man 2). I thought Christopher Eccleston was largely wasted on a dull and inconsequential villain. I found Odin to be weirdly terse and childish. I thought that the human characters were terribly written (and acted) and very annoying. Jane's infusion with the Aether was nothing more than an excuse to have her involved in a plot that really didn't need her. The sudden love triangle with Lady Siv felt tired and pointless. Did I mention just how incredibly annoying the human characters were?
On rewatch, some of these criticisms still stand, but others feel overly harsh. I discovered that I'd also forgotten some of the good aspects of the movie entirely. The design of the Dark Elves is brilliant and really quite unique, both within the MCU and elsewhere. Their ships and fighting style were both really fun to watch and I found their characterisation quite enjoyable. They won't be winning any awards for their plot, but it's not terrible either. Relatedly, I actually thought Eccleston was great, though I found it interesting how similar his introduction is cinematically to Ronin the Destroyers. I think he could have been better written, but actually I don't have any more fault with Malekith than I do with Hela, even if the latter got a more interesting role overall. Killing Frigga is a great moment (and she actually gets some great character development and dialogue) and really helps strengthen Malekith's threat level.
I'd also largely forgotten how great Loki's arc is. It manages to make his personal story post-Avengers feel organic and gives him some brilliant moments. The entire escape sequence with Thor is also very well done and quite funny. That I do remember from first time around, but it is a genuinely enjoyable sequence. I also remain a fan of his deception and ultimate twist ending, even if it is quickly retconned out in Ragnarok (a decision I also hate much less over time).
As for the humans... yeah, they're still quite annoying. Darcy and the new (and never again seen) intern are just a weird character combo. I found them less irritating than I remembered and I still feel like you could remove them from the film entirely and it wouldn't matter, but they did at least have a couple of mildly redeeming moments. Though the "Darcy", "Jane", "Eric", "Mjolnir!" gag is definitely not one of them. I audibly groaned. I'm also not sure about Eric's madness. On the one hand, he is allowed to have been messed up by Loki's staff. On the other, he is clearly still capable of some rational thought, so the whole nakedness just feels like a weak mishit at humour. I honestly think it would have been a lot better to just get rid of Darcy and friend and just have Eric and Jane (with a less irritating Eric) as the human factor in the film.
Speaking of, Jane is much less tokenised than I had remembered. Is her infection with the Aether still a bit of a narrative crutch? Absolutely, but it allows the plot to progress in useful ways and the moments on Asgard – particularly with Frigga – are a lot of fun. I also really enjoyed the whole gravitational anomaly scenes with the disappear shoes. They actually made me laugh a couple of times.
Overall, then, The Dark World was an enjoyable film that developed Thor and Loki's characters nicely, allowed for some great world-building, and was a generally fun ride. It's still one of the worst MCU films, but it's nowhere near as bad as I remembered it.