A caveat before I begin my tirade: If you don’t like Will Ferrell, nothing said here is going to change that. While I am fond of Will, I get that not everyone is, and that many feel about him the way I feel about actors/comedians such as Adam Sandler or Jim Carrey, both of whom I have very little interest in.
That said, Anchorman 2 is a better sequel than Thor: The Dark World. Not necessarily a better movie, per se, but a better sequel. It comes down to one thing: Anchorman 2 knows what it is and effectively adheres to its vision, whereas Thor: The Dark World lacks a central theme to drive it.
In the original Thor, the story really is this: Spoiled, privileged heir to the throne gets smacked down by daddy until said heir learns that yes, his shit does stink. That makes Thor work. The costumes are ridiculous, the animated Asgard is ridiculous … there’s a lot of ridiculousness going on in that film. But Thor works because the story is grounded in the maturation of its title character. It isn’t about ice giants or Loki or the Destroyer. It’s about growing up, taking responsibility and recognizing that you aren’t the center of the universe. That’s the center that the plot and action revolve around, and even Loki’s sub-plot – where he becomes the entitled brat who throws a tantrum until he gets his chance rule the universe – is tied to this one theme.
And what is the Dark World‘s central premise? It’s that, er, um, well … yeah, I’m not sure. Actually, the whole movie seems to be one enormous red herring designed to get you focused on Thor and his crew and ignore the fact that what the flick really is just a set-up to get Loki out of prison. That’s it. That’s the only truly important thing that happens in the film. Everything else is really just big explosions or small things to move the Marvel-verse along until the next Avengers film. It’s a fun action flick, but there’s no meat, just fluff.
This is why Anchorman 2 is the superior sequel. The main, driving focus of the original Anchorman is the loss of male privilege and the ascension of women to places of power within the news industry specifically, the working world in general. Yes, there’s a whole lot of stupid shit that revolves around that, but that is the central premise that holds Anchorman together.
In the sequel, the central theme is the moron-ification of television news. It’s driven home repeatedly throughout Anchorman 2. When the world looks away from the Yasser Arafat interview to watch a car chase in Milwaukee, when Brick stands screaming in the middle of terrifying storms, when Champ sits there and screams “Whammy!” for every slam dunk and home run, yes it’s funny and foolish, but is it really that different from what one might see on any given day on Fox News, ESPN, CNN, etc.? The continual demeaning of real news to provide light, mindless content that the masses will love is at the very core of the 24-hour news cycle. The elevation of non-stories – anything involving the British royal family, Benghazi, Duck Dynasty – while the Serious News People completely ignore the economy, the racist Republican house and their never-ending war against a black president, how the American system has been perverted to punish workers and reward those born with silver spoons in their mouth is an hourly event on television news. Anchorman 2 is an insanely ridiculous movie that hammers on some very serious points. And that hammering is what keeps Anchorman 2 from completely going off the rails like other Will Ferrell vehicles (The Other Guys, Stepbrothers, etc.).
Or like Thor: The Dark World does.