Thor: The Dark World

If you remember my review of the original Thor movie, you might recall that I was slightly underwhelmed by it. One of the main weaknesses I pointed out in that review was that the film makers were still very much afraid to delve deep into the wacky Marvel SciFi/Fantasy mythos of ancient alien space gods and super beings. It was shot rather conservatively and made great effort to keep things really, really simple as not to confuse the audiences. Thor: The Dark World is a much different movie. The Avengers – the one of the highest grossing movies in the history of Hollywood was an extremely bold foray into just about the wackiest super-hero, space-fantasy mash-up imaginable and the audiences loved it. The new Thor movie similarly shakes of the conservative shackles of Hollywood action movie conventions and dares to be wacky, silly and even a little bit complex.

Thor: The Dark Word

Thor: The Dark Word

The story connects back not only with the original movie but also with the events depicted in The Avengers. It is revealed that after Bifröst, the space-bridge that allows Asgardians to travel between the worlds was destroyed in the first movie, the nine realms under their protection fell into chaos. Once it was repaired, Thor and his friends had to embark on a long peace-making quest. One of his many adventures in that period was the pit-stop on Earth to pick up Loki and the Tesseract. With Loki imprisoned, and the campaign winding down, Thor is torn between his duty to take over his fathers kingdom, and his desire to go back to Earth and be with Jane Foster.

In the meantime Jane is on Earth having the worst case of the Rose Tyler abandoned companion syndrome. Apparently after hanging out with the Norse god of thunder, nothing on Earth seems worthwhile anymore. So Jane spends her time looking for strange anomalies similar to those which lead to her first meeting with Thor in a forlorn hope they can be reunited again. In the process she finds an ancient, super-dangerous artifact known as the “aether” which which infects her body slowly poisoning her. Once Thor finds out, he whisks her away to Asgard in the hope of curing her and securing the artifact. The activation of the Aether wakes up it’s creators: the Dark Elves who were slumbering somewhere in deep space. These ancient, but all but forgotten enemies of the Norse gods mount a frontal attack on Assgard in an attempt to recover the artifact.

Dark Elves

I actually really liked the Dark Elf costume designs.

The attack is unsuccessful, but it is clear that Assgard defenses are not up to par with the Dark Elf technology. Many lives are lost in the attack, and much of the royal palace is destroyed. Thor proposes taking Jane off-world in an attempt to lure the Dark Elves into a trap, but Odin is determined to keep her in Asgard and turtle up fighting to the last man if need be. Thor is not to keen on this, and decides to make a pact with Loki to smuggle Jane out of Asgard using one of his secret passages. As you can expect, wacky hijinks ensue.

As you can probably figure out from the above synopsis, viewing of the original movie and The Avengers is more or less mandatory. But that’s a good thing. This installment of Thor doesn’t actually feel like a self contained movie, but rather as an episode in a much larger, and more complex story. And I absolutely love that. It feels right.

There is this discussion going on right now around all parts of the internet that modern TV is becoming more satisfying and interesting medium for telling complex, nuanced stories for adults than Hollywood could ever be. The self-contained format of a traditional movie is simply to time constrained to do any meaningful character or world building. TV series on the other hand are produced in 12-20 hour season installments giving writers and directors ample time for building complex plots, developing interesting characters and relationship. What Marvel is doing right now is an attempt to bring just that kind of storytelling to the big screen. The Marvel Cinematic Universe films are evolving towards having a TV-series like complexity, while also being produced on multi-million dollar Hollywood blockbuster budgets.

While Thor: The Dark World is not anywhere close as awesome as The Avengers is a huge improvement over the original. Thor is still the larger-than-life hero, but now more nuanced because of his conflicting desires, and his fractured relationship with his brother. Loki comes back in style reminding everyone why he is the god of mischief, stacking misdirection, subterfuge and being all round magnificent bastard. Heimdal is even more of a badass, and you get to see exactly why Odin made him the sole guardian of the gate to Asgard.

The movie is just plain old fun. The absolute wackiness of space gods dog-fighting Dark Elves in laser powered paddle-boats is played absolutely straight without a shade of irony. The Marvel space-fantasy setting with it’s space-magic, space-elves and eldritch, space-entities older than the universe itself is embraced completely and without hesitation. The end result is an entertaining, well made spectacle with feels very right, and very Marvel. While it may seem little bit rushed at times, it definitely pumps you up for the next big crossover.

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4 Responses to Thor: The Dark World

  1. Dan O. UNITED STATES Google Chrome Windows says:

    Great review Luke. Cool to see a stand-alone Marvel movie actually acknowledge the fact that yes, the Avengers did happen, and that they still exist in this universe, even if they aren’t always popping-up to say hello or kick some butt.

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  2. MacHala CZECH REPUBLIC Mozilla Firefox Linux says:

    You didn’t answer the important question: does it pass the Bechdel test? (sorry, but lately you’ve been obviously quite interested in feminism and venting it through the blog and twitter and it is at times kind of annoying, so I couldn’t pass opportunity for this rant as this seems to be first post in some time you actually write on topic that could be connected to gender-equality/feminism but actually don’t make any reference to it)…

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  3. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Google Chrome Mac OS Terminalist says:

    @ Dan O.:

    I think this will be the norm from now for Marvel movies. The movies and the SHIELD series will all co-exist and be inter-connected. This is great for more than one reason:

    – Marvel Cinematic Universe will be hard to reboot so seasonal cash-grab re-makes (like Sony’s Spider-Man movies) are not going to be a thing.

    – New writers and directors will be working off an established background and so they won’t be able to completely ruin the continuity with their “creative ideas”

    – A single bad movie won’t ruin the franchise, and a popular comic book hero whose movie turns out to be a dud can still come back in style via a big cross-over feature (see Hulk in Avengers)

    @ MacHala:

    Good point.

    I think the Bechdel test here is inconclusive. Jane and Darcy talk about their scientific research, but the conversation opens with the mention that the anomalies they are seeing are similar to those that brought Thor to Earth the first time. So… Maybe?

    Jane also talks with some of the science women and with queen Friga about things albeit very briefly. So I guess partial credit? I don’t know? What do you think?

    On the positive note: Jane in Thor 2 is much more interesting than Pepper Potts in Iron Man 3, and banter between her and Darcy was fun and engaging. While Kat Dennings is still doing the snarky sidekick shtick actually had stuff to do this time around. So that’s a good thing.

    That and Friga has actual lines, agency and motivations in this movie. I honestly can’t recall anything she did in the first one. And this is Rene Ruso we are talking about – a big name, no some random nameless extra. It was great to see her take initiative, and to actually hold her own against the king of Dark Elves. So yeah, points for that.

    In other words: they did ok. There wasn’t really much to complain about, which is maybe why I didn’t mention anything. Do I complain to much?

    Is it culturally relevant victory for feminism? I honestly don’t think so. The movie is more or less just Thor and Loki show, which of course is not surprising. The women are there, and they are characters with motivations and agency – which is as it should be. This shouldn’t be an exception but rather a minimum standard. So should we praise a movie for meeting a bare minimum standard?

    Then again, it isn’t just the women who got overshadowed either. Poor Christopher Eccleston really tried to be a compelling bad guy, but got completely outstaged by Hiddleston doing his thing being a much better villain.

    What is your take on it?

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