Thor: The Dark World Review + After Credit Scenes & Building Cosmic Marvel
Let’s just get one thing out of the way. There will be SPOILERS below as I discuss some of the films strongest and weakest scenes along with the after credit scenes. So if you haven’t seen Thor: The Dark World yet, GET OUT.
Thor: The Dark World is a more than worthy addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) that will appease fans of the comics and films, even though it does play it safer than Iron Man 3.
After Loki is returned to Asgard by Thor, Odin sentences him to the dungeons to be imprisoned until the end of his days. With the Bifrost destroyed at the end of the first film, Thor spends the next 2 years traveling around the Nine Realms to try and stop barbarians from attacking smaller villages, being handsome, and shooting down Lady Sif’s romantic advances, etc. But when the villainous Malekith and his Dark Elves awaken to unleash darkness upon the universe, Thor must team up with Loki to save Jane and all Nine Realms.
Like the first film Thor: The Dark World opens up with a story of a great battle that took place several Asgardian generations ago. I found this perfectly acceptable as it gives it a “storybook” feel and makes the mythology less exposition-y. The scene, however, does show the ferocity of the Dark Elves (They TOTALLY look like the Collectors from Mass Effect 2). It’s just that the central villain, Malekith (Christopher Eccleston), isn’t given a whole lot of depth, in the version of the film we saw in theaters. Christopher Eccleston and director Alan Taylor (allegedly) worked hard to make the villain more than just a blank slate during the film’s production (1).
The MCU has this problem where the villains just don’t spark quite like they do over in DC films (Mainly in the Dark Knight Trilogy) and here, the MCU problem is no different. Malekith, the Dark Elves, and Mr. Eko from LOST make for a solid antagonistic force to be reckoned with. At some points, you even feel how menacing they truly are. But they’re never interesting or more than one note. Why does Malekith want to plunge the universe into darkness? Why is he so angry? Give us a reason to hate them instead of just acknowledging them as mischievous. On a superficial level: At least their weaponry is cool. (Black hole grenades + space ships that cut through towers = Marvel Star Wars)
And then there’s Loki…
Loki is Marvel’s answer to The Joker in terms of fan appreciation and all around villainy. Tom Hiddleston’s electrifying performance as the God of Mischief is easily the highlight in a film full of highlights. He inhales mischief and exhales sass. Loki not only steals every scene he’s in with such a riveting performance, but we’ve also been shown his motivations in the previous films (MAJOR inferiority/daddy issues mixed in with a God complex) When Loki is sad, we’re sad. When Loki is daring, we cheer him on. That shouldn’t deteriorate the effect of the other characters as they’re all more well rounded this time out. Specifically, a certain God of Thunder.
Chris Hemsworth owns the role of Thor as much as Robert Downey Jr. does Tony Stark/Iron Man or Chris Evans as Captain America. Hemsworth delivers his best performance yet as Thor, as he sells both the emotional moments of the film (Frigga’s death and Loki’s “death”) as well as the subtle comedy moments (A personal favorite: “How do I get to Greenwich?” Thor says as he awkwardly walks into the Tube)
Natalie Portman, Kat Dennings, and Stellan Skarsgård all return to their roles of Jane Foster, Darcy Lewis, and Eric Selvig, respectively. Jane Foster continues to divide fans in just how much people buy into their relationship. I think the relationship between her and Thor is pretty solid. The first Thor was more of a “meet cute” for the star-crossed lovers. Now we see them develop their relationship to an actual… well… relationship! Kat Dennings thankfully tones down the louder humor aspects and let’s the comedy flow more naturally this time around. Eric Selvig is initially relegated to the obligatory comic relief after a promising character arc following his involvement with Thor and The Avengers, but it quickly put to use in a more appropriate manner. He and Thor also have one of the funnier exchanges in the MCU after Loki’s “sacrifice” a mere 10 minutes earlier:
Eric: It’s good to see you! Your brother isn’t here, is he?
Thor: No. He’s dead.
Eric: Oh, thank god!
Even though the human characters on Earth aren’t necessarily warriors, they do fight honorably alongside Thor to save the universe. Darcy and Jane get plenty of fan backlash but they’re some of the more honorable characters in the film. Darcy in particular doesn’t have much to do, but when Jane asks something of Darcy, she does it. No questions asked, Darcy has Jane’s back. It’s a simple but commendable trait that left a warm fuzzy feeling with me. That goes for Thor’s Asgardian comrades as well.
There’s a great bit where Heimdall, The Warriors Three, and Lady Sif where they all play pivotal roles in helping Thor escape from Asgard with Loki and Jane and they each repeatedly tell Loki “If you betray him, I’ll kill you.” But there’s a subtle moment that I really appreciated from this film. It’s made clear that Sif has feelings for Thor early on in the film. At one point Sif even gives Jane a look of disapproval. I was worried that the characters would be stuck in a “catfight” scenario throughout the adventure. God bless this movie for letting these two act like mature adults. When push came to shove, Sif was the first one to help Thor escape from Asgard to save Jane, even at the expense of her own feelings. It’s a small moment, one easily missed on first viewing, but a welcome moment nonetheless. And hey, that means it passes the Bechdel test (2)!
Anthony Hopkins might come as a disappointment as he practically sleepwalks through the first half of the film, luckily, we have Rene Russo to pick up the slack as Thor and Loki’s mother, Frigga. Rene Russo brings a warm motherly care to the role of Frigga. The only character in the entire franchise that Loki truly cared for. She just happens to kick some Dark Elf ass in this movie, until she’s killed by Malekith. What’s great about the death scene is it’s more than just “shock value”. We’re shown that Frigga would protect Jane at all costs, and Malekith understands that, so he just kills her anyways. The mass funeral scene was visually stunning. The pain behind the character’s faces was palpable. A truly great scene.
There’s even some solid arguments for calling the film “great” (3). Where ‘Thor’ was all about getting us to understand the characters in Asgard and bringing humility to the God of Thunder, The Dark World is more of a connective tissue in the greater scheme or Marvel’s Cinematic Universe. It’s definitely not as meandering as Iron Man 2 and we can thank Director Alan Taylor for that.
Alan Taylor, who directed several fantastic Game of Thrones episodes, brings a surprisingly large scope for a television director that makes Asgard more fleshed out than the previous Thor adventure. The Nine Realms all feel alive and different this time around. Jotunheim and Asgard did look visually appealing in the last go around but never felt quite lived in like these worlds do now.
The soundtrack doesn’t leave the same impression as the previous score, but it’s certain to sweep you up in the ride. I have to admit, I have a bone to pick with Marvel. Why do they insist on changing composers for each of their films? Maybe I should learn to just let go, but the score from most of the Phase 1 films are what I associate to these certain heroes. Bygones, the accompanying music here works well, and that’s all I can ask for in an adventure/science-fiction film like this. Specifically during the climax, the music gets you pumped.
The final showdown’s for most Marvel movies haven’t always been stellar (See Iron Man 1 & 2 for reference) but after The Avengers, I guess Marvel stepped up their game. The final fight sequence is simply exhilarating. If Portal 2 and God of War had a baby, it would probably look like that final fight sequence. As Thor and Malekith fly between portal to portal, I was cheering, “oohing” and laughing out loud. (See the aforementioned “Greenwich” situation)
Thor: The Dark World is a blast through and through, even if it doesn’t thoroughly explain the villain’s motivations. In regards to the villain, the movie plays it safe. There was a great scene in the middle of the film, where Loki seemingly betrays Thor (As was expected) and then goes all Empire Strikes Back on us and cuts off Thor’s hand. How cool would it have been to see Thor with only one hand or a fake gold hand ala A Song of Ice and Fire? Alas, we were not so lucky, as it was just a ploy (a cool ploy) to trick Malekith into taking the Aether out of Jane so they could destroy it. Silly Thor, Aether’s can’t be destroyed by lightning. So Thor gets his butt kicked and Loki saves him! Only to be seemingly killed, but not before using one of those Black Hole grenades (Coolest. Weapons. Ever) But wait, there’s more! Loki used an illusion to trick Thor into thinking he was dead. A trick leading to a trick to trick the hero. (It’s actually less complicated than it sounds) But all in all, the cliffhanger of Loki (possibly?) killing Odin and reigning over Asgard in his form is a nice cliffhanger for not only fans of Loki (Aka everyone) but also for people who want more Thor adventures (Almost everyone).
How much you like Thor: The Dark World depends on your attachment to the first Thor, and whether or not you want all your Marvel movies to be essential viewing leading into Avenger sequels as opposed to standalone viewing. I didn’t mind the standalone nature of Iron Man 3 but still appreciated the fine line The Dark World walks between solo outing and tie-ins.
For those reasons, Thor: The Dark World gets a 6 out of 7
+ Avoids becoming “Thor 2: Into The Darkness of The Dark Knight Rises”
+ The best action scene in a Marvel movie yet.
+ *Distant Loki chanting*
+ Knows how to balance funny moments with character drama and action.
+ Brave cliffhanger.
+ Walks a fine line between building the MCU and working through a standalone story.
- Underdeveloped villain
1- I would love to see a director’s cut version of the film to understand Malekith’s motivations. Angry villains are always ripe with potential. What made them angry? Have they been lost inside themselves on their path towards revenge? Christopher Eccleston discusses the process he and Alan Taylor went to try and differentiate Malekith from a generic villain here.
2- The Bechdel Movie Test requires three things:
- There are 2 named women in it.
- Who talk to each other.
- About something besides a man.
You would be surprised how often movies fail at this. For reference: The Dark Knight doesn’t even pass the Bechdel test. It’s not a “make or break” sort of thing, but it’s interesting that Thor: The Dark World is one of the only superhero films to ever pass the test.
3- But don’t hinder your enjoyment/opinion on how much you liked or disliked this film with the first Thor film. I ranked it pretty high on my Marvel Ranking List but I understand the issues people have with it. First, take the film in as a whole, Then go ahead and see how much you like it in comparison to the first.
AFTER CREDIT SCENES & BUILDING COSMIC MARVEL:
DO I EVEN HAVE TO SAY SPOILER ALERT?
Guardians of the Galaxy looks… interesting… to say the least. Director Alan Taylor publicly denied any involvement with scene before apologizing to James Gunn. It doesn’t really work with the tone of his movie. I was on board with the visual aspects of the teaser (It reminds me of Firefly and more of Firefly is always a good thing) but I would be lying if I thought it didn’t look campy. Then again, maybe you shouldn’t be watching a film starring a talking raccoon that shoots big guns and talking tree voiced by Vin Diesel.
Benicio Del Toro looks like he’s having a blast giving us an early look at The Collector. This is how you plant seeds for you franchise, you don’t let it drive your story, you just hint at what’s to come in a natural fashion (Looking at you, Iron Man 2). And if you’re wondering what’s up with his line “One down, five to go” it is in reference to the Infinity Gems. Remember that giant purple smiling guy at the end of The Avengers? His name is Thanos. In the comics, he once killed almost every single Marvel hero and nearly wiped out the galaxy with something called the Infinity Guantlet that requires six gems to activate.
- Power - Accesses all power and energy that ever has or will exist, and can boost the other gems’ effects. Allows the user to duplicate almost any physical superhuman ability and grants Omnipotence.
- Reality - Allows the user to fulfill wishes, even if the wish is in direct contradiction with scientific laws.
- Blue - Allows the user to greatly strengthen and enhance mental and psionic power and access the thoughts and dreams of other beings. Backed by the Power Gem, the Mind Gem can access all minds in existence simultaneously. When searching for it, the Illuminati apparently discovered that the Mind Gem was the personification of the universal subconscious.
- Space - Allows the user to exist in any or all locations, move any object anywhere throughout reality and warp or rearrange space. At full potential it grants Omnipresence.
- Time - Allows the user total control over the past, present and future. Allows time travel, can age and de-age beings and also be used as a weapon by trapping enemies or entire universes in unending loops of time. Also at full potential grants Omniscience.
- Soul - Allows the user to steal, control, manipulate and alter souls, living or dead, and is the gateway to an idyllic pocket universe. The Soul Gem is sentient and has a hunger for souls.
So Thanos, is kind of a big deal. We all foolishly assumed that Thanos would be the immediate villain of Avengers 2, only to have that assumption shot down when it was revealed that Avengers 2 would be subtitled Age of Ultron. Joss Whedon has said that Thanos will indeed play a pivotal role as the ultimate overlord of darkness and villainy, but he’s not just a guy that you can punch into submission. He’s more of an endgame boss. Thanos will still (somehow?) be involved with Avengers: Age of Ultron but his first appearance will actually be in Guardians of the Galaxy. Guardians is the biggest gamble yet for Marvel, let’s hope it pays off. As for Thanos, let’s hope the build up continues, because this could be one hell of a confrontation.
- If Loki did indeed kill Odin, then there is a huge missed opportunity to keep Sir Anthony Hopkins locked away in a cage like in The Silence of the Lambs.
- I’ve heard complaints about Sif and Volstagg taking the Aether (Revealed to be an Infinity Stone) to Tanaleer Tivan also known as The Collector. I’m willing to accept this as the reason said on screen is pretty solid “Two Infinity Stones in one place” or maybe Loki impersonating Odin ordered them to give it to The Collector. Who knows? I just can’t wait to continue this damn series.
- Chris Hemsworth wants Ragnarok for Thor 3. Seeing as how The Dark World has already made it’s money back internationally, I don’t think a Thor 3 is out of the question anymore. I’d love for Peter Jackson to take a stab at this possibility since Surtur and those army of pesky fire demons are the Marvel equivalent of Balrogs from Lord of the Rings. Or perhaps Guillermo Del Toro?
- Diego Crespo