I’ve been pretty much obsessed with The Avengers since I first saw it in 2012, so I knew I’d get around to seeing Thor: The Dark World at some point, despite the fact that Thor is easily my least favorite on the team, and also I just can’t seem to take “Dark Elves” seriously as antagonists for a superhero film. But when I started reading decent reviews for the movie — and found out that Marvel: Agents of SHIELD would have an episode featuring some kind of fallout from the film — I decided to bump up my timetable.
I enjoyed The Dark World. Really, I had a good time watching it, and I’ll expect I’ll buy it on DVD eventually . . . but I didn’t love it, either.
There will be SPOILERS for all Avenger-related films prior to The Dark World, including the most recent: Iron Man 3.
The Dark Elves are an enemy so ancient they’re presumed dead. But, yeah, they totally aren’t. So it’s up to Thor and co. to stop them from destroying the entire universe. (“Ah, the old ‘wipe out the world’ ploy.” Seriously, what’s with that villains? You need new motives, STAT.)
1. First, I feel like I should explain that I don’t dislike Thor. Actually, I think Chris Hemsworth does a fine job in the role, and I did enjoy the first movie quite a bit when it came out in theaters. (Although I haven’t actually seen it since, so I won’t be comparing this film with that one. I think I need a second opinion on both before I decide which was the superior movie.)
It’s just that I’m considerably more interested in the other guys on the team. Like, Bruce Banner was totally my darling in The Avengers, and I’ve been a
Robert Downey Jr. Tony Stark fan since the first Iron Man came out five years ago. I’ve grown to really like Black Widow, and I’m interested in seeing more of Hawkeye, especially post-mind control. (Cause, you know, angst. I love my angst.) And while I had my share of problems with the first Captain America movie, I actually like Captain America himself, and I’m really looking forward to seeing more of his man-out-of-time stuff in The Winter Soldier.
Thor, though . . . I mean, Thor has Loki, who — let’s face it — is kind of the best, but other than that, I’m just not terribly invested in his emotional arc or really anything about his whole life on Asgard. (Despite the fact that I would kill for a movie that was a serious adaptation of Norse mythology. Or, well, any non-Christian mythology, really. Must it be all camp all the time, people?)
Anyway, I don’t have a ton of serious flaws with this movie — a few nitpicks, maybe, because that’s what bloggers are good for — but I expect that my general ambivalence towards Thor as a character kept me from feeling particularly invested in this story. (Cause, yeah. I wasn’t exactly worried that the universe was going to be destroyed. Oops, spoilers.)
2. Still, while I’m speaking of nitpicks?
Our Big Bad, Malekith (Christopher Eccleston), is possibly the most boring villain in a decidedly long line of boring villains from Marvel, especially when it comes to Avenger movies. I mean, Loki was good. (I say ‘was’ because he’s less of a straight villain in The Dark World and more of an anti-villain.) Beyond that, though? The Chitauri were boring. Laufey was boring. The Abomination was boring and stupid. General Ross was unconvincing, boring, and stupid. Red Skull was boring and such an utter waste of glorious potential that I still weep a little thinking about it. Obadiah Stane was, at least, somewhat fun in a cheesy sort of way, but he was definitely more of a caricature than a character, and he certainly never came off as sinister to me, or even particularly interesting. Ivan Vanko had moments of awesome but was ultimately disappointing. And I guess I liked Aldrich Killian well enough, as a slimy asshat kind of villain, but at best he’s a decent bad guy, not a great one.
I know Marvel is kicking DC’s ass in so many respects these days, but honestly? Their Big Bads are basically made of suck. So, Marvel: if you need examples on how to make your bad guys awesome, might I suggest taking a look at Nolan-verse? Specifically, this guy, this guy, this guy, or even this guy . . . because even though that last one is a little problematic, he’s still better than almost everyone in the above paragraph.
3. All right, back to the actual movie —
The best parts of this film are easily the scenes where Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston are playing off one another. Those scenes are kind of magic. The two actors have clearly built a good rapport with one another, and they are always a lot of fun to watch. I don’t know that this movie particularly challenges either of them very much in regards to acting, but they’re great on screen together anyway.
4. Most of the acting is relatively good, I think. I continue to enjoy Natalie Portman as Jane, although I may have liked her more in the first film. (It’s not really an acting thing, more of an arc thing.) Also, I still like Kat Dennings as Darcy . . . although did her voice change? Like get higher-pitched or something? She just sounds different to me. Anyway, I liked her and her intern. (Though . . . is Darcy seriously still an unpaid intern? Hasn’t it been a couple of years? Couldn’t she at least have been upgraded to assistant or something? Is Jane housing and feeding her or what?)
Also, thankfully, I like Sif so much more than I did in the first film.
She doesn’t have a ton to do in The Dark World, but the little she does have is done well. I wasn’t at all motivated to throw my Milk Duds at her face, which was pretty much the exact opposite reaction I had watching her in Thor. It made for a very welcome change.
And Rene Russo actually had lines! Like more than two, even! This was also a welcome change.
5. Stellan Skarsgard, on the other hand . . . well, I didn’t have a problem with his acting. But I’m not so sure about his subplot. I guess I’ll wait on the details until the Spoiler Section, but suffice it to say, he’s having a little trouble adjusting after getting his brain taken over in The Avengers. Which is fine, but I didn’t love how they did it, or at least I didn’t love how they resolved it. But I’ll get to that.
6. Actually, I’m having trouble coming up with things to talk about that don’t involve spoilers. There are a few plot conveniences that made me roll my eyes, but I can’t really discuss them here. There are also a few scenes I really liked, but I’d prefer to wait on those too. Oh! Did you guys know Zachary Levi was in this movie? Cause I sure didn’t. Even as I was sitting there, watching the credits, I was like . . . wait, Chuck was in this? Who the hell did he play?
This is who he played:
I guess Josh Dallas was too busy on Once Upon a Time to take up the role of Fandral again. I wish I could compare the actors, but since I barely remember Dallas in Thor at all . . . we’ll just say that Zachary Levi’s funny in this, and that he looks better as a brunette. (I know. I say that a lot. Look, I have to stick up for my fellow dark-haired peeps. It’s tough out there, everyone assuming you don’t know how to have fun.)
7. Finally — because I’m just going to give up and move on to Spoilers — I should mention that this movie’s actually pretty funny. Not that I was expecting it to be particularly dour or anything — although there are some fairly sad scenes — but the various one-liners and witty repartee is definitely one of the movie’s stronger features.
If you want to know the absolutely funniest moment in the whole movie, though, you’ll have to venture into Spoilers. And if you haven’t seen the film yet, please don’t. Don’t ruin it for yourself. This moment’s just too spectacular for that.
This. This is the funniest moment in the whole movie.
I don’t know how long this scene’s going to last on Youtube, so in case it’s no longer there when you click: at one point, Loki turns himself into Captain America, and it is BEAUTIFUL. Seriously, Chris Hemsworth is a good looking man, and I love Tom Hiddleston, I do — the whole Cookie Monster thing alone makes me want to marry him — but somehow I came out of The Dark World with a bigger crush on Chris Evans than ever. This is a cameo made of WIN.
But to the plot! Okay, so a bazillion years ago, the Asgardians and the Dark Elves were at war. The Dark Elves planned to use their super weapon, the Aether, but the Asgardians — led by Odin’s daddy — stopped them cold. Malekith basically sacrificed the vast majority of his people so that he and a few others could escape and someday come back to get REVENGE. Meanwhile, Odin’s Daddy orders the Aether hidden far, far away so that no one ever finds it.
Guess what? Someone finds it.
Jane is back on Earth, attempting to move on after Thor’s long disappearance, and comes across this weird ass phenomenon which is a signal that all the realms are starting to come into alignment or something. (I don’t know. I forget the specifics. Physics is decidedly not my thing, even fake movie physics.) Also, she manages to get infected by the Aether. By the by, the Aether? Yeah, I couldn’t take it seriously at all. It’s this red, floaty, fluid-y stuff, and it reminded me of something that, unfortunately, I could never quite place. Despite this, I still had to stifle a laugh every time it popped up on the big screen and pretended to be ominous.
While Jane is going on awkward first dates and becoming Aether Jane, Thor is putting the nine realms back into balance or something. Basically, he’s kicking ass. He also tells this guy, Hogun, that he can go back to living peacefully with his family or something, and I all but had to sit on my hands to keep from pointing at the screen and screaming, “You’re next, buddy! Say goodbye to that sweet family of yours because the Grim Reaper is coming for you, sir.” I was sure that, in Malekith’s return to power, he would ravage the lands that Thor had just saved and totally kill his buddy.
This actually turned out to be quite wrong, as Hogan — who I’d entirely forgotten from the first movie — doesn’t come back until the very end of the film for maybe half of a second. I just thought you guys might want proof that I’m, very occasionally, incorrect about something. This was actually a nice thing to be wrong about, although of course this was before I realized we were going to be killing Thor’s mother as Motive for Revenge instead. (We’ll get there.)
So despite achieving all this victory and peace and whatnot, Thor still isn’t really happy on Asgard cause he’s older and wiser and his ladylove is still totally on Earth.
He goes to spy on Jane with Heimdall (Idris Elba — who remains awesome though criminally underused) and discovers that something has gone wrong with his beloved. So Thor hops down to Midgard, picks her up, and brings her back to Asgard.
Odin voices his discontent in a particularly charming way — he refers to Jane as a goat — until he realizes that Jane has been infected with the Aether. (I actually didn’t like Anthony Hopkins as much as I did in the first movie, although I couldn’t tell you exactly why that was. Maybe his performance just felt more phoned in this time around? Or maybe my expectations were just that low last time? I don’t know. It wasn’t a big problem.) This is, of course, when the Dark Elves attack, led by Malekith and his Super-Powered Second Banana, Kurse (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje).
Kurse gets captured on purpose, which is one of those overdone tropes that can drive me nuts, but it’s not so bad here, mainly because it only takes a couple of seconds, and nobody tries to pretend that it’s anything but the plan. It’s not like Thor captured him personally and was like, “A-ha! A Dark Elf! I thought you were all dead. Well, regardless, I’ve foiled you now!” Anyway, Kurse escapes and frees several of the prisoners but leaves Loki in his cell after studying him for a minute and dismissing him contemptuously.
Loki, rather used to contempt, advises him on the best way to avoid the Asgardians anyway, which inadvertently leads to the death of his mother. Too bad for Loki because Frigga appears to be the only person he actually cares about and is certainly the only one who cares much about him.
And oh all right, Thor still loves Loki, and Loki probably still loves him. But that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t — and haven’t — tried to kill each other too.
As an aside: I like an earlier scene where Frigga is trying to get through to Loki. I like all of Frigga’s scenes, as a matter of fact, although they were a bit transparent in setting her up as a Woman in a Refrigerator. I guess I should be happy we got them at all. A glimpse of personality is certainly better than none, especially since she had absolutely nothing to do in the previous film. Actually, Frigga’s pretty badass before Kurse murders her. She totally has Malekith at her mercy. Sadly, Kurse comes in and stabs her. Thor runs in too late, and Kurse, Malekith, and the Dark Elves conveniently retreat for a while, even though they could easily take the Asgardians at this point. (I mean, sure, Malekith’s been hurt. He needs to rest up on the ship for a bit, but there’s no reason Super Powered Kurse can’t keep stomping around, breaking Asgardian heads, until he kills everyone there and/or finds Jane Foster. It’s kind of dumb.)
On the plus side, this gives our heroes time to throw Frigga and all the other dead red shirts a Viking funeral. And I actually mean that — this is really a rather lovely scene, and I’m glad it was included because, in general, I kind of feel like The Dark World doesn’t give Thor enough time to grieve, particularly for Frigga. I mean, there are some moments, and yeah, he’s a warrior, and we don’t want to weigh down our fun action film with a ton of despondency; I get it, but . . . I don’t know. When Loki (supposedly) dies in the film later on, Thor seems a lot more bent out of shape about it. You know, the brother who tried to kill him, repeatedly, and also conquer the world Thor had vowed to protect. Whereas when his mother — who had never done any of those things — died, yeah, Thor was sad, but was he as heartbroken? Didn’t seem like it.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Thor realizes the Dark Elves really just want to get their hands on Jane, so he wants to take her away from Asgard to protect his people. Unfortunately, Odin — who famously sacrificed his own eye for wisdom — apparently took his stupid pills that morning and has decided that the best plan is to do absolutely nothing but wait for the Dark Elves to come back, and then the Asgardians will beat them this time, by George!
So Thor teams up with Loki and escapes Asgard with Jane. (Thor’s friends help him escape, but thankfully they aren’t all executed at once for treason or anything like that.) Thor, Loki, and Jane all go to Svartalfheim, the titular Dark World, and Malekith extracts the Aether out of Jane.
Thor tries to destroy it — because the Aether is supposedly more vulnerable in its liquid form, although I fail to see what evidence he has for such a supposition — and naturally does not succeed. Malekith basically ingests it and takes off to destroy the universe.
Meanwhile, Loki successfully manages to kill Kurse but supposedly dies in Thor’s arms. The scene between the two of them is nice and, I’ll admit, for a whole half-second, I was like, Loki, NOOOOOOOOOOO! And then my brain quickly came to its senses, and I was like, Oh, you’re just faking. Never mind then. Carry on.
Thor and Jane appeared to be abandoned on Svartalfheim — oh noes! — but thankfully they take shelter in the one cave on the entire planet that is full of shoes and has good cell phone reception because it is, of course, the portal to Earth. Between this and Star Trek, I’m beginning to fear a new emerging trope, and if I find even one more example of it, I’ll be forced create a tag called The Only Little Cave in the World.
So, Thor and Jane team up with Darcy, Darcy’s intern Ian, and Erik. The thing with Erik: he’s been chilling in a mental hospital with Stan Lee for half the movie after having a nervous breakdown and running around Stonehenge buck ass nude. After Darcy and Ian bust him out, Erik steps outside into crazy Convergence Earth and is like, “Well, at least the world’s more insane than I am,” and chucks his giant bag of prescription medicine in the garbage.
1. People. You don’t just chuck your giant bag of prescription medicine into the garbage. You return them to the pharmacy like a responsible person, flush them down the toilet like a slightly less responsible person, or sell them on the street like a morally irresponsible but financially savvy person. Honestly, Erik.
2. After throwing away his prescription medication, Erik seems to be basically fine. Like, he’s still odd and working in his underwear and whatnot, but he’s certainly not running-around-Stonehenge crazy anymore. Which kind of bothers me narratively — like, why even bother writing a character’s breakdown if you’re just going to solve it with the snap of your fingers — and kind of bothers me morally — cause maybe tossing our anti-psychotics away and suddenly becoming a-okay isn’t the message we want to send?
3. If this is what Erik’s breakdown looks like, I desperately need to see Hawkeye lose his shit, like, right now. Seriously. Please tell me he’s running around the Lincoln Monument with no clothes on. PLEASE. Just a DVD extra, I beg of you.
Okay, so the team comes up with some super physics plan to stop Malekith from destroying the entire universe during the Convergence. Lots of fighting and antics ensue, but I refuse to recap them scene by scene, partially because I’m tired and partially because I don’t remember them that well. Suffice it to say, the good guys win, the bad guys lose, and Ian and Darcy totally make out.
At the end of the movie, Thor goes back to Asgard and tells Odin that he can’t be king because his place is on Earth with Jane. Odin doesn’t exactly give him his blessing, but yeah, he totally gives him his blessing. But also not really because it’s actually Loki on the throne, pretending to be his father. Where is Odin really? No one knows. I should probably care more than I do, but since I’m still a little disgusted with Odin’s seriously flawed battle strategies, I can’t bring myself to get all worked up about it.
And . . . that’s about it. Well, that’s where the credits start, anyway. In the post-credits, we get a little snippet with Benecio del Toro playing someone called the Collector, who I know nothing about. (But I guess it’s a teaser for Guardians of the Galaxy? Yeah, I know shit about them too, just that I’m sure I’ll see the movie when it comes out, if for no other reason than the film has a fantastic cast.) And then in the post-post credits sequence, Thor comes back to Earth and reunites with Jane, and there is some kissing.
But who cares about kissing? Loki is king of Asgard! ALL HAIL LOKI!
Thor: “She wouldn’t want us to fight.”
Loki: “Well, she wouldn’t actually be shocked.”
Loki: “If it were easy, everyone would do it.”
Thor: “Are you mad?”
Sif: “I had things under control.”
Thor: “Is that why everything’s on fire?”
Frigga: “Please don’t make this worse.”
Loki: “Define worse.”
Loki: “You lied to me. I’m impressed.”
Loki: “Oh dear. Is she dead?”
Loki: “I thought you said you knew how to fly this thing.”
Thor: “I said how hard can it be.”
Selvig: “Your brother isn’t coming, is he?”
Thor: “Loki is dead.”
Selvig: “Thank God! . . . I’m sorry for your loss.”
Loki: “I think you missed a column.”
Thor: “Shut up!”
Enjoyable and funny, but nothing that made my little fangirl heart go squee. (Except the Captain America cameo. Cause yes. Just yes.)
Anti-psychotics, ha! Who needs those?