The Scoop: 2013 PG-13, directed by Alan Taylor and starring Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Christopher Eccleston, and Natalie Portman
Summary Capsule: Thor continues to grow into his role as hero, Loki continues to be an awesome character, and Marvel continues to win my heart. Oh and there’s something about evil alien elves in there too.
Eunice’s Rating: “Then God shouldn’t have made them both so beautiful!”
– Me being weird.
Eunice’s Review: I saw the first Thor in theaters back in 2011, and while it was entertaining, compared to Captain America, which came out the same year, it wasn’t quite as good. Something was just a little lacking. It was strange, I mean the cast is pretty well perfect, I love super heroes, and in setting up the combined Marvel universe for The Avengers it’s probably the most important of these individual hero movies.
It wasn’t until I saw the deleted scenes on the blu-ray release that I knew what was missing.
Before we get into that though let’s brush up on our movie Thor lore, because the Dark World assumes that you’ve been following the story and if you haven’t seen the previous movies you’ll be a little lost. Spoilers ahead-o!:
In Thor we are introduced to the world of Asgard, an alien planet with a Norse-esque warrior culture ruled by Odin (Anthony Hopkins). After some bad stuff goes down with a war involving another alien planet Thor gets exiled to Midgard (Earth) where he meets scientists Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård), and their totally adorable intern Darcy (Kat Dennings). There’s some avoiding S.H.I.E.L.D. antics and culture clashing involved with that half of the movie. The other half takes place back on Asgard where it turns out Thor’s brother Loki set him, Thor, up. Only in doing so Loki accidentally found out he is an adopted son, bringing up all kinds of issues for him to deal with and he ends up becoming the bad guy. Thor has to sacrifice his ability to come back to Earth and therefore his budding romance with Jane, and Loki drops into a black hole.
In The Avengers Loki came back as a big bad, having been sucked into some kind of wormhole and being spit out twisted and more than a little ker-razy, with an army and an evil glowy staff. He kills a bunch of people and kind of possesses Dr. Erik and destroys New York. Thor finds a loop hole to come back to Earth and stop his brother (along with the other guys in the band). He doesn’t see Jane because S.H.I.E.L.D. has put her somewhere safe, but we’re told her research pretty much focuses on her trying to find him. At the end Thor is preparing to take Loki back to Asgard to stand in judgement for his crimes.
Get it? Got it? Good.
Dark World opens with an Asgard history lesson (verrry reminiscent of Fellowship of the Ring) about how Thor’s grandfather took down some evil dark space elves, led by Malekith (Christopher Eccleston), by pretty much killing them all and taking their evil Darkness McGuffin and burying it. Not like that could come back to start trouble in a couple thousand years, because all the dark elves are dead right?
Switching to now times, Loki is standing before Odin, who has decided imprisonment over execution for the sake of Frigga (Rene Russo), Odin’s wife and Thor and Loki’s mother (well Loki’s adoptive mother). Thor meanwhile, aided by the Warriors Three and Sif, is cleaning up the problems that are happening in the Nine Realms as a ripple effect of Loki’s actions. However after the events of the last two movies, battle isn’t as satisfying as it used to be. After finding a new appreciation for lives outside of Asgard and getting a taste of love, he spends his days worrying about the collateral damage of war and his nights hanging out with Heimdall making sure Jane’s still okay. Until one night Jane disappears to a place even Heimdall cannot see.
Back on Earth Jane and Darcy have ended up in London following Erik, who after being possessed has gone loopy but is still as genius as ever. After two years Jane has started to give up on Thor keeping his promise to come back for her, the fact that he never contacted her once during The Events In New York was kind of the proverbial straw. She’s stopped looking at her instruments to find the anomalies that might be connected to Thor and is trying to go on her first (incredibly awkward) date since he left when we see her again. Thankfully intern Darcy is still on the job along with her intern Intern (“My name’s Ian.”), and takes Jane to a location in an old warehouse (verrry reminiscent of the ‘Beyond’ short in The Animatrix) where things are floating in midair and disappearing and reappearing in random loops. When Jane goes off by herself to investigate some readings she gets pulled into another dimension and possessed with the evil Darkness McGuffin. When Thor shows up on Earth to see what’s happened to Jane he ends up taking her back to Asgard because if the Darkness McGuffin (real name the Aether) isn’t removed the strain of containing that much energy will eventually kill her.
During the first war, Malekith and a few of his men retreated and have been hiding waiting for the Nine Realms to align so the can use the Aether to turn the whole universe into darkness, killing everyone, especially the people of Asgard. Well the Realms are close to aligning and that sends a signal to Malekith to come out of hibernation and start making trouble.
Will Thor save Jane? In doing so will he free the Aether to destroy the Nine Realms? Can he trust Loki to help him?
So here we are in November. This is the fourth superhero movie I’ve seen in theaters this year. I liked The Wolverine. I liked Man of Steel. I really liked Iron Man 3. Even so, I think Thor: The Dark World may be my favorite. I’ll start out by saying it isn’t perfect, but what it does right is oh so right.
The problem I had with Thor, I realized, was that the quieter character building scenes (a good chunk of them on the Asgard side of things) ended up on the cutting room floor. There was a lot of action fluff, but very little meat. It ended up being more of an origin movie about Loki (not that that’s a bad thing. Love ya, Hiddles). The result was a movie with a villain more interesting than its hero and served more to build up the story leading into The Avengers than being about Thor. Speaking of Avengers, in my review I put it like this, “The only one I’d say gets shorted is Thor, he comes in much later in the movie, without a ‘well this is what I’ve been doing since you last saw me in my movie’ like everyone else gets. But he gets quite an entrance.”
I’m having a hard time putting into to words exactly what it is I want to say, but I’m going to try.
At face value the story arc of this movie as a standalone is pretty straightforward: Bad aliens causing problems, they need to be stopped. That is an oversimplification, the plot does show the history and scope of Asgard a little better this time around. Eccleston does a solid job as always. Malekith serves as a way to bring everyone together and move them around and get in some really cool action scenes, but that’s not what the movie is about. In this way I’d say it’s comparable to Iron Man 3, the plot is more about the bad things being used as a catalyst to deal with the fallout of previous films. Instead of PTSD though, Thor grapples with loving someone who probably will only live for another hundred years tops, being the heir apparent to the throne now that Loki is a war criminal, and other things that I won’t spoil that happen over the course of the movie. While the first movie had Thor stopping his Viking demigod frat boy ways, and the next cleaning up after his brother, it isn’t until here we see him really grow up and accept and step into that role of hero and showing him thinking through consequences.
Where the real strength of Dark World lies is in the characters. Every character gets a scene, a moment, a line that really makes them stand out. Not only individually but in their chemistry together. Sif and Thor fighting back to back. Loki and Frigga talking. Darcy and Intern. Thor and Heimdall. They’re quiet or funny or sad or action packed but they all really just work for me. I really liked what Rene Russo got to do with Frigga this go around. Darcy is just as charmingly awesome. Heimdall is cool. Odin is so stubborn. Stellan Skarsgård gets more out of a pantless scene than you would think. Plus we finally get a little more Thor and Jane time.
One of my biggest quibbles with Thor was that the romance subplot never felt earned. They just never clicked. I’m not saying this is completely rectified, Natalie Portman is the weakest link having every scene she’s in stolen by someone else, and Jane could’ve used a little more time interacting with Asgard and its people. But in the scene where Thor is explaining how the alignment works – click! I will also say that I like that Jane’s scientific knowledge actually comes in handy this time around and she’s at least given something to do. Oh and thank you thank you thank you, Movie, for not going any further with the love triangle, it wasn’t necessary.
And then there’s Thor and Loki. Could Hemsworth and Hiddleston have better chemistry? Would it even be possible? Part of what is so hard to explain is the nuances and layers the actors (all of them) are putting behind and underneath each line. I could tell you “this and that happened” but there’s more to it than that. Or sometimes I’d be telling you a spoiler. Like, remember when that photo was released of Loki in prison and everyone was making fun of the extensions (I called it Mullet Gate)? In the context of the movie it isn’t so silly, but I can’t tell you what that context is! So frustrating! But I will say that if you let what it says about the character sink in it’ll give you things to think about *cryptic*. But what I can’t tell you about aside, one of the things Thor has to work out in this movie is his relationship with Loki. In Thor’s mind Loki is still his brother and he still loves him even if he can’t trust him, and that distrust tears him up. Hiddleston gets some excellent moments in the role of Loki, with Loki it’s hard to tell all the time what’s real, what’s not, and what’s a mix of both, and he hides a lot of things by making hilariosly snarky comments. (Actually, Loki is the shiniest bit of the Asgard half, while Darcy takes the title on Earth) Without giving anything away they play off each other and bring all these emotions that are just under the surface. Okay “the entire escape scene” that’s all I’ll say.
The writing is tops. I know all that stuff up there may sound serious, but there is a lot of wittiness, cleverness, and straight up comedy. Dark World will make you laugh. The Shakespearian flavored dialogue used for Asgard is also done with deadly seriousness and flows pleasantly, not surprising when most of the actors doing it are stage trained. There are moments, if you’re the emotional type, that may just make you cry. Actually that mix of comedy and drama matches up nicely to Joss Whedon’s take in Avengers (worth noting he did some of the rewrites). I can’t wait for it to come out to buy to do the Quotes section justice.
It’s also a visually stunning film, there just isn’t a bad shot. Asguard is gorgeous. The Earth parts are gorgeous. The costumes are gorgeous. Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston are gorgeous (ha didn’t think you’d make it out of this review without me mentioning it did you?) The Asgard stuff was immersively detailed, kudos to the special effects and set design teams. Like the dialogue there are visually hilarious moments and pathos. The last fight scenes are just so darned clever I was on the edge of my seat one second, laughing the next, and occasionally whispering “Oh no!” (when it comes to movies I’m a big kid, what can I say?) I especially love the bit with Mjölnir. The music, done by Brian Tyler, is excellent.
I really, really had a good time with Thor: The Dark World. Watching it was like-
Let me explain something be fore I finish that sentence: I love books. A good book is a treasure without price.
-Watching it was like reading a book with really great characters that as soon as you finish it you want to go back and reread your favorite parts. It made me really content and happy sigh, and if I could’ve clutched it to my chest like my favorite books I would’ve.
Now let’s bring on Captain America: The Winter Soldier!
- Is It Worth Staying Through End Credits? Yes. There are two after credits scenes. Even if there weren’t it’s worth sticking around for Claus Studios’ artwork it’s BEE-YUT-TI-FUL
- There’s also a dedication to writer Don Payne who died of cancer before the film’s release
- When Loki imitates Captain America, that’s Tom Hiddleston’s voice. As anyone who saw the Comic Con Avengers panel knows he does a great impersonation of both Chris Evans and Chris Hemsworth (look on Youtube, it’s hilarious)
- I think -having seen it once- I think during the breakfast eating scene, Jane is talking with her spoon in her hand in one shot, then when the shot goes to in front of her her hand is empty and she picks up the spoon to start eating.
- Stan Lee cameos as the guy who owns one of the shoes Erik is using to explain the alignment in the asylum.
- “616 Universe” on the blackboard
- Thor will next appear in The Avengers: Age of Ultron scheduled for May 2015, with Hemsworth contracted for a third Thor film after that.
- While Darcy tries to call S.H.I.E.L.D., she doesn’t get an answer and they don’t show up. However Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode 8 ‘The Well’ will be tied in directly to the aftermath of Dark World.
- I love how people recognizing and reacting to Thor reflects the world evolution in the MCO.
- When the Aether is being transfered, if Eccleston would’ve said “You were fantastic! Absolutely fantastic. And you know what? So was I.” I would’ve died
- Who wouldn’t fake fall into Thor?
Loki: It’s not that I don’t love our little talks, it’s just… I don’t love them.
Darcy Lewis: Look at you. Still all muscly and everything!
Dr. Erik Selvig: There is nothing more reassuring than knowing that the world is crazier than you are.
Thor: You betray me, and I will kill you.
Loki: Hmm. When do we start?
Loki: This is so unlike you, brother. So… clandestine. Are you sure you wouldn’t rather punch your way out?
Thor: If you keep talking, I might.
Jane Foster: *slaps Loki* That was for New York!
Loki: I like her.
Volstagg: If you betray him I-
Loki: You’ll kill me. Apparently there’ll be a line.
Loki: I thought you said you knew how to fly this thing.
Thor: I said “how hard could it be?”
Loki: You lied to me. I’m impressed.
Thor: She wouldn’t want us to fight.
Loki: Well, she wouldn’t exactly be shocked.
Thor: I wish I could trust you.
Loki: Trust my rage.
[Darcy and Ian are kissing]
Jane Foster: Darcy?!
Ian: Dr. Foster?!
[Mjölnir appears out of a temporal rip]
Darcy: Meow Meow?!
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