Friday, February 27, 2015

Countdown to Avengers 2: Thor: The Dark World

We're counting down to Avengers: Age of Ultron with Nerd Lunch and Cavalcade of Awesome! Each month leading up to Ultron's release on May 1, we'll be reviewing a different aspect of Marvel's Phase 2.  


CT from Nerd Lunch and I tackled Iron Man 3 last month, and now it's time for Pax and I to take a look at Thor: The Dark World.

Beware spoilers for Thor: The Dark World and potential spoilers/speculation regarding Age of Ultron.

Thor: The Dark World

Thor: The Dark World picks up after the events of Thor and The Avengers. Our titular hero is establishing order in the Nine Realms now that the Bifrost has been restored. Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), now studying in London with Darcy (Kat Dennings), is done searching for Thor and is trying to get over him. Meanwhile, back in Asgard, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is in prison. We see him interact with a hologram of his mother Frigga (Rene Russo).


So not only has much changed for Thor and his friends and family since the last film, a new villain is on the scene: Malekith, the Dark Elf. Long ago, Malekith tried to obtain the Aether, a powerful relic that can essentially destroy the galaxy and restore darkness to reality. This is bad. What's worse is that Jane of all people manages to stumble upon the Aether and becomes imbued with its powers. Thor reunites with Jane (who's very upset at him for not doing so earlier) and whisks her off to Asgard. Malkeith follows and the rest of the film is Thor battling Malkeith for the Aether.

It might be because I just rewatched this film, but it's the Thor franchise that makes me want to see more Marvel character interaction. I'd love to see Anthony Hopkins' Odin interact with Robert Downey Jr.'s Iron Man or Chris Evans' Steve Rogers, for instance. I think that's a testament to these characters and actors. Some of the relationships in this movie are really quite fantastic. In a nutshell, Marvel's first family is fractured. The relationship between Loki and his mother Frigga is pretty heartbreaking here. She's one of the last connections he has outside of his prison cell, and when she's killed, Loki is devastated. An especially nice touch is when Thor goes to see Loki after her death. The trickster appears calm and collected, but when Thor questions him, Loki drops his holographic facade and reveals that he's disheveled and destroyed his cell in a fit of rage. Another great relationship is that of Thor and his father Odin. The All-Father wants Thor to take the throne and Thor still passes it up. Also interesting is that Odin and Thor have essentially swapped stances on war in this movie. Thor simply craved war in the original film because he was a spoiled brat, however. Here, Odin seeks vengeance for the death of Frigga.

The strongest relationship in the film is that of Thor and Loki, of course. Hiddleston turns in a particularly fine performance. His death (which comes after protecting both Thor and Jane and avenging Frigga) not only validates Hiddleston's role in the movie, it sort of validates Hemsworth as well. The two actors play off each other with ease.

Another great aspect of the film is the visuals. The opening shots of the elf/Asgardian battle on Svartalfheim is pretty fantastic. The visuals and production design sort of reinforce the fact that Thor and his people are more aliens with advanced science than gods. One of my favorite visual effects sequences in the film is the final battle between Thor and Malekith, not just because of their portal jumping, but because Thor's hammer Mjolnir is flying around desperately looking for Thor, almost with a life of its own.

There are plenty of connections to The Avengers for fans to enjoy here. The Bifrost is restored sometime before the start of the film, which we know was still damaged in The Avengers after Thor and Loki's battle in the original Thor. There's a lot of fallout from The Avengers. We see the repercussions of Loki's actions on his entire family. Dr. Selvig (Stellan SkarsgĂ„rd) is now essentially crazy after Loki's brainwashing and the Battle of New York (the good kind of crazy, however - running around in your underwear, that kind of thing). In one of the movie's funnest moments, Loki briefly takes the form of Chris Evans' Captain America.

I'm sure - like me - you're wondering how Thor will fit into Age of Ultron. For one thing, I've heard a rumor that Jane and Thor didn't work out after The Dark World, so we'll have to see how that plays out for the God of Thunder.

I've also heard that Thor winds up in Asgardian hell and I guess Thor: Ragnarok will be him getting out. Maybe he goes to Asgard to get help to fight Ultron and Loki throws him in hell (where he discovers Odin has also been a prisoner?).

One thing I'm hoping for is that we see more of a Thor/Captain America bromance. Stark and Banner already have their "science bros" thing going on, so it only makes sense that Thor and Cap have something similar (muscle bros?). The brief part in the first movie where the two teamed up to fight Chitauri on the streets of New York was fun, and they seem to be friendly at the glimpses we've gotten of the party scene in the Ultron trailers. The fact that Cap almost picks up Mjolnir while a (briefly) worried Thor looks on in the trailer is something else to consider.

Thoughts from Pax at Cavalcade of Awesome...

I saw Thor: The Dark World in the theater just before it left and then I saw it again when it hit Blu-Ray. I actually quite liked it the first time I saw it but the more I moved away from the viewing my stance changed. I didn't remember why I liked it and the only thing I could think of was that Natalie Portman acted as if she didn't really want to be there and that they completely wasted the potential of Christopher Eccleston as Malekith.

So, I was not 100% looking forward to my re-watch for this countdown. But watching the film again, I am completely swept away by the charisma of the movie's cast. Hemsworth is simply a revelation when he's playing Thor. He's amazing. And I don't think I need to harp on how great Hiddleston is as Loki. And having these two team up for a "buddy" movie was a great idea. But it doesn't stop with them; Jaime Alexander, Zachary Levi and Ray Stevenson as Sif and the Warriors are also awesome. I want a Sif and the Warriors Three movie. STAT. Make that happen, Marvel. We even get to see Rene Russo and Idris Elba punch out tiny bits of awesomeness in this movie. It's also nice to see Kat Dennings' intern character come back. I had so much fun watching the movie this time and it's all based on the amazing cast.

Coming back to the bad part? Malekith. Completely wasted. Not too surprising since we keep getting visually amazing but ultimately hollow villain characters with very muddled motivations in almost all of these Marvel movies (I accuse you, Ronan the Accuser). And Natalie Portman is not great in this, but she isn't as bad as I remembered. It helps that she's gorgeous in nearly every scene that she's in.

Overall a very enjoyable movie that for some reason I forgot how fun it was to watch. And the humor was much more prevalent than I remembered as well. Not sure why I lapsed a bit in my Thor worship, but I'll be sure not to let that happen again.


  1. I know the big complaint I've heard was the Malekith was under-utilized. I personally didn't mind that in favor of more Thor and Loki. I guess the problem is that Eccleston probably deserved a better role since he's a great actor. (Side note, Marvel will have another Doctor actor show up as a villain in the upcoming Jessica Jones Netflix show. Can they snag Matt Smith some day, too?)

    I hadn't heard the Thor & Jane split rumor. I sort of hope it doesn't happen since it makes the post-credit scene in Thor 2 a waste. That said, their chemistry wasn't as good in this as it was in the first Thor.

    Worth noting that this Captain America cameo will give Chris Evans a six-year, one-per-year appearance as Cap (Cap 1 in '11, Avengers in '12, Thor 2 in '13, Cap 2 in '14, Avengers 2 in '15, and Cap 3 in '16).

    1. I don't mind Malekith, but it's probably because there's so much more to enjoy. Like you point out, it means more Thor and Loki, which is great.

      I'm wondering if the Thor/Jane split (if it's true) is just to make it so they can get back together in Ragnarok or later. But then again, I think Portman was pretty upset that Patty Jenkins didn't direct the film (which probably explains the lack of chemistry this time around?) so maybe they're trying to get rid of her.

      Pretty cool about Cap. His "cameo" in the movie is one of my favorite parts.