The MCU Ranked: ‘Thor: The Dark World’
Movie: Thor: The Dark World (2013)
Director: Alan Taylor
Heroes: Thor Odinson (Chris Hemsworth)
Villains: Malekith (Christopher Eccleston), Algrim/Kurse (Adewale Akinnouye-Agbaje)
Support Cast: Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Odin (Sir Anthony Hopkins), Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård), Heimdell (Idris Elba), Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings), Volstagg (Ray Stevenson), Fandral (Zachary Levi), Hogan (Tadanobu Asano), Sif (Jaime Alexander), Frigga (Rene Russo), Ian (Jonathan Howard)
Cameos: Stan Lee makes his usual appearance, this time as a patient in a mental health facility getting his shoe nicked by Selvig. Chris Evans makes a brilliant cameo when Loki jokingly takes on the form of Captain America. Elsa Pataky – wife to Chris Hemsworth – stands in for Natalie Portman during her last scene as Portman was unavailable for the reshoot. See also: End Credits.
Plot: Thor and his warriors are travelling through the Nine Realms to quash the chaos brought about by Loki’s actions. Back on Earth Jane Foster continues to search for Thor and passage to his world, leading to her becoming contaminated by the powerful Aether. This awakens Malekith, an ancient Dark Elf, who seeks this power for himself.
Review: Looking back at both Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World there’s a sense that Marvel Studios were scrambling to instigate their next big plan and these films were left treading water as a result. The second solo adventure for Thor was to be directed by Patti Jenkins, who has sense made a splash with Wonder Woman, but she left when the studio couldn’t get on board with her ideas. Given the end result of The Dark World feels so routine it’s possible they were worried about rocking the boat and causing problems down the line.
As stated, Thor: The Dark World feels very much like a generic action/fantasy film with little emotional weight or lasting impact. We get a prologue narrated by Odin explaining who the bad guys are, why they’re scary, what the MacGuffin is going to be, and this is immediately followed by a fill-in scene to show Loki being imprisoned. We then finally get to Thor, knocking around some aliens while Jane is being on Earth. She finds some glowing red stuff and Thor turns up to get her back to Asgard because it’s going to kill her. Malekith turns up, wanting the Aether, and Thor’s mother Frigga is killed in the attack. Thor resorts to freeing Loki to help him chase down Malekith.
So the story is kinda flat. Malekith, despite being played by the excellent and under-used Christopher Eccleston (already having played John Lennon, Jesus and The Doctor), never gets established as a clear threat in spite of the script having him stab his own troops. They keep bringing up Malekith using the Aether to destroy ‘the galaxy’, but we don’t get a look at his power. There’s also a lack of emotional connection to the plot. Jane and Thor are going through the motions. Much of the heroes motivations – including freeing Loki who had just trashed New York and cannot be trusted under any circumstances – hinges on Frigga being killed. This is a character who has almost no lines across the two movies and had little to no impact on the plot or character arcs. Her death is, to audiences, a non-event.
Here’s a crazy idea. Kill Jane instead. She has little impact on the plot after absorbing the Aether and doesn’t return to the franchise after this film (although they may not have known that at the time). It would make more sense for Thor to go full rampage and break Loki out of jail in the event of Jane’s death. We would’ve had some real stakes.
So Jane has little to do and Natalie Portman looks downright bored. Her support crew of Darcey and Erik have so little to do that they introduce a random new character for them to talk to and making Stellan Skarsgård run around without his pants.
Plot and characters are non-starters. The design work and visuals are pretty impressive through, even if the film does look like it’s been dunked in murky pond water. The Dark Elves and their ships look cool, even if Eccleston is clearly having trouble working through the thick mask, and their attack on Asgard is suitably impressive.
Without the character arcs of the first Thor film and the comedy of the third this is little more than a place holder. The actors are doing their best but the material is slim. The only impact this has on MCU is the introduction of an Infinity Stone.
Credits Scene: We’ve got a couple. First, in a James Gunn directed sequence, Volstagg and Sif deliver the Aether to The Collector (Benicio del Toro) and his assistant Carina (Ophelia Lovibond) for safe keeping with the reasoning of keeping it seperate from the Tesseract. This is the first appearance of these characters, and they’ll be explored further in Guardians of the Galaxy. In a later scene Thor returns to Earth to re-unite with Jane and we see a left-over monster stomping around London.
Most Notable Easter Egg: When Selvig is locked up in a mental ward and lining up his theories on a blackboard he has listed ‘Earth-616’ and ‘The Fault’, a couple of terms familiar to Marvel readers that relate to the multi-verse.
Phase 2 Hand Loss: Continuing the running reference to The Empire Strikes Backs sees Thor’s left hand get cut off by Loki and Malekith having his arms teleported away during his final battle.
Coolest Moment: Loki turning into Captain America to talk about patriotism is still hilarious.
THE MCU MASTER LIST
Thor: The Dark World passes as a simple genre action flick, but is below par for Marvel at this point of their run.
Click those numbers if you want to see what we said about the others entries.
1. THE AVENGERS
2. THOR: RAGNAROK
3. IRON MAN
6. IRON MAN 3
7. CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER
8. IRON MAN 2
9. AGENTS OF SHIELD (SEASON 1)
10. THOR: THE DARK WORLD
11. THE INCREDIBLE HULK