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'Thor: The Dark World': Where It Saved The Day & Where It Left Us Wanting More

by The Playlist Staff
November 11, 2013 2:22 PM
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Thor: The Dark World

The Villain

It’s never great to get sloppy seconds on a villain, so there’s something a bit tiresome about having Christopher Eccleston as the Dark Elf Malekith after having threatened the heroes of “28 Days Later” and “G.I. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra.” But the design and makeup on this baddie ensures that the “Dr. Who” actor didn’t have to worry about not casting an imposing shadow (or, for that matter, being recognizable). No, it’s the writing that turns Malekith into less a character and more of a blunt object, an obstacle for Thor to punch in between trading wits with Loki and kisses with Jane. The Dark Elves are said to seek vengeance after having ruled during a dark period, and with light they find themselves as outsiders, borderline minorities. But it’s an abstract concept to hang on such an openly dopey movie that owes more to “Yor: Hunter From The Future” than it does any nihilist’s handbook. Worse yet, we’re not sure how many “Thor” movies the public is going to want to see, but he’s certainly got a deeper bench than one that sends Malekith up right after Loki. Why not the Enchantress, the Executioner, the Absorbing Man, The Wrecking Crew or even Fin Fang Foom? Why not a baddie that actually makes Thor break a sweat? Better yet, hey Marvel: you could try deviating from the comics and actually inventing a character for the screen. Believe it or not, there’s an entire history of movies made that aren’t based on a comic book.

Thor: The Dark World

The Asgardians

Speaking of a deep bench, the first movie did a lot of world-building in introducing the Asgardian characters—Odin, Frigga, Helmdall, Sif, the Warriors Three, etc.—given that so much of the film was set on Earth. Here, we get more Asgard action, and yet it feels like most of the characters have less to do. The film seems to acknowledge it has too many moving parts in its early moments, when Hogun (Tadanobu Asano) is, essentially, told to stay home and sit this one out because there's no room for him. Rene Russo at least has something to do beyond standing around in the background, but is despatched early on to give some box-ticking personal stakes to the action. But the potential of Sif's love triangle remains unrealized, and while Fandral, Volstagg and Helmdall each get a single moment in the sun, it feels like box-ticking—we let Idris Elba take out a spaceship, so now we can ignore him again. None feel particularly important to the story, and none really justify their inclusion (it's not like, had the film done without the Asgardian characters, we would have gone "you know what that movie needed? More of Ray Stevenson in a fat suit"). If you're going to use them, really use them: if not, spend more time on the characters that actually matter.

Thor: The Dark World

The Prologue

Someone seems to think that post-"Lord of the Rings," it's requisite for every fantasy movie to open with a backstory-explaining prologue sequence. Given that even when Peter Jackson tried the trick again with "The Hobbit" it wasn't wildly successful, it's not surprising that it's deathly dull when it happens at the start of "Thor: The Dark World." If you have to do some kind of inelegant exposition dump to introduce your villain, at least try and make it look and feel like it's not directly ripping off "Fellowship of the Ring," but the rather drab design work and uninspired battling feel like a pale shadow of its inspiration.

The Generic Story

Stop me if you think you've heard this one before: an old villain re-emerges, intent on destroying the world. After he kills someone close to him, our hero(es) must stop a magical MacGuffin from falling into the wrong hands, and close a portal in the sky. Yes, "Thor: The Dark World" has exactly the same plot that you've seen in a dozen other films of this type. There's been some talk of the Marvel movies switching up genre, with this being more of a hard fantasy film than a superhero picture, but the filmmakers have confused setting with genre: this is the same old plot served up in slightly different clothes. In our interview with him, Kevin Feige said "People would say, 'How much longer is this comic book fad going to last?' And my answer always was as long as they're different, as long as we keep surprising people, as long as they don't become redundant, it could last for a long time.," and he has a point. And while we hope that "Captain America: The Winter Soldier," "Guardians Of The Galaxy" and "Ant Man" will provide more variety, there'll need to mix it up a lot more than they do here if audiences aren't going to start to get tired of this stuff. For all the 'you must save the world' going on here, the stakes feel alarmingly low, and that's ultimately not very engaging.

Thor: The Dark World, Loki

Loki Isn't Necessary

Everybody loves Loki. Well, at least a substantial fanbase does: Tom Hiddleston's become a fan favorite after his villainous turns in both "Thor" and "The Avengers," and given that the latter was the third-biggest movie of all time, it makes sense that Marvel would bring him back here. But while the texture Loki adds is welcome, he's really not integrated into the plot very well. He sits out most of the first half in a prison cell, and Thor needing him to escape Asgard simply feels contrived. Soon after that, he's 'killed off,' only to return in a not-very-surprising twist ending. It would take one rewrite in a screenwriter's lunch hour to remove the character from the film entirely (e.g. "Helmdall, you're the gatekeeper, you must know another way out of this place"), which would at least free up the real estate to develop a proper villain. It seems like Loki's presence here is simple fan service, and of course, to set up a third movie with that final scene, and that's simply not a good enough reason for us.

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  • Chloe | June 12, 2014 2:29 AMReply

    The elves were way to much like aliens. With their weird space ships and what not. I think that part kind of ruined it for me. If that's how it was in the comics, great, but I can't say Tolkien would be to pleased. It was disappointing and a tad bit lame, but hey, I still love my Avengers.

  • Allan | February 28, 2014 11:31 PMReply

    This movie missed a great opportunity. Loki, being the mental case that he is suppose to be. would never abandon the fight to avenge his mother. He even said "You can trust my rage!" to Thor.
    But then he just left the fight. I kept hoping to see him appear in the final fight to help avenge his mother, but he was completely left out.
    This was completely out of character for Loki. I mean really, his plans would have come to nothing if the whole universe was pushed back into darkness.

  • AJG | December 4, 2013 11:32 AMReply

    While I may agree with most of your analysis, I have to STRONGLY disagree with your insinuation that Marvel is doing a disservice to viewers by not creating their own characters. It's a comic book movie. The whole reason the fan base watches these movies is to see their favorite characters be brought to life on screen... including their favorite villains. Don't encourage them to create new characters, they have PLENTY to work from. If the newest Batman trilogy taught us anything it's that you can take these beloved (well loved to hate) characters and give them new life for a fan base that may never have thought of these characters in that way. Still loved by the true comic book lovers. Still interesting for a new generation. Still original. That's Marvel's problem: not that they need to create new characters but that they need to develop their villains further.

  • raf jordan | November 15, 2013 7:17 PMReply

    this article is nuts lol. THOR: TDW was the best marvel film to date, and may well be the best sci-fi film in years. it's fantastic and virtually every single level.

  • JT | November 15, 2013 4:22 AMReply

    you left out the subsection for story continuity... like how loki would have known what thor said to odin at the end of Thor's first movie about being a wiser king when apparently he fell off the realm. I mean little mistakes like that are glaringly stupid and there were several along the way in Thor a Dark World. But I must say the infinity gems would be a nice set up for Avengers 2 idiots in lots of space battles that they somehow keep winning

  • Michelle | November 14, 2013 9:51 AMReply

    A decent review of the movie, with some good points. That being said, you might want to refrain from implying that your readers are blockheaded idiots (I'm referring to the "if you really thought Loki had cut Thor's arm off, congratulations on seeing your first ever movie" line).

  • James | November 13, 2013 11:20 AMReply

    The only thing I'll say is that in the first Thor film, Loki snuck a bunch of villains into Asgard using a path that even Heimdall didn't know about. That was why they brought Loki along this time, so they could escape without anyone knowing how to follow them. They followed a plot point established back in 2011.

    Otherwise, great review!

  • Maha | November 17, 2013 2:19 PM

    Exactly. They've followed a point made in the first movie- one point for continuity, Marvel!

  • Freddie | November 13, 2013 12:49 AMReply

    Ya'll are just duped by this Hollywood claptrap. Really a blonde norwegian looking cat with a damn mini-hammer. Ya'll actually went 2 movies of that shit?

  • Bforreal | November 21, 2013 11:21 PM

    Lol. You guys have the best two comments of the night. Bravo! And, oh, I definitely saw both and liked them for what they were - silly, entertaining, simple.

  • Joe Realism | November 13, 2013 8:49 PM

    Dude, I totally believe you're black.

  • THOR: THE DARK WORLD Full Movie Online Free | November 12, 2013 11:40 PMReply

    THOR: THE DARK WORLD Full Movie Online Free






  • ugh | November 12, 2013 3:55 PMReply

    So are we to assume Anthony Hopkin's Odin was killed by Loki? Or are they gonna take the safe route & Odin was put in "The Forever Sleeping Chamber" or whatever other inane third tier comic book artifact that was put in the books decades ago?

  • Maha | November 17, 2013 2:25 PM

    I think Odin slipped into his (convenient) Odin-sleep again.
    There's a scene in the movie where Odin is arguing with Thor and stumbles, for no reason.
    It's not a mistake, that stumble. It's quite ambiguous, and never explained- he doesn't explain it himself, and never says anything regarding his health. I'm sure with Thor giving him troubles and his queen being murdered, Odin is not in the best of health.
    I have 2 possibilities regarding Odin:
    A) Loki has imprisoned a weak and ill Odin (not at his full power) somewhere.
    B) Loki is hiding a sleeping Odin somewhere.

  • ck | November 12, 2013 1:16 PMReply

    What really pissed me off was the totally unnecessary 'woman in a refrigerator' trope applied to Frigga, who gets a small badass fight scene to compensate for the fact that she is transparently killed off to fuel Thor's heroic battle against the Big Bad... and I just don't buy the Thor/Jane romance, which was lacking in chemistry from the first movie, and has less dimension than Megara and Hercules as far as mortal-woman-and-heroic-god romances go.

  • Alan B | November 12, 2013 4:09 AMReply

    I love how the ONLY entertaining part of the film - the late second act with Loki (i.e. the ONLY interesting character in the film) - is the one you have a problem with. Jesus, yeah Loki selling FUNNY gags (i.e. not Kat Dennings running into a restaurant and riffing) and Loki and Thor having believable and entertaining conflict ... yeah, that's the part of the film that should have been excised. The first act and the start of the second is clumsy and unfocused, filled with completely boring, nothing characters and dumb motivations, yet the Loki sequences should have been deleted? Wow.

  • elenat | November 12, 2013 4:06 AMReply

    Loki isn't necessary)))) May I ask you, who needs all those movies, if not a fandom?)))

  • Said in Los Angeles | November 11, 2013 11:00 PMReply

    Though I felt the main villain was lame, the thing that irked me above all else was Odin being cheated out of getting revenge for the murder of his wife. He gets made enough at Thor’s arrogance to banish him to Earth in the first movie, and cast him as unworthy to hold the hammer. Yet in this movie, Odin's wife is murdered and he doesn't get the urge to do some revenge/avenge killing? Would have been great to see Odin/Thor fight back to back to back against Dark Elf/The Horned Bad Guy.

    Also, Thor’s mother is murdered and his brother killed and the only thing he can think about is getting back to Jane ‘Dark Phoenix’ Foster? A wasted opportunity.

  • Mugroar | November 11, 2013 3:33 PMReply

    Totally agree with this article. I saw the film on Thursday night, and as excited as I was for it, I can't say I was terribly into it as I was watching it.
    -The lazy opening voiceover providing 100% exposition in regards to what the film's story is going to be about made me roll my eyes.
    -Loki was indeed completely wasted until 60% through the movie. Even pacing-wise, I didn't feel in the first half of the movie that it was building up to the point that he was going to become a major player in the story. Obviously it was going to happen (this isn't the first movie I've ever seen), but in the realm of the MOVIE, I didn't feel that urgency or the nagging feeling that Loki might have to be the key to defeating Malekith.
    -The villain was horribly bland and so were his intentions.
    -Killing off Frigga was so out of nowhere and I didn't feel any emotional impact. Her death was literally a mechanic to push forward the plot/reveal more of Loki's character, yes, but it wasn't done so very gracefully.
    -Once Loki joined up with Thor, the movie did get quite noticeably more enjoyable. From there it was fun, humorous, and Loki's antics always had me grinning.
    -At first, the heavy amount of humor seemed completely imbalanced. Subtle little things are well and fine, but then you throw in a news broadcast showing a naked Erik running around like a madman at Stonehenge. Not subtle in the least. By the time the final climactic battle came around, the humor was in full force, and it practically turned into a fantasy comedy! So many little things happened in the final battle that were hilarious, and all of it combined in a short amount of time - well, I'm not sure if it was all supposed to overshadow the heroics of saving the world, but it sure did.

    All of this said, I will definitely see it a second time in a few weeks, and knowing what I know now, I'm sure I'll enjoy it more. However, I will always have this handful of complaints, but no movie is ever 100% perfect.

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