The word "Dark" is in the title. It has to be more than PG-13? No...it's not. It's just another PG-13 Marvel movie. After seeing Infinity War, that one has to be the most questioningly more than PG-13. But Thor: The Dark World is mostly fine, except for the color palate. I mean, it looks pretty bleak. The bad guy scares Henry still, so that's on brand. Since it is Phase 2, someone loses a hand in this one. Phase 2 is also the beginning of mild language and implied nudity. Boy, there's a lot of blurred out news footage nudity in this one.
DIRECTOR: Alan Taylor
Guys, we just had another baby. I missed my Friday writing because I had a paper and I planned to make it up on Saturday. Then Lauren went into labor, which is great. But then I missed a day. I kind of feel like I should write two, but I'm barely conscious. Like, I'm real sleepy, guys. The hospital just sucks my soul out so hard that it's a miracle that these are actually words. If this one is impossible to read, I humbly apologize. I'm just trying my best given the circumstances.
This is the one that most people hate. Even when I left the theater, I acknowledged that it is far from being the best in the franchise. There's a bunch of stuff that I'm going to pick on and that's okay, I suppose. I can't beam over every Marvel movie or else this just becomes another MCU tumblr and I'm not itching for that reputation. Not again. (Oh no...I used a Spider-Man: Homecoming reference to explain how I'm not a Marvel fanboy.) But I do want to mention that I actually had a lot of fun with this movie. This is one that I was hoping to binge in private, but it is also one of the few entries in the franchise that had a large price hike between the "just Blu-Ray" edition and the Blu-Ray 3D / Blu-Ray / DVD / Digital Copy version. I love the Digital Copy versions, especially considering that I was trying to binge the entire MCU before Avengers: Infinity War came out. But I had the Blu-Ray and that meant that I couldn't watch it during my lunch hour. I had to watch it at home, but I thought it was too scary to watch in front of my kids. So I watched it late at night, but also knew that I had to go to bed at a reasonable hour. The final result? I ended up watching the last quarter of the film with my in-laws. Everyone kept griping about how they hated this movie while I was watching it. But do you know what happened? Everyone shut up after a minute or two and sat down and watched it. They were riveted. They gasped. They laughed. They had a good time. Then the movie ended and they all griped about it again because it is so much worse than Ragnarok. You know what? Very few movies are Ragnarok. I know, like, one movie. (There's a joke that I'm trying to cook, but I'm too sleepy to make it land.) The movie is actually pretty fun. The reason I dig this movie, despite all of the hatred, is that it fully embraces a completely different style than the first movie. Yeah, I'll fully admit that it feels closer to the first movie than it does the third movie, but it also completely loves that it is a science fiction film with mythological roots. That's a really cool aesthetic. There's this sequence in the middle of the movie where space ships are full on shooting at each other, but they looks like Norse barges. C'mon! How fun is that! That's a good deal of fun. Also, The Dark World does something extremely precious for the MCU: It makes Loki a redeemable character.
Think of how the MCU would be if Loki was just a two-time villain. Like, he's a great villain, but he becomes full-on lovable. He is this cool balance of someone whom you love in trouble, but still a character that you want hanging out with Thor. Thor: The Dark World does the heavy lifting on the character study of Loki. In Thor, it is all about the betrayal. He is the villain in the full Phase One sense of the word. But Avengers brings him back. It makes him almost irredeemable. Also, Thor and Loki don't really get the scene that they need in that one. They are given a fight sequence, which is fine and important, but The Dark World acts as the very needed post-game. It's so weird that Joss Whedon didn't handle the Loki post-game. (Maybe he did. He was still entrenched in the MCU at the time. Also, he went to the Infinity War premiere. How weird is that?) But there needed to be a reckoning about Loki's actions in The Avengers. While I love Loki in that movie, Loki is completely a puppet for Thanos. He is in full-world-conquering mode and that's fun to watch, but doesn't make him very sympathetic. There's something that elicits pity out of Loki in The Dark World. Something that Feige and company kind of get is that Loki will always suck. He will always be in the wrong, but there's something like taking care of a broken bird. Only in this case, the broken bird will stab you. The conversations between Loki and Thor and Loki and his mother, though, bring out the pathetic nature of Loki. He doesn't belong anywhere. He's constantly overshadowed. Again, he sucks. But he at least has a journey and a character arc. It's really because of The Dark World. By the time that he gets to Ragnarok, we are used to the new dynamic that is established because of this film. Loki wants to be the hero, but he's going to do that by doing awful things along the way.
But the movie also kind of sucks. I can't ever argue when people kind of crap on this movie. I think everyone understands that it is the worst of an amazing franchise, which still makes it a pretty darn good film. The Dark World almost epitomizes Marvel's early problem with bad guys. The first movie used Loki, which is the counterpoint and archvillain for Thor. Great. Another great villain in the Thor comics is Malakith. But Malakith is not easily defined. He's very arch and very evil, but not so well known that you can just cast a Heath Ledger and call it a day. Christopher Eccleston, despite the fact that he regrets every acting choice he's ever made, is a very talented actor. But there's nothing to work with here shy of making a Malakith movie guest starring Thor and Loki. Malakith has nothing to do. He's destroying the Nine Realms because he can. Everyone can kind of agree that he's evil. I think even Malakith probably thinks that he's in the wrong on this one. This kind of bleeds (between worlds) into another problem that this movie has: worrying about setting up future entries in the MCU. This is the movie that first mentions the Infinity Stones. (I think Infinity War fans need to give this one a firm apology because it brought on that masterpiece.) But that's why we have this kind of wishy washy Aether (I don't know the spelling and I'm too baby brained to look it up right now). The entire plot is around destroying this Infinity Stone without much of a reason. The only reason it is important is because Malakith wants it as a weapon. I'm now realizing that this also plays out again in Guardians of the Galaxy.
Then there's the Jane Foster problem. Jane Foster and Thor should work. There was a fun chemistry in the first movie and there was this big cliffhanger to their relationship. But if Thor: The Dark World wanted to work out, they needed to resolve the heart of the matter quickly. And quickly it did resolve. That's a real Catch-22. The heart of the first movie revolved around asking the question of "How will Thor find a way back to Jane?" But then he also had to be in The Avengers, putting his emotional thread on hold. Everyone saw this as a big weak spot in the franchise and they had to address it. So the problem was kind of quickly addressed and then quickly ignored. The movies made the mistake of making it work for them far too well. Iron Man got that Tony and Pepper needed to earn their relationship. Jane is just too ga-ga over Thor to actually have any kind of connection between them. Their relationship quickly got boring and Jane had nothing to do but survive her Aether disease. I actually like Natalie Portman as an actress a lot. But she keeps getting these roles where she is forced to react rather than to drive the plot. She's not nearly as wooden here, but by throwing her into Asgard --the next logical step in the franchise --she is automatically swept aside to the role of observer. She is not in command of the situation, so she has to kind of just react to the Marvels (pun intended) around her. Then there is Darcy. I love Darcy. Darcy is such a fun character, but Darcy is asked to carry far too much of the comic relief on her shoulders. I mean, Chris O'Dowd is a little funny, but he's barely in the movie. The entire human story really just doesn't need to be here, but it kind of did. This is a sci-fi fantasy opera and the one element that really didn't need to be in the movie is the stuff that was grounded. It is weird because the movie is about uniting the nine realms. The Nine Realms are so interesting and fantastic that whenever it went to Midgard, I just couldn't care. But the merging of the Nine Realms actually made the end of the movie super fun. That last fight sequence is actually the only real memorable thing in the movie shy of the SPOILER Captain America cameo. The last fight sequence, in retrospect, actually reminds me of the stuff that made Doctor Strange a fun movie.
I still like this movie, despite its flaws. It might have been harder to watch in the day because Marvel was starting to get a streak of great films in a row. Seeing one fall on its face a little bit might have broken a little bit of trust, but it is a far better movie than people give it credit for. Even as the weakest entry in the franchise, it still out performs any of the DCEU movies. Ooooh, shots fired!
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.