Heath Ledger's Joker was the genre defining villain that comic book fans were waiting for, a psychotic Christ like figure that has inspired worship, praise, and unfortunately emulation. On the Marvel side of the fence, the villain's have been one dimensional, The Iron Monger-- blah. Red Skull-- Yawn. That tornado Hulk was fighting while having dreams of his childhood-- exactly. It should be easy being bad, but apparently the house of ideas couldn't get that to translate to the big screen until... Loki.
I had my reservations about the first Thor film, like everyone I wondered if such a one-note character could carry his own pic, when a much more complex character like the The Hulk failed twice. Marvel wisely realized that a Thor movie didn’t really have to be about Thor (or Donald Blake thank god… pun intended) the flawed hero the same way Iron Man was about Tony Stark the reluctant avenger. Instead Marvel Studios chose to surround the stoic god with the personality of a wet newspaper with a rag tag bunch of wacky scientist, and surprisingly, Thor as their straight man worked in that first installment. The result, Thor is now a household name and arguably the 4th most popular Marvel character period behind Iron Man, Spidey, and Wolvie.
Thor comics have always sold fairly well, the mythology and struggle for Asgard is ripe with intrigue and betrayal, yet he’s never been a kid friendly hero. As a 7 year old I struggled with the strange manner of speaking in those books, and his cool factor never reached epic heights because like the 21st century Wolverine, rarely did Thor actually use Mjolnir to bludgeon his foes to death. In the Avengers title’s he was always relegated to the big gun that comes to save the day at the last minute. Much like Superman, Marvel has always had to find ways to create a threat for someone who is all but invincible. Unlike 80% of the Superman movies, Marvel has found a way to make Thor matter in the real world. They cast a solid actor in Chris Hemsworth that could play such a dry character straight and earnestly. While the women get moist over the abs and golden locks, it’s the puppy dog way Hemsworth plays Thor, as if he’s wondering around the playground just trying to find some friends, that takes the role from being a dumb brute, to a sympathetic orphan of a hero. Even more so than Chris Evan’s Captain America, Thor’s cinematic incarnation has proven to be the most pure and selfless example of a true Marvel Superhero.
Which brings me back to the reason the first Thor movie succeeded, they stacked the deck with character actors who Thor could play off. Hopkin’s grizzled Odin, trying to make his son into a King. Skarsgard’s uber erratic Eric Selvig, Kat Dennings’ (minimal cleavage for the 2 Broke Girl Star wtf!?!) snarky Darcy, and even an under written Natalie Portman all worked to make Thor an extremely fun ride, even though after it ended you had no idea what the hell the plot was about. In the sequel, the Scooby gang is back, and it isn’t long until you’re laughing at the awkward thunder god. What makes the sequel twice as good as the first is that we actually have a real threat, that takes the most important thing away from The God of Thunder. While Thor wants justice, the real star of the movie appears wanting vengeance—Loki! Tom Hiddleston’s Loki has blossomed from an average villian in The Avengers, to a truly fleshed out anti-hero in The Dark World. Fans love Loki, despite that he 9-11’d NYC in The Avengers movie, but this time we have good reason to root for him. Like Walter White from Breaking Bad, we get a chance to understand the anger, the desperation, and the ambition of the trickster who would be king.
The Dark World doesn’t break down into a buddy cop movie the same way Iron Man 3 does, but the two characters of Loki and Thor really do feed off each other, in a way that makes you feel that the scenes with them are far too short. The actual villain of the film, the Dark Elf Malekith is the token generic super villain who simply wants to turn out the lights—literally. Again, what could have been a boring plot, is kept intriguing by the “will Loki F%ck Thor over” plotline that’s much more engaging than weird looking Elves trying to mouth rape Natalie Portman for 90 minutes. The film is by no means perfect. The Directing is choppy at parts, franticly cutting from scene to scene becomes jarring at time, and while I’m sure the powers that be were afraid of a long running time like The Avengers, smoother transitions would have been a good addition. The love triangle between Sif, Thor, and Jane Foster, is underdeveloped and left what I think were money scenes on the table.
In the end, The Dark World serves up the most comic book esq ending ever filmed, with a clear cliff hanger that had the audience gasping like, “oh hell naw!” and sets up a Thor 3 down the line. The thing I liked about the first two… um Marvel Phase 2 movies is that they are seemingly unattached to the Marvel Universe they set up in The Avengers. Marvel doesn’t need to parade Iron Man out to sell tickets at this point, or drop Nick Fury cameos, these movies stand on their own and I appreciate that. At the same time, there are Easter eggs to be seen in this movie that will reverberate come The Infinity Gauntlet saga, which I assume will take place after Age of Ultron.
SPOILER…. (Highlight to see text)
The bonus scene shows The Collector (Benicio Del Toro is going to kill in this role) being given an infinity stone and gives a tie into The Guardians of The Galaxy without being overt. While it gets me excited, the reaction to this strange scene (felt very Star Trek Original Series) was rather muted, as people didn’t know what the hell was going on. The second bonus scene shows Thor returning to his beloved, and I see why it was cut, it’s kind of unnecessary. But oh well.
Is Thor 2 worth seeing? Yes! For fans of Marvel Studio Films, this may not deliver the action buffet of The Avengers or the hilarity of Iron Man 3, because at it’s heart it’s a simple story about two brothers learning to forgive each other, but in the end aren't comic books are about that kind of character interaction? Super hero, super villain, or sidekick, it doesn’t matter the label; these are realistic characters who are dealing with interpersonal problems amidst a fantastic backdrop, and that’s why comics have stood the test of time. Thor The Dark World may not be the action spectacle that defines modern day Superhero films, but it may be the best pure character study of a so called villain to date.