This one’s really difficult. As a movie, it’s sort of meh, but Loki is AMAZING and makes the whole movie better as a result. So, we’ll see where it ends up on the list!
Thor: The Dark World (2013)
Overview: When Jane Foster accidentally becomes infected by a mysterious ancient power called the Aether, it’s up to Thor to find a solution before Malekith, a Dark Elf from the dawn of time, gets to her first and uses the Aether to destroy the Nine Realms.
So, overall, the story is a bit trope-y. Now, I realize that superhero films sort of live on tropes as a part of a balanced breakfast, but so much of it is just sort of underwhelming. The villain (whom we’ll talk about later) is sort of flat, the hero (also, coming up) is lacking in a lot of conflict (save for his AMAZING scenes with Loki), the side characters try to be fun and quirky and end up making the audience wish we were watching an unrelated comedy featuring these few characters.
I love how this one deepens Jane Porter’s character and gives her a lot more strength and agency. She still becomes a bit of a damsel, but when you’re the only human on Asgard which is being attacked by Dark Elves from the dawn of time, anyone would be an idiot to be all, “Oh I can take care of myself here, no big deal!”
Now, the 6 out of 10 is due pretty much exclusively to Loki who is completely amazing in this one. He’s no longer the blustery bad guy who wants power. He’s literally just an agent of chaos who has some fun moments, some really sweet moments, and some intensely emotional moments. The script REALLY understands Loki well and now that he’s not a supervillain anymore, he really gets to break free of all tropes and become the beautiful unpredictable character he is in the comics (and in Norse mythology). It’s sad that the script has to keep Loki from us for so long, but once we get to really get inside his head, the character really shines.
I hope Thor: Ragnarok keeps THIS Loki around and gives him way more screen time.
This is one thing the Thor franchise has always excelled at. This movie looks GORGEOUS. I love the Sci-Fi Lord of the Rings feel of the battles between the Asgard and the Dark Elves. The technology design is really unique and it’s nice to see the gleaming Asgard tech faced off against the sharp deadly Elf tech. The weapon design is really creative (I especially like the singularity grenades that create mini black holes) and the fight scenes feel organic and believable. There are no unwieldy weapons that look great but don’t feel practical. You get a sense that the aesthetic of these two races is something that evolved independently.
Also, it’s great to see Asgard at more of a street-level view. The budget is obviously bigger and so we get to really explore Asgard through Jane’s eyes once she gets to visit. The sumptuous attention to detail really pays off and I just wish I could wander around those colorful flower-covered streets for hours.
Honorable mention goes to that fantastic clockwork book that Odin shows Jane with all its little moving illustrations. I want one. It’s on my Christmas list. Or my birthday list, actually! That’s coming up.
The Villain: 4/10
Alright, so Loki isn’t really the villain, so I can’t talk about him here, which is sad.
Malekith is a great villain in the comics because he has a cruel personality, making him more of a less playful Loki. He’s vain and deadly and a genuinely interesting villain.
Here, he’s…just kind of there. And that’s sad because he’s played by Christopher Eccleston, the Doctor himself! I’ve always said, Ten in my favorite Doctor only because Nine only got one season and we didn’t get to get to know him very well.
But anyways, Malekith is a dour humorless villain who looks great and feels genuinely dangerous in several scenes, but we never once get inside his head and so he feels like he’s just acting evil because the script says so.
Which is boring??
it’s OK to have evil characters who like being evil (*hugs Maleficent*), but Maleficent also has a cruel sense of humor and a fiery temper. It’s that cold vs hot dynamic that makes her interesting.
You notice I’m not actually talking about Malekith much? It’s because he’s just plain boring.
I wish we’d gotten SOME kind of personality. He’s given the gravitas of a Shakespeare villain but none of that awesome depth that makes them so compelling. It really feels like a missed opportunity.
There are many explosions and they are very cool and not at all gratuitous. I didn’t actually count them because there’s literally so many in the background in several battle scenes that I was frantically making tick marks in my notebook and not watching the movie.
But they add to the films fantastic visual oomph, so I’m a fan. Nothing really leaps out and attacks me in terms of mind-blowing awesomeness, but they do a god job and don’t feel extraneous or gratuitous.
The Hero’s Journey: 8/10
Again, I can’t talk about Loki! because he’s not the hero either! Gah! I’m wishing I had a Characters section, just so I could gush for eight paragraphs about how amazing Loki is in this.
Thor is cool. He’s much more level-headed (like we saw him in The Avengers) and capable here. He’s suitably heroic and his necessary (for plot reasons, of course) shirtless scene is pretty spectacular.
His initial conflict where he’s pining for Jane is somewhat interesting and gives him some good dialogue moments, especially with Heimdall, but his real good stuff comes from when he teams up with Loki. Thor is the ultimate straight man in this duo and Loki REVELS in this. Whereas, before, Thor was the adorable confused meatloaf trapped on Earth, now he’s Hero Thor. He’s found himself fully and there’s not much more soul searching to be done. So, pairing him up with Loki who is both unlikely ally and annoying little brother is WOOOONDERFUL. They work together really well.
Now, Thor himself doesn’t get a lot of development because that’s not what the script is about, but I wish we’d gotten a BIT more inside his head. I also wish they’d been able to more fully define his and Jane’s relationship. As it stands, I’m not sure if we’ll see Jane in any future MCU films, and I wish we’d gotten more closure with them. In the after-credits scene, we see them kissing, so they’re obviously like together together, but if she doesn’t come back, that’s a bit too unresolved for me.
Hopefully I’m crazy and we will get to see her again.
Score and Rank
1. The Avengers (45/50)
2. Iron Man (43/50)
3. Iron Man 3 (42/50)
4. Captain America: The First Avenger (40/50)
5. Thor (39/50)
6. Thor: The Dark World (36/50) (To be honest, I was thinking it would rank lower, but it seems the amazing visuals saved it to fight another day!)
7. The Incredible Hulk (34/50)
8. Iron Man 2 (33/50)