Title: Thor: The Dark World
Written By: Don (Script) Payne
Publication Info: 2013
Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy
Thor: The Dark World is an intimate, character-based comedy/drama/romance that just happens to be encased in a massive action movie blockbuster. The over-arching plot, which has something to do with aether and a war with dark elves and the end of all light in the universe, is utterly forgettable, but the other 99% of the movie is delightful, and it’s a huge improvement on the first Thor movie.
The ostensible plot of Thor: The Dark World involves evil elves and something about how they use aether to suck the light out of everything. This makes no sense and frankly we do not care, not even a little bit. Just roll with it. We do not even care about Christopher Eccleston, leader of the dark elves, because he is so covered in makeup that he can’t actually move his face. An aside – Anthony Hopkins has a similar problem. Between his eye patch and his facial hair, he only has one eye and a tiny bit of skin to work with, and that one eye looks bored. I picture the rest of the cast (who seem to be having the time of their lives) whooping it up at a disco while Hopkins and Eccleston are holed up in a dingy pub grumbling into their beer.
Anyway, there’s aether, it’s bad, there’s some sort of magic stone involved that we don’t want Eccleston to have – just roll with it. Jane gets infected with the aether and Thor shows up on earth to save her and take her to Asgard. They have to get the aether out of her because her body can’t sustain those levels of energy and plus Eccelston is going to try to come and get the aether. I hear you stirring restlessly, saying “But how? But why? Also, how can Thor fly by holding a hammer? Aren’t they normally heavier than air? And why is Erik Selvig wandering around with no pants?” DAMMIT, I TOLD YOU TO ROLL WITH IT.
Here’s why you should roll with it – this movie is about Thor figuring out his place in the world following the events of Thor and The Avengers, and part of that means Thor has to figure out his relationship with his brother, my boyfriend Loki. And at one point they have to team up, so they can fight space elves with spaceships, swords, and laser guns. WHICH I LOVE. Squeeing aside, this movie got a lot of praise for it’s visual design and the praise is earned – Asgard looks majestic, and wondrous, but also lived in. The combination of magic (or what appears to us as magic) and technology ranging from space age to steampunk is seamless. The climatic fight scene is visually ingenious and fun – while I felt no real sense of danger, I laughed out loud as the battling characters chase each other through various unpredictable portals while Thor’s hammer tries to keep up.
All this visual candy is matched by powerful emotion. I don’t care a whole lot about this aether issue because I don’t believe in it. But I absolutely believe in the relationship between Loki and Thor. The fact that they grew up as brothers, and not only brothers but as close, loving brothers, is vital to this movie. Their estrangement provides all kinds of plot tension and their history gives that plot tension high emotional stakes. Also, hilarity. So much hilarity! I must not spoil it! But so much hilarity!
Now I know you are all saying, “But Carrie, what about the romance?” Well, there’s tons. Of course the torrid yet tender love affair between Loki and myself continues unabated. But beyond that, much of the movie revolves around Thor and Jane, which is somewhat unfortunate because even though I love Thor, and I love Jane, they aren’t a terribly convincing couple. Thor is still as confident in his own skin, as gleeful at the prospect of a good fight, and as wryly funny as he was in the first Thor movie, but he’s also much more serious. He has experienced loss, and one of those losses was Jane, who he left on Earth when he returned to Asgard. When they are reunited, his joy in seeing her is shadowed by the fear of loss. First of all, there’s the imminent threat of losing her to the aether, which is slowly destroying her. But Odin and Loki, who seldom agree on anything, both point out to Thor that even if he saves Jane from the aether, he’s still going to lose her to mortal old age and death in a very short time compared to his own lengthy lifetime.
In addition to the life-span problem, there’s the question of whether Thor will take the throne, and that leads to whether Jane would be a good queen, and Jane isn’t particularly thrilled by her stay in Asgard what with Odin comparing her to a goat and throwing her in prison, Sif shooting venomous looks in her direction, and everyone else trying to kill her even as she is slowly poisoned from within. So this relationship has serious challenges.
Unlike most of the Internet, I actually like Jane Foster. I find her to be adorable and relatable. But I am frustrated by the fact that she never has anything important to do. In this movie, she has a somewhat kick-ass moment where she gets to fight evil with science, but it’s all too brief. If Jane is going to stick around, she needs to have some agency. She doesn’t have to start beating people up – not all strength is physical. But if her noteworthy ability is science, then let her do something truly awesome and proactive with it – something far more flashy and proactive than what she did in Dark World.
I’m not just saying this stuff because, as a feminist, I like to see women with agency. I’m also saying it because Thor and Jane are supposed to be this epic romance, and if she has nothing to do, then she doesn’t seem like a good fit for the dynamic Thor. I am one of the few people on the planet who doesn’t think Thor should end up with Sif. I think Sif is wonderful and if there is ever a Sif movie (I can dream) I’ll be the first in line to see it. But I think Thor and Sif are too similar in personality to be a good romantic couple, whereas Thor and Jane balance each other nicely for the most part (Television Without Pity refers to this couple as “young dorks in love”, awwww). Jane draws out Thor’s smart side – he’s never been dumb, but in the first movie he was more keen on running headlong into the fray than on strategy. Jane keeps him thinking, and encourages him to be compassionate and responsible. And Thor validates Jane, believing in her work, encouraging her, and proving that at least some of her theories are correct just by existing. But that balance is out of whack as long as Jane is given nothing of her own to do.
Ultimately, this is Loki’s movie, just like every movie with Loki in it is Loki’s movie. When Loki isn’t in the movie, we’re all waiting for him to show up, and when he does – delight. He’s funny, he’s unpredictable, and he’s poignant. He’s the perfect foil for the rest of the cast. I’m not just saying this because he is my boyfriend and we have an eternal and wondrous love. This is a very fun movie – not flawless, but incredibly enjoyable, and most of the fun and the pathos comes from Loki, although Chris Hemsworth’s work as the straight man who is armed with his own arsenal of deadpan snark should not be ignored. They are another couple (non-romantic, fan-fic aside) that balances each other, although in their case that balance has been twisted by the lies of Loki’s adoptive parents and by Loki’s brain having become, as they say in Avengers, “a bag full of cats”.
I suspect that upon future viewings, I’ll say this movie deserves a B, but I had so much fun I’m kicking it up to a B+ and there’s one scene which is so delightful that it almost single-handedly pushes the grade to an A. No, I won’t tell you what it is. But those few minutes are well worth the ticket price, believe me.
As the spring and summer season will soon kick into gear, I have a question for the Bitchery – what kinds of moveis are you curious about? Captain America: Winter Soldier? X-Men Days of Future Past? Guardians of the Galaxy? Only Lovers Left Alive (starring Tom Hiddleston as a vampire rockstar in love with Tilda Swinton)? None of these are particularly romance focused (except Only Lovers and for all I know the lovers eat each other – I’ve no idea) but the Geek potential is glorious. I await your input.
You can watch the trailer here: