**This post contains major spoilers for Thor: The Dark World.**
Thor: The Dark World is the second part of the Thor franchise, the second installment of the Avengers: Phase 2 franchise, and the eighth installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a whole. Needless to say, a lot had to happen in this movie. Not only did we have to pick up where Thor left off, we also had to deal with the consequences of The Avengers and set up a foundation for Guardians of the Galaxy. That’s a lot to deal with, and honestly, this movie probably did its level best to keep all those balls in the air, so to speak.
For being such a big fan of the Marvel movies, I have very limited knowledge of the comics and their canon. This isn’t for lack of trying; I’ve done research, but without actually reading the comics and watching all of the shows, I’ve found that I just can’t retain all of that information. Possibly this discredits my opinion to some of you readers who grew up living and breathing Marvel, and to you I say: That’s fair. I’m not going to insult you by pretending to be a comic geek. But I’m still a fan, I still love the characters and the stories, and I still have my own opinions as a moviegoer. So having said that (and bearing in mind that I might miss some references or Easter eggs thanks to my woeful comic ignorance), let’s talk about my second favorite Avenger!
→ Imagery and cinematography. Director Alan Taylor capitalized on the gorgeous scenery from the first Thor film, and the viewers were treated to detailed shots of Asgard and other realms, which were populated by real characters. The most beautiful scenes were that of Frigga’s funeral, where she was set afloat on a long river before floating out to sea, where she joined the stars. The arched flaming arrows coupled with the floating lanterns were a proper sendoff to a benevolent queen.
→ Heimdall. If anyone deserved an MVP award for this movie, it was Heimdall. Dude took down a spaceship all on his own.
→ Chris Hemsworth. While Thor didn’t come into his own until the second half of the movie, Hemsworth still managed to upend the meathead jock stereotype by softening Thor around the edges. His scenes with his father were poignant as he showed proper restraint and growth since the first Thor film, his scenes with Jane were tender and protective (if a little boring), and his scenes with his comrades were funny and heartwarming. He will get underappreciated in this film, largely because the writing relegated him to a secondary role until too late in the movie, and because he will likely be eclipsed by his brother, Loki. But Hemsworth deserves credit where credit is due: It’s not easy to take a muscly, reticent, too-big-for-this-world character and make him funny, sweet, and accessible.
→ Loki. It was nice to see Loki being punished for his actions in Thor and The Avengers. He sassed everyone for a good hour of the film before finding out about the death of his mother. Despite his tough words and his (literal) illusions of dispassion, Loki felt her death keenly. It’s odd to sit in a movie theater and feel bad for a character who tried to take over our world last summer, but that’s the beauty of Tom Hiddleston. The interactions between Thor and Loki as they escape Asgard with Jane were some of the best scenes of the movie.
→ Darcy. From her first scene to her last, Kat Dennings nailed it. Jane’s scenes always beg for comic relief, and Darcy is the perfect foil for her. In Jane’s absence, Darcy was even more entertaining as she ran around London trying to rescue Erik and stop the world from descending into darkness. She might have gotten too much screentime in the end, but at least she made the most of it. And she got to make out with her hot intern, Ian.
→ Erik Selvig. After being possessed by Loki in The Avengers, Selvig is still struggling to come to terms with what happened to him. He’s found naked and ranting about different realms at Stonehenge before being taken into custody for a psych evaluation; it appears that SHIELD has left him in the wind, but that’s okay, because he eventually realizes that the world is crazier than he is. Stellan Skarsgard spends most of the movie running around without pants on, but it’s a true highlight.
→ The cameo by Chris Evans. I warned you about spoilers!
→ Thor Who? For the first half of the movie, it didn’t feel like Thor’s movie. Where Iron Man 3 was dominated by scenes of Robert Downey Jr interacting with the people around him, this movie forced its main character to take a backseat while Odin, Malekith, and Jane were featured as main players. In fact, Thor didn’t even appear for the first few minutes of the movie.
→ Editing. It was pretty bad in some places. Frigga’s funeral was choppy and disjointed, despite the beautiful imagery. Conversely, the scene where the Dark Elves were invading Asgard should have been broken up by some scenes of Thor fighting in the dungeon, Odin dispatching troops, and other Asgardian soldiers working to protect their realm. The whole sequence would’ve flowed better if they had broken up the constant barrage of space ships and crumbling towers.
→ Jane. They tried with her, they really did, but I think this movie ultimately created more issues with Jane. She’s smart, she’s talented, she’s driven, she… has spent the last two years in a Thor-less depression? I mean, I get it, I’d be sad if that hot dude had spent one night with me, promised to return, and then didn’t call for two years, but I’m not an astrophysicist and I still think I would’ve found ways to move on with my life. Natalie Portman’s been using the press circuit to assert that great female characters don’t necessarily have to be strong, but I find it hard to sympathize with someone who falls apart because her man never called her that time he saved the world from being destroyed.
→ Curiosity killed the cat, and the entire human race, almost. Let’s be completely honest: this movie was entirely Jane Foster’s fault. If she hadn’t been searching for Thor, she wouldn’t have come across the Aether, she wouldn’t have been possessed by it, and the Dark Elves wouldn’t have woken up just in time for the aligning of the Nine Realms. She asked Thor if this was all her fault, and he straight up lied to her. Yes, Jane, this was all your fault. People make mistakes, but let’s be honest here.
→ Aether should kill you. Being possessed by something capable of plunging the entire universe into darkness should make you superhuman. It shouldn’t make you have bouts of power, and it certainly shouldn’t enable you to nearly kill ten cops but leave nary a scratch on Loki when you slap him. Jane should’ve been exhibiting signs of losing control the longer she was possessed by the Aether, sort of like how Pepper Potts was horrified by her Extremis powers in Iron Man 3. Changing her eye color and making her fall unconscious completely undermines the all-consuming power that we see at the beginning and end of the movie. Even outside of that, extracting said power from a mortal body should be more excruciating. Had Jane been a side character, and not a main love interest, I’m convinced that extracting the Aether would’ve killed her. What is it about Jane that made her strong enough to withstand the possession for days, and why wasn’t the movie more explicit about this?
→ Thor/Jane. It’s not working. Thor’s most interesting scenes were all of his scenes that he didn’t have with Jane. There were cute moments, like when she spewed science at her Asgardian nurses and Thor smiled at her, but they weren’t enough to make the audience understand why Thor continually prioritizes Jane above everything else. Loki and Odin separately spend a good portion of the movie emphasizing Jane’s mortality, with Loki even warning Thor that he will never be prepared for Jane’s eventual passing. Still, Thor presses on, even giving up the throne at the end of the movie, so he can return to Earth and be with Jane. (Even my husband, who is a big fan of Natalie Portman, wondered aloud what Thor possibly sees in Jane.)
→ Lack of companions. It was cool to see them fighting in Vanaheim, and it was really awesome to see them banding together to help Thor, Loki, and Jane escape Asgard under treason, but why did Sif, Volstagg, and Fandral not appear for the rest of the film? The Nine Realms were aligned when Thor was fighting Malekith, we saw evidence of humans, beasts, and objects falling through realms, so why couldn’t Thor’s companions come to his aid and help him in London? Why did he have to do it alone?
→ Frigga’s death. Frigga should die so Jane could survive? Is it a fair trade? Sure, it served to get Thor and Loki on the same side again, but was that the only way it could be achieved? Loki has a strong streak of self-preservation, why couldn’t they just play on that?
→ Mjolnir. You must be worthy of the hammer in order to hold it–we even saw the Hulk try and fail to lift it in The Avengers–but somehow Kursed, the right-hand man to Malekith, was able to flick the hammer away? Be consistent in your mythology.
→ Heimdall’s power of perception. It doesn’t make complete sense to me that Heimdell couldn’t see the Dark Elves. It tracks that he was unable to see Jane once she was possessed by the Aether, but what is it about the Dark Elves that made them impossible for Heimdall to see and track? If it was explained in the movie, I missed it.
→ Too many characters. I have nothing against Chris O’Dowd, but I don’t know why we spent so much time on Richard, a character that had nothing to do with the plot. He was funny, and ultimately too good for Jane, so I don’t dislike him, either.
→ The Infinity Stones. In the mid-credits scene, Sif and Volstagg reveal that the Aether is an Infinity Stone… as is the Tesseract of Phase 1. They bring it to The Collector, saying that they can’t keep it on Asgard because they possess the Tesseract, and two Infinity Stones shouldn’t be stored so close together. Why they trust The Collector, I have no idea. As soon as they’re out of earshot, he says “One down, five to go.” I hope they doubled security on the vault holding the Tesseract. (If we never see Benicio del Toro, who plays The Collector, say “Where is the stooone?” as he did in Snatch, I will be one very unhappy fangirl.)
→ Thor lives on Earth. Cameos! Earthly shenanigans! General Thor-ish mayhem! I wish Marvel was in the business of doing digital shorts of the Avengers doing mundane things. How I’d love to see Thor at the laundromat, or in a movie theater, or at the grocery store buying frozen pizza and toilet paper.
→ Loki lives. I’m putting this under “promising” instead of “questionable” because I think it promises to be an entertaining story. He’s disguised as Odin, and he’s taken over the throne of Asgard, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s committed patricide. I’m looking forward to more of Loki’s tricks–oh sorry, illusions. His illusions.
→ Cap’s cameo was definitely the biggest laugh in my theater. Chris Evans nailed that, especially “God bless America!”
→ When Ian the intern throws the keys into the weird other-dimensional portal, nearly everyone in the audience yelled “Not the keys!” It was almost like a scene straight from Friends.
→ Darcy: “So, how is space?” Thor: “Space is good.”
→ When the dungeons are breached, and Thor hears the alarm, he leaps off the balcony and goes completely horizontal before catching Mjolnir and beaming away. It’s a glorious bit of SFX.
→ Loki: “Try pressing the buttons gently.” Thor: *mashing all of the buttons* “I am pressing gently!”
→ The scene where Thor accompanies Jane to her flat in London and he hangs up Mjolnir on her hat rack. It earned a huge laugh in my theater.
My theory is that Marvel decided Thor 2 needed to end in a certain place in order for Phase 2 to flow smoothly. I’m willing to bet that Loki is alive because they recognize they have a cash cow in him. He will continue to play trickster, but Loki will probably not be the main villain in any more films, at least not for this Phase. He might still assist with the villains, like Thanos, but he will not be the main bad guy.
I also think that nuggets of Thor/Sif (and Sif’s mistrust of Jane) were placed in the film to lay a foundation for that relationship. I think Marvel and Thor’s writers recognize that Jane’s not a great endgame, but they couldn’t kill her off in this film because they can’t have Thor on a grief arc in The Avengers: Age of Ultron. Maybe they will kill Jane then, or maybe Thor and Jane will finally spend more than a day together and recognize their differences (and lack of chemistry) and part ways amicably. It will also enable Thor to be on Earth for future Avengers shenanigans without having to come up with vague references to dark matter and portals. Really, if you look at it as a set of points, this movie makes sense if the beginning is Point B and the end is Point C. They needed Thor to be on Earth, relatively happy, and on good terms with his father (seemingly), and they needed Loki to be alive. Everything else that happened in this movie, character-wise, was just filler.
We’ll see if I’m right. Like I said, these are just my theories.
I’ll close with this: I can’t wait for Captain America: The Winter Soldier. I am hoping it’s every bit a political thriller as it appears to be, and I think that will be a fantastic and grounding movie for this huge Marvel franchise. How fitting that it will be released between the two other-worldly fantasy films! April can’t come fast enough.