MarvelBlog Retro Review: Thor: The Dark World
I’ve always felt that Marvel itself displayed the most stinging critique of Thor: The Dark World.
In Avengers: Endgame, superheroes returned to several memorable moments from the MCU.
The film’s directors deemed only one of those stories as requiring context. You can guess which one.
Here’s a retro review of Thor: The Dark World, the film most critics agree is the worst title in the MCU.
Seriously, Thor 2 claims the lowest Rotten Tomatoes score of them all.
All Doctor Who fans have a favorite Doctor, the one who stands out from all the rest.
Mine is Christopher Eccleston, the 28 Days Later villain who modernized Doctor Who and thereby saved the franchise.
As such, I should love The Dark World for casting Eccleston as the villainous Malekith, the malevolent ruler of the Dark Elves.
Unfortunately, the story here represents the worst misstep in the history of the MCU. The introduction of the Dark Elves of – I kid you not – Svartalfheim fails on all levels.
The start of the film relies far too much on narration, a mistake that Thor: Ragnarok deftly avoids because it learns from Dark World’s transgression.
With the Thor sequel, Kevin Feige and his team relied too much on their love of comics and failed to recognize a dull character arc.
The TL: DR of The Dark World is that Malekith hates Odin and, thereby, Thor. The two fight. Thor wins. The end.
Yes, we could break down any number of outstanding films with the same description, as the sins of the father pass down to the son.
Unfortunately, Thor 2 starts like a DC film and never improves. It tries to be too dark and winds up too stupid for the MCU.
For his part, Eccleston’s voice commands respect, but even a talent like him cannot overcome a script like this.
Again with the Infinity Stones
Malekith covets the Aether, which proves to be the red Infinity Stone, Reality.
When he unlocks its potential, Asgardians stop him and steal the stone.
The Warriors Three, Heimdall, and Lady Sif battle on behalf of Asgard while Jane Foster, Eric Selvig, and (not yet doctor) Darcy Lewis aid on the Earth side.
Apparently, everyone across the Nine Realms hates Dark Elves. Poor Drizzt Do’Urden.
In hindsight, what jumps out about the Thor sequel is the cast. I mean, Zach Levi gets like 14th billing, and he’s CHUCK!
Unfortunately, the sequel desperately tries to recreate the tone and vibe of the thoroughly entertaining first movie.
So, we see shenanigans like nekkid Stellan Skarsgard at Stonehenge and Darcy’s intern losing the car keys in an admittedly funny way.
Alas, the vital components of Thor were the God of Thunder’s interactions with Loki and Jane. Unfortunately, those just don’t work here.
Portman notoriously felt so underutilized on this project that she cut all ties to the MCU for six years.
She does get a hot slap fight session in the rain with her ex, who then takes her to Ragnarok to meet the parents.
Yup, the ideas here are so thin that Marvel starts ripping off Ben Stiller comedies. Odin gets cast in the Robert DeNiro role, which sounds about right, actually.
I’d say that I feel bad for Anthony Hopkins here, but 1) he sank even lower in Transformers: The First Knight and 2) he later stole an Academy Award from the late Chadwick Boseman.
Comic Book Fights and CGI
My friends joke that I’m the harshest critic of DC films on the planet, which isn’t far from the truth. I hate almost all of them because they’re objectively bad.
Recent Superman films, including the ones with Batman and the Justice League, have all fallen into the same trap.
They hide behind mindless action sequences in place of storytelling. Marvel does the opposite as a rule…but not here.
At various points in the film, Thor crushes a large-scale version of his buddy, Korg. It’s actually better in hindsight than it was at the time since I like to think of them as related.
What I can only describe as a Predator breaks out of prison and then survives exploding in a way that should have disintegrated it.
Perhaps the only good idea in the movie involves Jane, I dunno, merging (?) with the Aether.
I genuinely wish that someone else had told the same story a few years later and with more care. It’s just a special effect here.
Well, that’s not entirely true. It also gives the film a chance to fridge Thor’s mom to make the villain seem more despicable. It’s lazy bordering on offensive.
That may be the Rene Russo superfan part of me coming out, but I’d still recommend that you watch The Thomas Crown Affair remake instead of this.
I say this because the film’s third act uncomfortably reminds me of the terrible Justice League movie with its ugly, grim color scheme.
Thor and Loki invade the Dark Elf realm for…reasons. Then, Malekith gains the Aether for…reasons. Next, everybody fights.
Good God, is the whole thing ever stupid!
Behind the Scenes
The inside baseball part of this story is that Disney had only purchased Marvel two years before the greenlight of Thor: The Dark World.
Feige undoubtedly had a plan to build to an even more ambitious conclusion than Marvel’s The Avengers, the Infinity War arc.
Unfortunately, Disney needed to pump out films to make money, with this film falling victim to their greed.
The Aether represents the only significant part of the whole story, a point brought home by Rene Russo’s return in Avengers: Endgame.
That scene is sweet and touching and occurs during the events of The Dark World, which Marvel knew nobody would remember.
Amusingly, Marvel’s okay with that because, even though the film is currently ranked Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes (!), it’s best forgotten since it’s such a black eye.
In rewatching, I tried so hard to give it a chance but YIKES! I fully understand why Natalie Portman got so pissed that she refused to do more Marvel movies for a while.
In fact, the only positive takeaway I have from the entire movie involves Portman.
If she could make up with Disney after the previous animosity and become Lady Thor, maybe Scarlett Johansson will do the same one day.
Overall, Thor: The Dark World is an objectively mediocre movie and unworthy of a place in the MCU, a franchise where quality matters.
I’d give it a C today, and that might be an act of kindness since I love the cast so much. I love these people and these characters, but the film fails to inspire.
Even the mid-credits scene doesn’t live up to MCU standards! I mean, they go out of their way to say that it’s “unwise to keep two Infinity Stones so close together.”
Remember that we just saw in Loki that Jason Mendoza’s buddy, Pillboi, keeps like 15 of them in his desk at the TVA.
Even Marvel forgets story elements of Thor: The Dark World.
Next week, we put all this unpleasantness behind us as we finally get to THE best MCU movie to date.