Part 8 of A List to Marvel At
For all the heavy operatic bombast, the best moments of Thor: The Dark World are the small nuances of character and scenario. Thor getting on to London subways, the little conversations between characters like Darcy and Thor, Thor’s nonchalantness after taking down a giant rock monster (“Anyone else?”) and the fact that the second half is essentially a buddy road trip movie between brother’s who essentially hate each other. The best scene of the movie might just be the wake that the Asgardian’s hold for fallen royalty. Between the sombre tone, the choreography and the grand light bearing cinematography, you get That is exactly how I would imagine this society sending off a royal figure.
Unfortunately, for the most part, the movie is not really concerned with these moments. The movie has a lot of plot, and it thought the best solution for that would be to go straight through that plot like a bullet. This might be a symptom of this movie’s troubled production (would not be the first for Marvel). This was originally meant to be directed by Patty Jenkins, but for reasons I don’t think have been fully explored quit or was fired, leaving the project for Game of Thrones Alan Taylor director to complete. With the appreciated focus on fantastic settings and action sequences, this is certainly a smart choice (though I do miss the brightness of Kenneth Branagh’s setting). When Jane says something to the effect of a device completely changing the laws of physics, it’s essentially a wink to say that the action is about to get wacky. And thankfully it fulfils that promise, nabbing from video games like Portal in the best possible way.
But in getting to that point the movie spits through a lot of its building blocks. Without comic knowledge I wouldn’t really know what the aether was, and hints of B-plots (like a love triangle between Sif, Thor and Jane) are left on the cutting room floor. Within two minutes the movie goes from Thor and Jane having seen each other for the first time in two years to them both being in Asgard trying to get a alien power source out of her body. There’s a bit missing in between those two pieces where the two just sit and around and talk. The Dark World is missing those parts of movies that we think are superfluous, but in reality add to mood, pacing and character.
And the story’s weird pacing becomes more of an issue when the new characters are so ill-defined or wasted. There are small things, like the fact that Selvig turns from a minor comic character in Thor and a tragic figure in The Avengers to an over the top, naked clown here. Stellan Skarsgård’s performance almost makes it work, but then you remember that they only get rid of him in the first half of the plot so he can turn up for convenience sake in the second half. Also *SPOILER* whilst the second half after the death of Thor’s mother shows the correct level of grim pathos for a movie called The Dark World, the first half forgets to make us care.
Then there is the movie’s most notable problem, one it keeps repeating but is exacerbated most here, is the movie’s villain. Why spend so much time with a prologue on the Dark Elves if you are going to waste Christopher Eccleston and make Malekith so unmemorable a villain? In fact, Malekith is such a generic villain, with lack of clear motivation and no characterising beyond “bad”, that that he has ironically become “memorable” again as the default example of Marvel’s Villain problem (on television guys like Kingpin and Kilgrave have solved this problem). Thankfully the movie’s second villain, Loki, again elevates some of the material by Tom Hiddleston’s charm and the charm between his and Chris Hemsworth alone. In fact, a movie that is just those two and their relationship would have probably been among the highest of Marvel’s properties. As it stands, it’s a highlight amidst an otherwise mediocre film.
Thor: The Dark World might not be the worst Marvel film, but it is certainly the most forgettable. At the time it seemed to demonstrate that the second film in a Marvel solo series would always be the worst. Thankfully, the next Marvel film would shatter that conception…
One Shot Corner
Item 47 – The first One Shot which feels like they are actually playing around in the sandbox of this world they created. It’s directed by one of the MCU’s executive producers Louis D’Esposito, who hadn’t picked up a camera as second unit since 2002, so there’s not a huge visual flourish here. But it’s a nice set up of scenario with a comic payoff. I’m not surprised that Lizzy Caplan has not returned to this world what with being busy doing great things, but she is definitely the highlight.
Agent Carter – For reasons involving time and nothing to with interest, I have yet to watch the Agent Carter show this pretty much serves as the pilot for. But I can see why people wanted more. Haley Atwell is fantastic in this, and in a short amount of time gets lots built towards her character. D’Esposito directed this one too, but it looks so much better, with the shadows and score very evocative of noir. Oh, and Dominic Cooper’s breezy cameo is entertaining. I’ll be getting round to the show very soon.
All Hail The King – Probably my favourite of all the One Shots, just for Ben Kingsley as Trevor Slattery being so damn fun. Even amidst all the jokes they still add a bit of character in there, such as him looking at a picture of himself as a boy, but from the character’s popularity in prison to the seventies cop show parody (“Was that a monkey drinking vodka?”) to the Sam Rockwell cameo, it all seems the creative team were having a lot of fun milking the premise for all its worth. Yes, it primarily serves as retconning the exist of the actual Mandarin, but it didn’t do that at the expense of the character.