Once again, we find ourselves at the “worst” film in the MCU. Much like Iron Man 2, this is the second film of what will later become a trilogy and much like The Incredible Hulk it has a very modest score on IMDB (6.9 to be precise). However some might say that unlike these films, Thor: The Dark World is kind of important to the mainline story of the MCU. Iron Man 2 focuses more on Tony Stark as a character and The Incredible Hulk is a film that some fans just flat out ignore. Not this film though. It’s the first time that we are introduced to an Infinity Stone that isn’t the Tesseract and it marks the second time that Loki has died as well as giving further backstory to the relationship between Asgard and the rest of the nine realms. It also holds Loki accountable for his previous actions but we’ll get to that.
Thor: The Dark World picks up shortly after Avengers Assemble, with Loki in Asgardian prison and Thor poised to be crowned king. However, after an attack by an ancient race called Dark Elves nearly brings them to their knees, Thor embarks on a mission with Loki to bring a ceasefire which reunites them with Jane Foster, Darcy Lewis and Erik Selvig. Our McGuffin for these proceedings, and the weapon that leader of the Dark Elves- Malekieth is after, is The Aether. Capable of plunging all 9 realms into eternal darkness, The Aether is the second of our 6 Infinity Stones. This is a term that we’re familiar with now but this is the first time we are hearing it in the MCU as well as the first time we get an explanation for what they are. Whilst the Tesseract has been present for many of the previous instalments in this franchise, this is the first time that we learn what it truly is and just how much power any of the 6 stones hold. Why exactly The Aether choses to kidnap Jane Foster and use her body as a vessel, I can’t tell. It would seem that contrived plot elements are present even in the world’s largest film franchise. (Watch them explain it away in Thor 4 as fate or something.)
Whilst this carries the plot forward, the true core of the story is the relationship between Thor and Loki. It’s clear that despite Loki’s drastic flaws, Thor still loves his brother even if he can’t trust him. Actors Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston (Thor and Loki respectively) bounce off each other with such ease that you never doubt the relationship of their characters. Both Thor and Loki are at their most emotionally distraught here having lost their mother, their father becoming ill, facing the potential destruction of their home and facing a possible exile upon their return. Absolutely everything is at stake here and this is only amplified for Thor once Loki dies (again). I seem to recall his eventual survival being a point of contention for some fans at the time and I’m fully aware that his death count has become a running gag at this point but there is a saying for times like this. Unless you see a character die, don’t be sure it happened. It’s why the series 4 finale of Sherlock was so upsetting to me and it’s why, when Loki meets his demise at the hands of Thanos, I would be inclined to believe it. Once again Thor is fighting for the people he cares about but now he is also fighting to honour those he has lost.
While we’re talking about people that Thor has lost, I want to talk about his mother Friga. This is a woman who refuses to give up on her adopted son – the murderer – and is willing to die for her other son’s girlfriend who she had only just met. Her character is one of the kindest and most humble in the entire MCU and her death is given all the respect it deserves. The way that all the sound mutes, allowing Thor’s screams of anguish to pierce through is one of the MCU’s most heartbreaking moments. It is followed by her funeral which is beautifully shot and stunningly scored. There’s no dialogue. just the looks of paint that you would expect during a time like this. I know that many consider Thor: The Dark World to be one of the worst films in the MCU but these 10 minutes are definitely some of the best that the franchise has to offer.
This brings us to what many consider to be the film’s weakest aspect-Malakieth. I really want to like him as a villain and to find him threatening but he feels like such a standard villain. Christopher Ecclestone is clearly giving his all in the role and I know how talented he is as a performer but there’s just so little for him to work with here. It often feels like the film’s real threat is The Aether and as villains go Malakieth pales in comparison to others that Thor has fought. The Sentinal from Thor was several stories tall, The Chitauri from Avengers Assemble had an army of thousands and even at the start of Thor: The Dark World we see him take down a stone giant with ease. Malekieth meanwhile is at his most powerful after he has been consumed by The Aether which results in a tornado. We later learn that this particular Infinity Stone can alter reality so this makes Malakieth seem even weaker in retrospect. It’s a fun final battle and makes great use of the portals between realms but Malakieth is set up as a much larger threat than he ends up being. For those of you keeping score by the way, this is the 4th time that the villain of the piece has died, which means there’s also sadly no way to expand the character.
The other issue that I’ve seen some people raise is that Darcy Lewis is annoying and, whilst this criticism is entirely subjective, I’m going to disagree. I personally find her to be absolutely delightful and the kind of person that I could become friends with but she also provides moments of levity in an otherwise dark story. To me, there seems to be a noticeable divide between those who like her and those who don’t. It seems to come down to age, gender and how much we are willing to just enjoy things. This general divide is present throughout the fanbase but it seems to be more prevalent when it comes to discussing the “lesser” films in the MCU. It’s something that I really feel should be discussed, although I won’t go in depth with it here. I feel like it is still worth bringing up as just a caveat in moments like this, even if only to possibly start the larger discussion.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it a thousand times: every film is worth something. For Thor: The Dark World it’s the characters and the way that they interact as well as the sheer amount of lore it adds to the MCU. It’s where we first meet The Collector before he plays a slightly larger role in Guardians of the Galaxy and it gives us The Aether as well as the concept of Infinity Stones. If my theories are correct, it will also provide someimportant backstory for Jane Foster in Thor 4. I still don’t believe Thor: The Dark World is bad because even a “bad” MCU film is mediocre at worst. After this, there is one more of these “bad” instalments to get through and, I won’t lie, I’ll be glad to get it over with. I pour as much of myself and my love for cinema into these reviews as I can but when I have to write about a “bad” film like Iron Man 2 or Thor: The Dark World, I find it just a little more emotionally draining than usual. I just find negativity so exhausting, but these reviews are worth the effort. I could be the only person defending a film and I’d be ok with that.