Marvel is certainly the golden child of Hollywood these days, rolling out annual blockbusters, tying together a massive universe, and, well, doing whatever the hell it wants. As most of you may already know, Iron Man 3 is sitting very much at the bottom of the barrel for me in 2013, and its release, as well as the premiere of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, has me incredibly frustrated with Marvel. I am fully convinced that the superhero mega-house has no more concerns about quality as much as an almost paranoid belief that if they don’t get something out every few months, we’ll forget about them and not shell out the billions of dollars the world seems to throw at the studio. With such great power, there comes plenty of responsibility (yeah, I went there) and unfortunately Marvel’s latest outing, Thor: The Dark World, fails to maintain said responsibility. Here are five reasons why the film is another misstep for Marvel and how the public’s blind devotion to the studio will only lead us even more astray.
As much as we’re led to believe that Marvel has “big plans” for its entire universe, the story of Thor: The Dark World has me believing that it’s all simply made up as they go. Sure, it’s clear they want to move from point A to point B and lead one film into another, but my biggest complaint is about what happens between these points. With Thor, there are several instances where it’s obvious the writers wrote themselves into a corner and the only way to get out is to come up with a ridiculous idea to move things along… quickly (in hopes of having us forget?). For instance, a random abandoned cave Thor and Jane stumble upon after a battle with the dark elves just happens to be the gateway they’ve been looking for to get back to earth. How do we know this? Jane’s cell phone rings. The one she kept on her person after changing into Asgardian attire and after facing death on countless occasions. She either has the most powerful cellphone in the entire universe or the writers simply had no idea how to get the two of them back to earth. Which one sounds more likely?
Thor is stuffed with coincidences like the one above (unpunished treason, missing characters, contradicting deaths) and is a real testament to the audience’s patience and intelligence. Hell, it’s almost insulting that we’re supposed to believe half of the situations our ‘heroes’ find themselves in. The last time I checked, Thor was a superhero, not the luckiest man alive. Not to mention, if Jane wasn’t such a pathetic character, the entirety of Thor would not even happen. It’s just a big coincidence that she’s the one person to stumble across the bad thing the bad guy wants.
Inconsistent… Well, Everything
Comedy. Drama. Tragedy. Action. Sure, Thor: The Dark World has it all, but there is no order to how it’s delivered to us. We jump around the genre scale as though we’re spinning a wheel on a game show, and you’re left a bit more bewildered than you are entertained. In this crazy constant transitioning, a lot of emotion is never given any time to grow. It’s hard to relate to particular characters or sympathize with any of them as we’re left with no moments to do so. The film features a rather prominent death but is dismissed almost immediately for a terrible joke (the comedic relief?) and a stupid plot point just so we can keep things moving.
Marvel, we love your characters from the comics. Give us time to appreciate them on screen.
Of all of Marvel’s heroes, Thor stands out as the one that is not only the most different from the rest, but also the one with the most potential to be incredible. With a huge mythology surrounding the character, there are so many stories to pull from and places to go. Hell, the dude has nine realms he can traverse through and fight all sorts of baddies, creatures, and monsters. Yet, for some reason Marvel feels they have to always bring it back to earth, as though we’re supposed to relate to him more when he’s on our own planet. So, not only do we get taken away from the beautiful Asgard and its very interesting inhabitants, but we have to suffer through Thor’s inability to adapt to a “strange world” and his relationship with Jane, which is perhaps one of the most underdeveloped romances of the 21st century. Not to mention, Chris Hemsworth and Natalie Portman share absolutely no chemistry.
So where was I going with this thought? Well, the wasted potential is in the fact that the film feels the need to focus on shit we don’t care about, while completely not developing the aspects we would care more about. For instance, Marvel decided to cast Christopher Eccleston (Doctor Who) as Malekith, a potentially great character who is squandered with virtually no back story and ruined by way too much makeup and a terrible altering of Eccleston’s voice. If you’re going to cast someone as great as Eccleston, you need to let him be Eccleston. Don’t make the guy completely unrecognizable and call him a villain. In fact, Malekith may be the great baddie in Thor: The Dark World, but the idea that Loki is still the ultimate villain never fades away. Which leads me to…
A Reminder of Marvel’s Lack of Quality Villains
I have always stated that a great superhero film is only as good as its villain. You can have the coolest, strongest, most intelligent hero, but if his nemesis is a pile of garbage, chances are the film won’t be anything special. It just so happens that Marvel completely disagrees with me on this point, as nearly every single one of their films is all about the hero with very little development on the side of the villains. It just so happened that one of these undeveloped characters (Loki) “stuck” and garnered enough popularity that Marvel decided to make him the fearsome foe in The Avengers and have him return yet again for Thor: The Dark World. Now I’m not taking anything away from Tom Hiddleston, because he’s absolutely superb in the role, but Marvel seems to think he’s all they need on the side of the villains. With Eccleston as Malekith, Marvel had a terrific chance to create a solid, lasting villain, but chose instead to turn the focus of the film towards Loki’s return and the dynamic he shares with his brother, Thor. Instead of using the talent they paid for, Marvel decided to instead let another villain fall to the wayside as the machine chugs along without a care in the world. If each film moving forward continues to have an “episodic” villain, Marvel’s in trouble.
How much do you even remember about the other Marvel villains?
An Almost Complete Disregard for Strong Supporting Characters
Just like with the wasted paycheck on Eccleston and previous actors in the bad guy roles, Marvel seems happy signing on every worthy talent just to secure contracts more than anything else. One of my favorite dynamics in the Thor stories and comics is that of The Warriors Three- Hogun (Tadanobu Asano), Fandral (Zachary Levi), and Volstagg (Ray Stevenson). The three are Thor’s closest allies and friends and go on many adventures with him, facing all sorts of danger and death. Yet, in Thor: The Dark World, The Warriors Three get very little screen time (I even forgot Hogun was in the film), and their existence is solely for the purpose of helping move the story along. Even when we get to see them fight, we’re only shown moments of them in battle and the post-war rituals they usually share with Thor are also pushed to the side and completely forgotten.
To make matters worse, Sif (Jamie Alexander), a great female warrior and part-time love interest of Thor, is again almost entirely ignored. The film hints at a love triangle between her, Jane, and Thor, but is dismissed quicker than it’s brought up. This bit is the most frustrating because of how perfect Alexander is in the role and how great of a character Sif has the potential to be. With how little screen time she’s getting and the complete misdirection of her character, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Alexander ditched Marvel for Warner Brothers and took the Wonder Woman role she was rumored to be surrounding. If there’s one good thing to come out of her performance in Thor: The Dark World, it’s that she would be entirely too convincing as Princess Diana (I can’t see anyone else in the role, actually).
Not to mention Idris Elba and Rene Russo, who are each given a moment to be badass, but it’s as if we’re only supposed to be reminded of their existences.
Simply put, Thor: The Dark World is not a good movie. It does feature some great action sequences but they never last long enough and they’re cut apart by terrible dialogue and poorly timed jokes. Hemsworth and Hiddleston do admirable jobs returning in their roles as Thor and Loki, with Hiddelston again stealing the show, but the story surrounding the brothers is severely lacking in anything new or even intelligent. It’s another outing for Marvel that sees the studio continually sticking with what they think works, while never really pushing the boundaries, even when the entire world has given them enough room to do whatever the hell they want. Instead, Marvel settles with mediocrity and delivers another dud, after this year’s Iron Man 3, and has one
fan moviegoer very worried about what’s on the horizon.