Saturday, November 09, 2013

"Thor: The Dark World" (2013) -- Initial Thoughts

I have such mixed feelings about this movie.  As a whole, I really liked it.  Better than Thor (2011).  But there is something about it that bothers me a LOT, and so I think in the end, I don't love it.  I do hope to go see it again next weekend with a friend, and I may come to grips with what bothers me and then love it, we shall see.

First off, I must write a small ode to the wonderfulness of Thor.  Gone is the arrogant, war-hungry boy.  Gone is the giddy boy enjoying the admiration of a woman who drools at everything he says.   Gone is the blind trust he continually offered Loki in The Avengers, when he thought he could save his brother.  Thor has grown up at last, making measured decisions, trying to find ways to serve the greatest good, no longer blinded by his love for Loki.  I am so very proud of him.

Second, the plot has more to it than just Loki-is-petulant-and-trying-to-hurt-his-adoptive-family, which is refreshing.

Third, there's a nice lot of Darcy (Kat Dennings), and she's as quirky and delightful as always.

Fourth, I liked the fight scenes a lot better in this than in Thor.  They seemed more realistic, less CGI and over-the-top.  Kind of gritty and crunchful.

However, there are a couple things that annoyed me, and one that has me angry.  I'm annoyed that Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgaard) is turned into a punchline.  One shot of him acting crazy was enough.  Two was too many.  Also, there is this one completely pointless, lingering shot of Thor washing his face while shirtless that has no point whatsoever other than to make girls drool, and I felt pandered to.  I also felt bad for Chris Hemsworth for being momentarily reduced to beefcake.  He's worth more than that, folks.

But here is what makes me angry:  the writers cheated, and it feels like they just did it to please fans.  But the thing they cheated about is VERY SPOILY, so I beg you NOT to read any farther if you have not seen this yet and are intending to go see it.  Seriously, this will totally ruin the emotional impact of part of the movie.  You don't want to read past this until you've seen it.  Stop here.  Come back when you've seen it.  I'll even put a very nice picture of Loki here so you can remember where you stopped reading.

You've been warned.

I feel like they cheated by bringing Loki back at the very end.  His death, saving Thor and Jane, was magnificent.  One of the best deaths I have seen.  I forgave him for all the times he'd hurt Thor, for all the bad and nasty and mean and awful things he'd done.  I really did.  I was at peace with Loki.  I almost liked him.

And then they threw that all away!  Oh, ha ha, Loki was faking!  Psych!  Not dead after all, just broke Thor's heart because he wanted to.  La la la la la.  NO!  You can't do that!  That's worse than "It was all a dream," to be honest.  Because now Thor went through all the anguish of losing his brother for nothing.  And yes, Loki's death brought Thor peace too, and the opportunity to forgive him, and so I appreciate the closure Thor has now.  Except it's all a lie!  GRR!  ARGH!

It just really feels like they wrote this amazing death scene, this great redemption arc for Loki, and then said, "Oh, wait!  Loki has fans!  They will hate us if we kill him!  Let's just bring him back, then."  And I'm sorry folks, but that's not good storytelling.  That's just catering to what they think people want, not what the story needs.  And that angers and disappoints me.


  1. I had really mixed feelings about this film as well. On the one hand it looks great, Darcy's great, it's funny and all of the scenes between Loki and Thor are wonderful. But I had major issues with this movie as well.

    Anthony Hopkins was definitely phoning it in in this one. He was visibly bored and gave a much better performance in the first movie. Malekith was a very weak and generic villain despite Christopher Eccleston's best efforts. I still can't get invested in the Thor-Jane romance. There's a complete London geography fail at one point. Charing Cross to Greenwich in 3 tube stops?! Really?! And finally Loki did not enough screen time! He didn't even really come into the movie until the first hour had passed. That really bothered me, partly because Loki is my favourite character and partly because I felt Tom Hiddleston deserved so much more.

    I still found this film enjoyable but I believe that it would have been a much better film had Kenneth Branagh stayed on to direct. And as for the big issue that you had... well I completely saw it coming. I'm not trying to sound all smug or anything. I just thought "Nah! No way in a million years would they kill the most popular character off in the second film! He's got to be coming back at the end!"

    1. I've realized that what I really wish is that Joss Whedon had written this. He would have killed Loki for real, no backsies (well, not right-away backsies; he HAS written a lot of deaths that later get reversed), and everything would have mattered more and worked better. Sigh. He can't write everything, I know. But since he's supposed to be in creative control of the Marvel Cinematic Universe now, I'm kind of mad at him for allowing this.

      I thought Hopkins was bored in the first one too, to be honest, except for the yelling-at-Thor-and-casting-him-out scene.

      The Thor-Jane romance has never clicked for me, and I've come to terms with the fact that there is no real reason for Thor to love Jane. I don't get it, oh well.

      I had a niggling thought that Loki might be faking, since he'd just finished faking Thor's hand get cut off and all. But I guess I just hoped the filmmakers would be more awesome than to stoop to that.

    2. Well I can see that I'm a much bigger fan of Loki than you are and I'm not going to lie. I would be FAR happier about a Thor 3 film with Loki being in it :D I'd be perfectly happy about Loki being killed off redemptively - my new word! - in Thor 3 but not Thor 2. Also, we still don't know where they're actually going to take Loki's character in Thor 3. I remember having really mixed feelings about a S6 of Buffy after The Gift. That episode is so intensely beautiful and powerful and I thought that sacrificing herself to save her sister would have been such a beautiful ending for Buffy. And then I saw Chosen and I changed my mind. THAT was the perfect ending for Buffy. She gets to live and she still gets to be the Slayer. That part of her identity remains intact. But the terrible, awful burden of it has been lifted. She's not alone any more. Plus it was all very kickass and feminist!

      Hmm... I guess there were maybe a few moments in the first film where Hopkins looked bored but my word it was really, really, reeeally noticeable in this one! I wonder if that had anything to do with Branagh leaving? Apparently Natalie Portman actually tried to pull out of her contract because of Branagh not directing this one. He was the only reason why she signed up to do Thor. But Marvel weren't having any of that and cracked the whip. I wonder if something similar went on with Hopkins?

      Yep, there's no real reason for Thor to love Jane. I also think their characters work so much better when they're apart. I find Jane more interesting to watch when she's running around and doing sciency things with Darcy and Selvig. When she's with Thor she's boring.

    3. It's true: I'm not a Loki fan. He is neither Helpful nor Nice, and those are instinctive deal-breakers for me with characters. In fact, it was the combination of Coulson and Loki that made me realize the Nice factor -- a friend and I were discussing Coulson and trying to figure out why I like him much more than she does, and I said I like him because he's nice. And she was like, "Well, yeah, but so what?" And I realized then that lack of being at all a nice person is precisely why I don't like Loki. He's not nice to anybody -- it's not like Wolverine, who is nice to so many people even though he claims not to be nice. (Plus, Coulson is the only person in The Avengers who talks to Thor about anything at all other than asking him questions about Loki or blaming him for stuff. Nice guy.)

      But I digress. I think the difference I feel here, between Loki's dying-but-not and Buffy's death in season 5 and Angel's death in season 2, is that Buffy and Angel actually died. They really, truly died, and for a reason. And then they magically returned, but it wasn't all a lie. They did die. No tricks. We believed they died because they did die. And in this, Loki's death is a trick and a lie, and not just a lie to the audience, but a lie to Thor too. (And yes, when I said earlier I get all protective of Thor, I really meant that.) Thor has already gone through the pain of losing Loki once, and then Loki gleefully puts him through that again. He knows Thor still loves him, and he does it anyway. Base and deceitful and mean.

      I have to say I would rather see Thor in love with Darcy than Jane. Darcy is resourceful and clever and would be fun to hang around with. I would fall in love with Darcy if I was Thor -- what's wrong with him? (This rant probably brought to you by the fact that I identify way more with Darcy than Jane.) And wouldn't it be a cool twist if the sidechick got the guy?

    4. And, randomly, I just realized there are two names here that are associated with the other story we're discussing! P&P has a Darcy and a Jane too! Coincidence???

    5. In real life I love, love, love nice and helpful people. But when it comes to fiction I am very capable of liking characters that I might not necessarily like if I were to meet them face to face. I adore villains and anti-heroes in fiction. Not all villains of course but a lot of them. They can be so deliciously fascinating and fun to watch and compelling. Khan was my absolute favourite thing about Star Trek into Darkness for example. Snape was probably my favourite Harry Potter character even before Deathly Hallows and you could hardly call him nice. Helpful maybe but certainly not nice. So I have a predisposition towards liking villain/anti hero type characters. That's partly why I love Loki. Obviously I can't condone murder and attempting to take over planet Earth and faking your own death. None of those are of course good things. But I also love Loki because he has depth. He's multi-dimensional. He's very far from being a black-and-white villain. It also helps massively that Tom Hiddleston is a fantastic actor, that he loves Loki, and that he loves playing Loki. He brings so much emotion and feeling to the role. It might be really hard for you to understand personally but a lot of fans share my view and love Loki as well. It doesn't mean that we aren't moral. It doesn't mean that we're blind and can't see what he does. I understand where you're coming from and I hope you understand where I'm coming from. We cool? :D

      And as for that last point, I certainly hope it's not a coincidence! I like to think Stan Lee was actually reading Pride and Prejudice when he started to do the comics!

    6. I get the fascination, I do. I have a deep, abiding love for a lot of anti-heroes, though for the most part, I dislike villains. I'm trying to think of any out-and-out villains that I dig. I really love Ben Wade in the original 3:10 to Yuma, when he's played by Glenn Ford. Conniving and duplicitous, but not without remorse. I have a fondness for Magneto, probably because sometimes he's very helpful, and he can be nice when he wants to. He's not entirely self-serving. And Spike -- I've liked Spike since the first time I saw him. But he's so nice to Dru, and that's probably why. Those are actually the only three villains I can think of that I quite like.

      Snape is actually my second-favorite HP character, after Sirius Black. But Snape IS helpful -- he's helping Dumbledore the whole time, and he helps Harry clandestinely too. Think of him counteracting Quirrell's spell during the Quidditch match to protect Harry. I see Snape as a very tragic character, with all the bullying, the bad family life, the unrequited love. In many ways, I think he's got a greater capacity for being nice than Sirius does -- prior to Azkaban, I'm pretty sure Sirius was a major jerk. Rich, snobby, and kinda cruel. He had a lot less to rise above than Snape did, but he had to sink to the lowest of low depths -- being imprisoned for crimes he did not commit -- before he could begin to become the character I love.

      The truth is, I think Tom Hiddleston can act circles around Chris Hemsworth. And around a lot of actors today. He's fantastic. He turned what could have been a two-dimensional, sneering, scenery-chewing villain into someone who brought tears to my eyes when he died. I wouldn't be so angry about Loki not being dead if I didn't wish I could like him. If I hadn't actually come to like him when he died, and now I can't anymore. Grr.

      So anyway, yes, I do understand the fascination with bad guys and villains. While I don't generally like villains, you give me a guy teetering on the edge between good and evil, and I'm a goner. Angel. Sawyer on Lost. Boromir. Mr. Rochester. Wolverine. Give me a Byronic Hero, and I'm in swoonsville. Fictionally. In real life, I'd probably find them whiny, self-obsessed, and annoying. I married the least-broody guy you'll ever meet. But fictionally... give me that dark past and that moral uncertainty :-9

      So yes, we're quite cool. This is one of the best discussions I've had in some time!

    7. Aw, thank you! I'm feeling honoured! I really, really enjoyed this discussion as well even though there was an element of "*Gasp!* Someone's just dissed one of my favourite fictional characters! *cracks knuckles* I've got work to do! *starts typing" on my part :D

    8. I hear you there. Though I have to admit I've kind of given up on replying to blog posts I read where I feel the need to defend Thor from aspersions on his intelligence and so on.

  2. I do agree about the ending. I was sad Loki died, but it was a good kind of sad- one of the best redemptive death scenes...and then...yeah. Really? (although my brother and sister did say they thought he wasn't really dead at that point) I was disappointed and at that same time I was like, Yay! He can come back in Thor 3 (apparently there IS going to be another Thor movie)...but at the same time I felt it kind of ruined his character.(and I didn't care for what they did with Erik Selvig, either). However, I liked it better than Thor, I think. The fight scenes were especially good. :)

    Although my sister is saying maybe Loki was saying sorry because he *wasn't* going to die. But then, I think that might be stretching it...

    1. I'm sure in our sequel-obsessed movie world, there will be a Thor 3. And Loki will obviously be in it. Because that's how they make money, of course.

      I do intend to go see this again next weekend, and see how it strikes me then. I might just get over my issues and be cool with it. I might be madder than ever. We'll see. His whole death speech will definitely sound different now. And I might decide it all works for me then.

  3. Hi. I had a unusual reaction after reading your review. Before reading, I had already made up my mind not to see it; I enjoyed the first Thor so much and didn't think a sequel would live up to it. (Also, I disliked The Avengers and pretty much lost interest in the Thor story) Then I got to your spoiler alert and decided to read on, convinced that I would be vindicated in my decision. However, I want to go out and see it now, and observe this change of heart in Loki for myself. It's as if I have to see it to believe it.

    1. Hi! That IS an unusual reaction. I'm quite amused, actually. And since I loved Avengers and you didn't, maybe you'll have an opposite reaction to this.

  4. Oh, I share you're feelings on Dr. Selvig, that was annoying. He used to be a cool character, and I highly doubt Hawkeye will be going mad just because Loki got in his head. I also felt pandered to, except with the case of Loki. Sometimes it seemed like he was only in there because they knew people wanted to see more of him. As for the spoiler-y parts, I actually thought Loki's death was not so great, and I was prepared for the possibility of him dying, and looking forward to a really heartbreaking death if it did happen, but it was so underwhelming, that I immediately knew he'd be back. So in that respect, I agree that it was slightly annoying. But they didn't wait for the very end to bring him back -- he was the guard that told Odin they'd found Loki's body!

    Great review, Hamlette, I enjoyed the read! :D

    1. How funny -- a friend and I were just discussing that the only thing that could make Selvig's behavior okay would be if Hawkeye has also had trouble regaining his mental balance, and then it would all actually be funny.

      She also pointed out that Loki was that guard, as it was the one he turned into back on Asgard. I was like, "Was I supposed to be paying attention to what Loki looked like when Thor was around?" Lol.

  5. SPOILER-comment to anyone who hasn't seen the movie yet!!! Beware!

    Hello! I just found your blog and I see you write a lot of movie reviews - looks really cool! :)
    So I saw Thor: The Dark World (and I loved it), so I read the entirety of your post. First off, I agree about that scene with Thor washing his face, it annoyed me for the same reasons you mentioned. And second, well, I think it made sense that Loki wasn't really dead. There were a couple reasons he wouldn't want Thor to die - so it made sense to me that he saved Thor's life. But I have to agree that I did wish it could be for noble motives - and then Loki started dying and I realized he wasn't really; it must be one of his mirror images of himself (or whatever you call them). So, those are my thoughts.... :)
    Great review!

    1. Hi, S! Welcome! Yes, I do write a lot of movie reviews. I even have a handy alphabetical list of all the ones I've reviewed, just because I like alphabetizing things ;-)

      Yes, it all makes sense. I see that now. I'm hoping to go see the movie again this weekend with a friend, so that I can kind of come to terms with it better. May even write another blog post about it once I've seen it again.

      Thanks for stopping by!

    2. Cool! I've got a list too, but not alphabetized. (I love lists.) Wow, I just looked at your list - it's so beautifully organized! It must give you so much pleasure how tidy it is!! :)

      That's great! I hope you have a great time, double awesomeness seeing it again! :) That would be neat. :)

    3. Well, yours is organized by genre, and that's cool too. My movie collection is organized first by genre, then alphabetically. Except for things in a series, those are then sequential by when they happened, not when they were made. Which means my X-Men movies have X-Men Origins: Wolverine first and then the trilogy, etc.

      And you're right -- that tidy list gives me so much pleasure! In fact, I just created a similar one over on my book blog.

      I must admit I see a lot of movies in the theater more than once. I'm a bit of an addict.

  6. Finally got to watch and review the movie and I have to say that I liked it a lot. I actually can’t decide if I like The Dark World or Iron Man 3 more, but both were great.
    I definitely agree about the action being a lot better than the first Thor. Alan Taylor did an excellent job using less CGI and more practical effects.
    I actually disagree about Loki’s death. It was rather fitting for the character to fake his death since he is a trickster. On the other hand, I was mostly sure he was not going to die since Hiddleston was talking about how he wanted the Enchantress and the Executioner in the next Thor movie, so I was a little spoiled by that. However, that did not prevent my Loki fangirl friend sitting next to me from almost having a heart attack. :-)


    1. I think that on an emotional level, I like this better than IM3. But on a more plot-considering level, I like IM3 better. Both are awesome.

      I think you're right, it feels like there are more practical stunts and sets in this -- that's probably why it reminded us of the LOTR movies, since Peter Jackson relied so much on bigatures and doubles and making everything physically there whenever possible.

      And yes, Loki the trickster faking his death makes total sense. I've come to accept that.

  7. I usually plow ahead through spoiler warnings since I never see movies, but you put enough sincerity into this one that I actually quit reading, thinking I'd never remember to return. Then on the way back from Baby Sissy's it occurred to me I was near the 3D IMAX in Fitchburg, and got there 15 minutes before showtime!

    I thought it was just swell. Great effects, humor, and really attractive female characters -- wit, affecting the story, everything. I loved how they left you to figure out the white orbs were memorials, just in time to see them going up all over Asgard to make you feel the effect of the war. By dropping in on part 2 of a series I got a lot of that "figure it out for yourself" effect.

    The real cheat with Loki's death is they wrung a lot of emotion out of Thor that they didn't earn -- the only reason I thought he might really be dead is that they put so much acting into that scene they couldn't just take it back. Someone else should have saved him. And Thor shouldn't have been fooled anyway, because they established in his prison scene that he can see through Loki's illusions!

    1. How cool! I'm so excited that you went to see it. If you watch the first Thor movie sometime, do be warned that Jane is much cooler in this than in that. And has prettier clothes and hair.

      And yes, I do still feel a lot of anger at Loki for making Thor go through losing him again. (He "died" at the end of Thor too.) However, I have a secret theory that I will test out on you. I secretly suspect that Thor knew Loki wasn't really dead. Because both times that I saw this, when Thor and Jane seek shelter in the cave after Loki's "death," I expected Thor to be carrying Loki's body, to put it in a cave or give it some sort of burial. Not to just leave it out in the elements. This may just be me projecting myself onto Thor a little, but it feels like he wouldn't have just left Loki's body out there unless he secretly suspected it was a trick and was letting Loki go free in thanks for his help in saving Jane and avenging Frigga. I didn't formulate this theory until after my second viewing, so I need to see it again (likely not until the DVD comes out) before I can decide if it works at all. Thor's justice-seeking side would say no, Loki belongs back in prison. But he still loves Loki, and still hopes for him to come around, so he might be granting Loki one last shot at behaving.

      But anyway, as for Thor being able to see through Loki's illusions, they've actually established many times that he can't. Loki uses them on Thor a couple times in Thor, and there's that part in The Avengers where Loki uses one of his fake selves to trap Thor in the Hulk cage. Loki says there, "Are you ever NOT going to fall for that?" I think that in the dungeons, Thor knew Loki couldn't possibly be looking that kempt and keeping his cell so tidy, so he realizes it must be an illusion. He knows Loki does this, but he doesn't always know when he's doing it.

      Man, Loki must have been the most frustrating younger brother ever. Can you imagine playing hide-and-seek with him? Or tag?

  8. Yes, Darcy is so great. She is probably my favorite (well, besides Loki, but I agree with you, it would have been more meaningful if it hadn't all been a trick.). That would be such a twist if she ended up with Thor!

    1. MC, I find it sad that because Natalie Portman didn't want to be in any more MCU movies and they wrote Jane out, we're now deprived of Darcy's presence. I keep hoping she'll turn up in another movie at some point.


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