Thor: The Dark World
The second of the Marvel movies to specifically focus on Thor and continues to deal with the fallout of the events of The Avengers. Christopher Eccleston (the ninth Doctor in Doctor Who; the first of the revival run) is added to the cast as Malekith. Zachary Levi (he now stars in the Shazam films, he also voiced Eugene/Flynn Rider in Tangled) takes over as Fandral [Josh Dallas was committed to Once Upon a Time by that point and oddly, Zachary was originally supposed to play Fandral, but had backed out due to his commitment to another show at the time]. Odin gives us a history lesson at the beginning, explaining the Dark Elves, led by Malekith, who wanted to harness the Aether; an ancient force of infinite destruction, to destroy the universe. Odin’s father, King Bor, led the Asgardians in war against the Dark Elves. The Dark Elves had warriors, known as Kursed (a bit like Beserkers), who used capsules to be taken over by darkness and attack. A Convergence of the Nine Realms was the opportunity Malekith wanted to use the Aether, but Asgard used the Bifrost to take it from him. He sacrificed his own ships and people to destroy more Asgardians, and allow himself to escape. Asgard felt they had won. Bor tells his guards to bury the Aether; they do not have the power to destroy, but bury it deep where it cannot be found. [Bor was played, uncredited, by Tony Curran, who was Vincent van Gogh in two episodes of Doctor Who, as well as many other appearances in television shows.]
Back in the present, Loki appears before Odin in chains, though his mother pleads with him not to make the situation worse. Loki does not enjoy these chats with Odin. The Allfather passes judgment on Loki for his invasion of Earth; only because of Frigga will Loki be spared the axe, though he will never see her again as he is sentenced to life imprisonment in the dungeons of Asgard. Everywhere Loki goes, Odin claims, there is war, ruin, and death. Loki feels that humans are lesser than Asgardians, though Odin points out they themselves are not gods, for they too live and die. Give or take five thousand years, Loki quips. Besides, he was just attempting to claim the birthright that Odin fed him his childhood, that he was born to be a king; and his actions are not that different from what Odin has done [SPOILER; as we see in Ragnarök, there is truth to Loki’s statement]. Odin snaps back that Loki’s birthright was to die, on a frozen rock as a child. “If I had not taken you in, you would not be here now to hate me.” [Again, Anthony Hopkins is brilliant as a commanding ruler, first startling us by shouting, then keeping our attention by getting quiet.] Loki argues against Thor taking the throne of Asgard, calling his brother a witless oaf. Yes, Odin declares, once Thor is finished mopping up the mess Loki has started and bringing order back to the Nine Realms, Thor will take the throne as king of Asgard.
We find Thor doing precisely that. There is a battle raging on Vanaheim, with Sif and the Warriors Three all involved. Thor arrives via the Bifrost, though Sif argues they have everything under control. “Is that why everything is on fire?” Thor quips as he throws Mjölnir. The invaders let their largest warrior come forward, a rock-like creature. A swing from Mjölnir reduces him to pebbles. “Anyone else?” Nope, they surrender. Thor tells Hogun to stay with his people, and Thor and the other warriors return to Asgard (we hear part of the theme from the first movie as they return). Thor speaks to Odin, who tells him that the Nine Realms are at peace due to Thor’s actions; the realms are reminded of Asgard’s strength and Thor has earned their respect, as well as Odin’s gratitude. Yet, Odin does not agree with his son on his chosen love, even motioning to Sif as a worthy candidate. Furthermore, it is time for Thor to take the throne. He orders his son to revel and join his companions in their fun, or at least pretend to enjoy himself. (We enjoy a brief scene of Thor bathing…) and Thor tries what his father says.
Meanwhile, Jane Foster is in London, on a date, that is interrupted by Darcy showing her readings on her equipment. Her date encourages her to check the readings out. They eagerly set off and we discover that Erik Selvig is rambling a bit and found naked, at Stonehenge. (He later explains the Convergence to an audience in a psychiatric ward.) Jane’s readings bring them to an abandoned warehouse area and a spot of odd gravity. Jane continues to investigate and disappears, to another world, where a red glow (the Aether) jumps onto her. She collapses and Malekith’s ship awakens.
Turns out, Thor has been looking in on Jane with Heimdall. Heimdall informs his prince that Jane is tracking the Convergence, though she’s not aware of what it is. Troublingly, Heimdall cannot see her at the moment. Back on Earth, when Jane awakens, she finds out she’s been gone five hours and it’s now raining, except not on her. Thor arrives and Jane rushes to see him. She slaps him; first to make sure he’s real since it’s been a strange day, then, because he left. She saw he was in New York. His excuse of dealing with the chaos is not terrible. The two get closer and almost kiss, getting a bit confused, before getting interrupted by Darcy. The police try to arrest Jane, but when they go to touch her, something shoots them back. Thor takes Jane on the Bifrost to Asgard in order to protect her.
He takes her to his healers and Jane marvels at their magic that mimics science (look at Thor smile at her). Odin stops in, telling his son that mortal Jane does not belong on Asgard. Again, when the guards go to touch Jane, they’re blasted back. Odin is now concerned by the energy within Jane. Odin explains to Thor and Jane that what is within Jane is a relic that predates the universe. Before the dawn of the Nine Realms, the Dark Elves reigned absolute. Most of the relics appear as stones, but the Aether is fluid, and ever-changing. It changes matter to dark matter and Malekith wants to use it to turn the world back to darkness. But Odin’s father, Bor, defeated the Dark Elves. Thor points out that the Aether is returned, so maybe that story is not wholly true. Odin insists that the Dark Elves are dead (we already know that is not true).
In the lower levels of Asgard, Loki is in a cell in the dungeon. Frigga visits him and attempts to counsel him, but he eventually erupts that Odin is not his father. She points out, am I not your mother? He hesitates, then says no, and reveals that Frigga’s visit is only an illusion. [There is a lovely deleted scene where Thor witnesses his mother coming back from her visit and speaks to her of her hope for Loki. While Loki is not the boy she once knew, neither is Thor, and she loves them no less. Thor asks his mother if she regrets sharing her magic with him and she replies no. Thor and Odin cast large shadows and Frigga hoped that by sharing her gifts with Loki, he’d find some sun for himself. Thor wishes he could share his mother’s optimism and compassion.] Frigga later comes upon Thor and Jane speaking, and kissing. Jane likes the way Thor explains things, and he vows that he will save her; his father does not know everything.
Malekith’s strongest warrior is brought into the dungeons in Asgard alongside other mercenaries. He then goes berserk and breaks out. He releases other inmates, but eyes Loki and does not release him. So Loki suggests that he takes the stairs on the left. An invisible ship approaches, that Heimdall does not spot until it is at the Bifrost. He attempts to stop it, but it begins firing upon the city. Heimdall enacts a shield around the palace, but it is brought down by Kurse. One ship crashes into the palace and the Elves attack the guards; Malekith emerges. He apparently can sense the Aether and finds Frigga and Jane. He demands the return of the Aether, and Frigga fights him off with a dagger (another tool she passed along to Loki). Kurse arrives and grabs Frigga while Malekith confronts Jane, but she’s only an illusion. Kurse runs Frigga through, then Thor erupts into the room, scarring Malekith with lightning, but he and his loyal companion are able to escape.
Asgard mourns the loss of its queen. A guard is sent to Loki; we do not hear what is said [somewhere I read that Odin was first going to say that the queen is dead, but changed his mind to tell Loki that his mother is dead]; we witness Loki use magic to slam his furniture. Thor and Odin argue plans. Thor wants to take Jane to the Dark World, Svartalfheim, lure Malekith there to get the Aether out of Jane, and then destroy them both. Odin would rather wait for Malekith to return to Asgard “where he will fall upon ten thousand blades…. we will fight to the last Asgardian breath, the last drop of blood.” Thor doesn’t want to risk their people and asks his father how does that make him different than Malekith [SPOLIER: again, in Ragnarök, we see that this is what Odin was like ages ago, more ruthless and bloodthirsty.]
Thor gathers his friends and continues with his plan. He also goes to Loki, for he will need his help to get out of Asgard. He sees through his brother’s calm illusion. Loki reveals that he is a mess after Frigga’s death; his feet bloody and his room destroyed. Thor offers Loki vengeance in return for helping Thor escape. “You must be truly desperate to come to me for help,” Loki retorts. Thor is clear that he doesn’t trust Loki, but their mother did. And warns his brother that when they fought in the past, he held a glimmer of hope to retrieve the brother he knew, but now he knows he will not. “You betray me and I will kill you.” Loki grins, “when do we start?” Loki disguises himself as he walks alongside Thor; first as a guard, then turns Thor into Sif, who cracks that it will hurt no less when he kills Loki in that form. So Loki turns himself into one of Thor’s new friends, since he likes them so much; he chooses Captain America [and it is hilarious and keep in mind that Tom Hiddleston first recorded the scene and Chris Evans had to mimic his over-the-top performance] and wants to have a rousing discussion about truth and honor. Thor shushes his brother and instead of giving him a dagger, puts cuffs on him.
Sif retrieves Jane, who slaps Loki upon seeing him for his actions in New York. Loki simply smirks and says “I like her.” Heimdall distracts Odin with a report of treason, his own. Sif stays behind to give Loki, Thor, and Jane time to escape, though Sif stops Loki to inform him “betray [Thor] and I’ll kill you.” Loki chuckles. Volstagg is waiting to also defend Thor and also warns Loki that he’ll kill him if he betrays Thor. “Evidently, there will be a line.” Thor uses the Dark Elves’ ship to escape, but he doesn’t handle it well. Loki is a backseat driver…and this is honestly my favorite part of the movie; their bickering is so typical of siblings: “now they’re following us, now they’re firing at us.” “Thank you for the commentary Loki, it’s not at all distracting.” And when Thor crashes into a statue of Bor, Loki snarks “you just decapitated your grandfather.” The strain of the Aether is draining Jane and she passes out on the ship. When Loki berates Thor for his plan, Thor pushes him out of the ship, then calmly jumps out after with Jane. Fandral catches them in a skiff, then has to exit so the others can escape. Loki steers them to his secret passage, seemingly straight into a cliff. Thor’s a little worried. “If it were easy, everyone would do it,” Loki says. Thor asks his brother “are you mad?” “Possibly.” But the passage works and they land on Svartalfheim with a “ta da.”
The brothers fall into an argument, Loki first pointing out that even if the Aether doesn’t kill Jane today, even if it’s a hundred years, Thor will never be ready to lose her (let’s point out that Odin simply dismisses Thor’s feelings for Jane and directs to someone Odin deems worthy, while Loki is validating Thor’s feelings yet cautioning him about heartbreak). Their argument turns to their love of their mother, Thor pointing out that while Loki had Frigga’s tricks, Thor had her trust. Loki responds that Frigga’s last actions were a magical trick; something Loki would have done. Thor argues back that Loki was in a cell when Frigga was killed, to which Loki demands “who put me there!” “You know damn well who,” Thor pushes his brother, fist poised to punch. But he holds back; “she wouldn’t want us to fight.” “Well,” Loki drawls, “she wouldn’t exactly be shocked.” Thor laments that he can’t trust Loki. Loki assures him, “trust my rage.”
Before they appear before Malekith, Thor returns Loki’s daggers and uncuffs him. Then Loki stabs Thor and claims he wants him dead, cutting off Thor’s hand before Mjölnir can return to him. Loki then throws Jane before Malekith, asking to watch Asgard burn. Kurse supports Loki’s claim, since he saw him in the dungeons. Malekith draws the Aether out of Jane, after which Thor calls to Loki. It was an illusion and Thor regains his hand and hammer, then lights up the Aether (Loki covering Jane), and for a minute, we think Thor’s plan worked.
It did not. Malekith possesses the Aether and begins to leave. Kurse throws a device that essentially creates a black hole. Loki pushes Jane out of the way and starts to get sucked in, looking very much like he did before he fell into the void at the end of the first Thor movie. Thor rescues his brother and they fight off the Dark Elves; Thor focusing on Kurse. When Loki spots his brother in trouble, he stabs Kurse. Kurse turns around and stabs Loki, but Loki vows to see him in Hel; he placed one of the black hole bombs on Kurse and he gets sucked away. Thor holds Loki as his skin grows ashen. Loki apologizes to Thor; Thor shushes him and says he will tell Odin what Loki did. Loki didn’t do it for him. His eyes close and Thor yells in grief.
Thor and Jane take cover in a cave and attempt to regroup. Surprisingly, Jane’s cell phone rings. It happens to be the guy she went on a date with, but with cell reception, she must be close to something from Midgard. They find the gravity well and return to Earth. Darcy, and her “intern” Ian retrieve Erik from the psychiatric ward. They all meet up and Erik reveals that the ancient civilization had left clues to where the Convergence would appear…Greenwich. [Except all his markers are based in Britain and there was more than one ancient civilization, so I’m not sure how Greenwich became the spot.] Malekith’s ship arrives, becoming visible as it runs aground and the Convergence begins. Thor takes on Malekith and the rest place Erik’s stabilizing spikes, which Jane uses to play with gravity. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, so the battle takes place throughout different realms, such as a missile from a jet lands in Vanaheim. Mjölnir goes flying at times while Thor is elsewhere. Malekith beings to prepare the Aether and Thor takes Jane’s last spikes and uses them to send Malekith’s body parts to different realms, breaking him up. He may not be able to destroy the Aether, but he can destroy Malekith. The last spike is rammed into Malekith, hammered by Mjölnir. The resulting blast knocks Thor out and Jane runs to him, but Malekith’s ship starts to fall. Erik uses the gravity well one last time to send it away, actually to Svartalfheim, where it falls on Malekith.
Thor reports back to Odin on Asgard. Odin asks, “what can Asgard offer its new king?” Thor wants his life. He cannot be king, he feels, though he will protect the Nine Realms with all he has to offer. Truthfully, Loki was better suited for the throne. Thor declares “I would rather be a good man, than a great king.” Odin despairs, he had one son who wanted the throne too much and now one who will not take it. Thor vows to live with honor, like Loki died with honor; that is Odin’s legacy. Thor offers Odin Mjölnir, but Odin tells him it belongs to him, so long as he is worthy. Thor will strive to be. Odin dismisses Thor; he cannot give his son his blessing, nor wish him good fortune; “If I were proud of the man my son has become, even that I could not say, it would speak only from my heart.” After Thor leaves, Odin shimmers and becomes Loki (he had transformed into a guard earlier to report to Odin his own death…we’re not quite sure how Loki survived; if his death was real for a minute or two, or simply another illusion). He grins and thanks the departing Thor.
We see Sif and Volstagg visit an odd place and meet someone called the “Collector.” They hand over the Aether, since Asgard’s vault already holds the Tesseract and it would not be wise to keep two Infinity Stones so close together. After they depart, the Collector says “one down, five to go.” Yes, this is setting up Infinity War and shows that it has been a game plan since Iron Man and Captain America at the very least. Jane does get a happy ending, with Thor returning via Bifrost and kissing her. The end of the credits declare that Thor will return.
This film gets a lot of flak, some of which I get behind, but I like it better than some others in the MCU. Malekith is not a well-defined villain, aside from general bad guy who wants to destroy the world. There was a different storyline that fleshed him out, but it was abandoned due to other scenes. It has been pointed out that Jane and Thor’s relationship is a bit flimsy; they spent only a few days together, but that is often how these stories go. I’m glad we saw more of Frigga and gave her things to do and she battled. Of course, I adore the expansion on Loki and show him a multi-faceted and the bickering between him and Thor is hilarious. And I want to believe he was sincere in his farewell to his brother as he faded away. And you have to admit, he plays a convincing Odin. Yes, he sent Thor away, but it is what Thor wanted. Does it also aid Loki’s schemes? Yes. But he wasn’t so out of character that Thor was suspicious [like Dean knew the demon was possessing John Winchester in season one of Supernatural because the demon said he was proud of Dean…which is a bit sad, but not the point of this blog.]
So what are your feelings? Do you like Loki? There is a featurette on the Blu-ray disc about the Brother’s Journey. Thor’s is one of humility, while Loki’s is an attempt to get his life back after his fall from grace. Loki has always desired to be Thor’s equal, and they point out that if Odin had trusted his children and not kept it a secret so long, he wouldn’t have this trouble now. One brother rose to be a hero, while the other descended to become a villain. And that is a fascinating aspect [which is why I want to write an essay of sorts examining brotherly dynamics in our favorite stories]. The producers also wanted to show Asgard as a mix of medieval and science fiction (and I love that, also for story purposes). The brothers’ fight on the Dark World shows that they have the same goal (avenging their mother), but different ways to go about it. And that fight exposes who they both are. Thor made use of Loki’s illusions and let Loki play the villain, but also trusted Loki to keep his end of the bargain. Loki saved Jane twice and Thor saved Loki as well. Showing that despite their difference and the gulf between them, they are still brothers. It’s hard to throw away centuries of teamwork.
We’ve still got plenty of MCU to go. Up Next: Captain America: Winter Solider