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“Thor: The Dark World” pleases franchise fans
THOR: THE DARK WORLD” IS AN EXAMPLE OF WHY MARVEL is winning the comic book movie wars. Ostensibly, there are only two candidates: Marvel and DC. Where DC has the classic superheroes of Superman and Batman, Wonder Woman and the Flash, they haven’t been able to crack the franchise in the way Marvel Studios for one simple reason: They produce stand-alone movies.
There may be offhand references to Gotham and Metropolis in the DC films, but Marvel has embraced a universe occupied by all of their heroes simultaneously, meaning that any character might show up at any time. This type of crossover has always been true in the Marvel Comics continuity and has been utilized by the filmmakers as well.
While there are still holdouts, (the rights to Spider-man and the X-Men were sold early on before the superhero craze took hold) the majority of Marvel’s costumed heroes are waiting in the wings for their time to shine. Assuming the quality stays high, these films can be made indefinitely. There are decades of stories to tell, and the filmmakers seem to understand that comic books are not necessarily brooding Frank Miller murderscapes—there is fun to be had, tongues to place in cheeks, and wonder to experience.
The newest entry into Marvel’s film domination takes place after the events of “The Avengers,” with Thor returning his miscreant brother to Asgard to pay for his crime of attacking New York City. Thor then busies himself bringing order to the Nine Realms, as they erupted into chaos after the Bifrost was destroyed in the events of “Thor.”
Much like the Harry Potter series, the majority of the action in the story hinges on the viewer having seen the previous films. There is no apology for this, nor much interest in bringing new viewers up to speed. It’s nice to see a superhero movie that is comfortable in its own mythos, not needing to rehash origin stories or retell things the audience already knows. It provides some much-needed room for the characters to grow and interact in an already established universe (as much as they can, anyway, in a comic book loosely based on the exploits of a Norse demigod).
The antagonist this time is an ancient race of dark Elves that predate humanity by several millennia, wanting to return the universe to its dark, primal form using a murky weapon of self-aware ink. Not that it matters. Audiences are going to see Thor hit things with hammers and fight giant monsters.
To the film’s credit, it fully embraces Thor as an ultra-powerful deity, rather than following the old trope of taking away his powers for the majority of the film, only to return them in the climax. Instead, the film shows formidable foes that match or exceed Thor in power. It makes the stakes higher and the film easier to watch.
Of course, being a Marvel film, the supposed magic is explained as a higher form of science, resulting in technobabble and silliness. This is mostly forgivable, as we know that it’s just a part of the show. As long as no one thinks too hard about the absurdities uttered by the scientists in the film, the audience will enjoy it. Added to the typical action movie scenes are pepperings of Whedon-like wit and clever banter.
The first film played up the fish-out-of-water themes and they are on display here as well, although in smaller doses. Thor’s love interest Jane Foster has the tables turned as she is taken to Asgard to experience it firsthand. This development isn’t quite as entertaining, mostly because Jane Foster is somewhat bland as a character. She’s a damsel in distress, albeit one with a degree in astrophysics.
Is “Thor: The Dark World” a memorable entry into the Marvel franchise? Time will tell. “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” comes out in January, “Guardians of Galaxy” later next year, and “The Avengers 2” in 2015. More than likely, “Thor 2” is just a stepping stone between Avengers films, not necessarily meant as an overly important chapter.
Just like in comics, there’s always another issue—and every tale opens up more possibilities. The franchise has been successful so far and as long as the films are like this one, it will be for a long time.