Before I went to see Thor: The Dark World, someone on Tumblr posted that the real subtitle ought to have been “Loki, You Little Shit!” (though, a case could be made for that to be the subtitle for the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe).
Let’s get this part out of the way first - The Dark World is not Thor. The tone between the two is so vastly different, but I think that’s a good thing. In Thor, they were setting up Asgard as this wondrous world from mythology and putting it into the real universe. Asgardian are aliens that were worshiped as gods in one of Earth’s bygone eras, so Asgard was seen through those eyes. In The Dark World, we see Asgard through the eyes of the Asgardians themselves, which is far less majestic and awe-inspiring (though it still looks amazing - they certainly didn't skimp on that). To them, it’s their home. An everyday location that’s still important and they have a job to protect it.
It’s sort of like having a favorite celebrity and being a total fangirl/fanboy about them - and then you get the chance to meet them in real life and after you've picked yourself up off the floor from the shock, you realize that this is a real person with a real life that includes a real sense of humor, real joys, real sorrows, real mundanity, real responsibilities.
That’s not to say that Earth doesn't have a very part to play in this story. It’s just more muted. This story is about Asgard - Thor deciding what he wants to do with his life (apparently, even ancient Norse gods need guidance counseling), Loki's relationship with his family, Odin's responsibilities as Protector of the Nine Realms.
Other Things I Liked (in list form) -
- Darcy stole the show. Just... Darcy. I know it’s a long-shot and there’s no reason for it, but if Marvel could figure out a way for Darcy and Loki to spend a movie just snarking at each other, I would pay good money to see that - not just once, but twice!
- I knew Loki wasn't really dead. Because Tumblr would have been reduced to a pile of wailing mush the moment that was written into the script (I say this with all the respect and love in my heart - and as one of their number: Never underestimate the power of Hiddleston fangirls). But now that everyone thinks he’s dead, he’s free to do... whatever he wants. Oh, the cinematic possibilities! (perhaps a standalone Loki movie?? Oh, can I be so lucky?)
- The cameos! Not just the standard Stan Lee cameo (though that was hilarious), but Loki shapeshifts into one of Thor’s new Avenger buddies - and even gets a bit of this Avenger’s theme song in the process! Oh Marvel, how I love your continuity nods!
- Christopher Eccleston put in a great performance as the dark elf Malekith - but I couldn't help but think of him as the Doctor in heavy makeup threatening to destroy the universe. Unfortunate associations, but there you go.
- The whole time I was watching this movie, I kept thinking “This is what the Star Wars prequels should have been.” Not bogged down with the CGI crap or the horrible acting, but with fluid storytelling and all the elements of the film more integrated with each other. I hope Disney lets their new LucasFilm department talk with the Marvel people.
- It seems I’m always going to have to say this, but - WHAT IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE WHO LEAVE THE THEATER BEFORE THE CREDITS ARE OVER?? Even if you think you've seen the post-credit Easter Egg, you’re supposed to stay all the way to the end of a Marvel movie. Just plan on it - don’t miss out on the good stuff! (and there was some really good stuff at the end. Two Easter Eggs - don’t leave the theater! The bathroom will still be there when you get out, I promise).
Is Thor: The Dark World perfect? Not really. There are some pacing issues and some of the character moments don’t get the necessary breathing space. That’s something that Thor did beautifully that I felt was missing a bit from The Dark World. But it’s a solid entry into the Marvel Cinematic canon and perfectly sets up Thor 3 (whatever that ends up being).