Thor’s World is Becoming Cliche

Review of Thor: The Dark World, Directed by Alan Taylor

As the Avengers films become more intertwined with one another, they are becoming both more self-referential and more confident in the type of action drama they are trying to cultivate. At the same time, these films are increasingly mainstream with very few surprises.

The first question about most sequels is: how does it compare to the first? Thor: The Dark World is decisively better. The action sequences, the graphic effects, and the production value are all bigger and better than in the first installment. But the plot remained very similar in terms of a clearly evil bad guy with plans to harness some near-omnipotent power that could destroy the universe. No doubt, Loki adds some uncertainty to the movie, but if the surprises have become expected surprises, do they still count?

Thor: The Dark World reunites Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) after two years apart, during which Thor is bringing order to the nine realms. The Convergence, a cosmological aligning of the nine realms, provides an opportunity for the Dark Elves to harness something called the Aether to plunge the whole universe into darkness. Sounds familiar doesn’t it? It’s like The Avengers—two worlds (well, nine in this case) being drawn together and an alien invasion of Earth.

This time anything close to the moral tale of Thor becoming worthy of wielding his hammer is nowhere to be seen. In fact, the film sadly elides over several key moments that could have made Thor: The Dark World more than a superficial action flick. At one point, Thor asks his father what makes him different than the leader of the Dark Elves, after he decides to justify his means of war with its ends. The All-Father’s response? He will win. Period. No follow up, no further conversation. On top of this, the writers seem to have concluded that audiences now know the characters so no further development is necessary. We learn nothing new about Thor, Jane, or others. Their dynamics remain static from the first film.

The Avengers films at first had an aura of expectation and audiences were easily satisfied with seeing how the filmmakers decided to portray this Marvel universe on the big screen. Characters from the comic books now had real faces and voices and even audiences who had not read the comics were happy to be introduced to a new world. But as this aura fades and the movie characters and their worlds become familiar, the films seem to be headed toward a land of clichés that they themselves have made. Thor: The Dark World is representative of this trend.

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  • “The All-Father’s response? He will win.”

    That scene was actually a bit of an “in” joke. Throughout the Lore, Thor was always well meaning, but dim witted. So in this scene we have Thor the Jotun’s bane, god of agriculture, and the forge, trying to use big words and talk about the philosophy of War to the All-Father (god of Philosophy, and War).

    Thor tries to appear wise by asking the tired and cliche question: “Then how would you be any different from the Dark Elves?”

    Odin gives a slight chuckle (Awe… that’s cute) before summarily dismissing Thor with a short and simple answer.

    In the Havamal, Odin is quoted as saying:

    A witless man,

    when he meets with men,
    Had best in silence abide;
    For no one shall find

    that nothing he knows,
    If his mouth is not open too much.

    This scene is an in joke, where the punchline is Odin “subtly” telling Thor “Yes, yes, you’re very clever; now shut-up before you hurt yourself.”