Top Ten MCU Films: #9 – Thor: The Dark World

Sick of films from Marvel Studios? Think list articles are cliche? If your answer to either of those questions is ‘no,’ then there is a chance you will not hate this countdown of the best (and only) films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe!

After The Avengers, it was clear that the MCU was going to be a juggernaut and that every character added something of value. The question for me was how would the studio perform when they returned to each corner of the universe before the next team-up movie? Iron Man 3 and The Winter Soldier thankfully changed up the formula big time (with admitted mixed results: The Winter Solider was excellent and Iron Man 3 was largely eh). The Dark World meanwhile decided to rest on its laurels and not change up the formula that made the first entry so uninspired.

If there was one corner of the MCU that needed a dramatic shake-up in approach, it was the Thor corner. Instead, Marvel opted to basically redo the first one over again, as the film hit a ton of the same beats. Thor ignores his father’s wishes. Loki’s true allegiance is not clear. Thor has a parent in mortal danger. Fish out of water comedy (Thor went to Earth in the first film, while Padme went to Asgard in the sequel). There is The CGI Villain Army Crutch. Thor’s alien pals are kind of involved in the plot but not really. Padme’s Earth pals are involved in the plot, but no one knows why or cares about them.

Relying on the same “successful” formula for a sequel is not uncommon, and this sequel actually does execute the formula, character beats, etc. better in just about every way. While I’m thankful for that, it still does not leave us with all that good of a film. Thor is still insultingly two-dimensional as a lead character, and none of his pals of Asgard and Earth are really given material or time to become interesting again. On top of all that, we’re not really given a reason to think that anything in this film is important. Iron Man 3 and The Winter Solider have very clear consequences (or characters at least appear to go through major changes by the end). What did this film accomplish besides make me wish that I never have to revisit this corner of the universe again until the title is simply Loki?

What are some things the movie gets right?

Loki. Instead of returning to his far-inferior characterization from Thor, Loki is his same cocky self from The Avengers if just a bit more humble. He is by far the most entertaining part of the film while simultaneously the most interesting character. This is the part where everyone should wonder why he didn’t get his own film instead of Thor. It was patently obvious that this movie should have been a “buddy movie” called Thor & Loki with the two brothers being forced to go on some adventure together.

What are some things the movie gets wrong?

DEATH IS MEANINGLESS: They do the death fakeout with Loki in this one. It’s dumb. Very fucking dumb. It’s possibly even more insulting than the other death fakeouts in the MCU due to the obviousness of this being a fakeout and not a real death. On the bright side, Loki is by far (like by millions and millions of miles) the most interesting character in the Thor corner of the MCU. To kill him off would have killed what little interest I would have in this corner.

None of the problems from the first one are really fixed. I outlined several problems with the first film in the Thor corner of the MCU, but they weren’t really addressed in this film much at all. SHIELD doesn’t really play a role in this film though, which gives it a slightly-less clunky/cluttered feeling. It’s still the least interesting corner of the MCU though, and they do nothing to escape that problem.

When you kill the main character’s mother, and I feel nothing…you suck at filmmaking. Killing a parent of a main character when both of them are clearly decent people should result in some kind of emotional reaction. Thor’s mother is killed, and it does not make an impact in the slightest.

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