Feb 21, 2018

The MCU Roundtable: Thor: The Dark World

If you’re anything like us, than you were blown away when the first Avengers: Infinity War trailer dropped.  The extended Comics Cube family was so excited that we have decided to embark upon a full re-watch of the Marvel Studios film series.  Every week we are going to watch and provide a roundtable discussion about each Marvel movie in release order.  Next, Phase 2 continues on with another sequel.

Countdown to Avengers: Infinity War
Thor: The Dark World
Comics Cube Roundtable

Thor: The Dark World was released on Nov 8, 2013 and made $85 million on its opening weekend.  It ended its theatrical run at $206 million in the United States and $644 million total worldwide.

MATTHEW: Seriously underrated movie. Obviously not Marvel's strongest film, but it was a lot of fun, and a fitting adventure for the characters.

BEN: I had spent the months before this movie’s release reading Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s original Thor comics for the first time ever, and loving every minute of it.  The action was so bombastic and the pace was so fast, but still with a layer of that ‘60s cheese, that it made me a legitimate fan of Thor and his cast of characters.  Then I went to see this movie, and I was very disappointed.

DUY: Like Ben, I spent a month reading the Stan and Jack run and truly getting converted into a Thor fan. So expectations were pretty high. I do think it starts off well enough — hints at a Sif romance in the future, fights with different monsters (and it even got me thinking why I was okay with Thor killing monsters and not okay with Superman killing Zod), and I enjoyed pretty much the entire movie. That's not to say it couldn't have been much better, obviously. I thought there was way too much humor in the climactic fight scene, which, considering Malekith just killed his brother, it should have been much more serious. "True" fans complained about Ragnarok being a comedy, but Ragnarok was always advertised as a comedy. This one seemed to take a sharp left turn into comedy at the worst possible time.

TRAVIS: I sight-read during movies, by reflex, so all the diegetic text being thematically relevant (or, at least, thematically funny) made me way too happy in the theater.

Obviously not Marvel's strongest film, but it was a lot of fun, and a fitting adventure for the characters. -Matthew

JEFF: This movie just didn't click for me. I remember the first time I saw it and feeling underwhelmed, having rewatched it today for this that feeling hasn't changed and is probably only strengthened. I enjoyed Kat Dennings, Rene Russo, and Stellan Skarsgard. Shame Frigga was killed off in this movie instead of Ragnarok, and wish they had a bit more screen time. Eccleston however seems so bland and uninspired in this roll, Hiddleston makes me wish this was a Loki-centric film and Portman seemed annoying at times. There are some cool scenes in this movie, some good action, but overall the Dark Elves were a bad choice to use as the villains. Enchantress probably would have been cooler.

MATTHEW: As much as I loved the first movie, it just wasn't quite fantastic enough for what I wanted from Thor. Just too much powerless Thor.  This movie made up for that. Wild, colorful, way the hell out there adventure.

SAMANTHA: I really love how plot devices sit differently with people — powerless Thor, as far as I could see, was what made him worthy of Mjolnir again. However, I guess that’s what made the first movie feel short, because there just wasn’t enough time for him to be that guy who has to humble himself to realize the responsibility that comes with having the power of Thor and have this truly satisfying return to what he was.

LAMAR: I'm pretty tough on movies with a less than great ending, because if the film doesn't nail the landing it makes me feel like I wasted my time. The way this movie went all goofy at the end made me feel like that, but the post-credits made up for it slightly.

DUY: Darcy and the intern making out out of nowhere, Thor and Malekith doing the slow slide off the window, Thor taking the subway. They're all funny, they're just all in the wrong place.

LAMAR: At least with Malekith it makes sense, considering he's basically an evil cosmic trickster, but yeah the pacing and timing was off with all of those.  But the thing I appreciated most about this movie is they get across how much Thor enjoys using his powers. One of the things that makes him work is that he never takes his powers as some burden, because unlike most of his peers he can actually lose them at the drop of a dime; as vindictive and petty as his pop is he could very well wake up one morning and not be able to lift the hammer, and then have Odin say something like "Oh I forgot to tell you I'm trying some new shit" and walk off like nothing just happened.

DUY: All true too, I love the choreography in just the way Thor uses the hammer. Jumping off the castle and then just waiting for the hammer to come to him, the last hit on Malekith. It's pure joy.

I'm pretty tough on movies with a less than great ending, because if the film doesn't nail the landing it makes me feel like I wasted my time. The way this movie went all goofy at the end made me feel like that. -LaMar

MATT: Waste of a “Doctor” really.  Not terrible but a letdown compared to Avengers and Iron Man 3.

SAMANTHA: What made IRON MAN 3 better than this Thor for you?  If I may ask.

MATT: I liked the Mandarin fake out. I also never read Extremis, so I didn't know what was going on. The second wave of movies, for me, was good, they would've been better if the expectation weren't higher. With the exception of Winter Soldier, they are largely second fiddle to Phase 1 counterparts for me.

DUY: Loki steals the show here, I think, with his limited scenes, although Thor's fight choreography is pretty fun. I think the biggest irony in the entire thing is the fact that Loki leads Malekith into Odin's throne room, so he's actually almost directly responsible for the death of Frigga.

SAMANTHA: Hiddleston got my mark as Loki when I caught myself crushing on him and hating him at the same time. In the first movie, watching him emotionally crumble Thor when he told him their father was dead and he still couldn’t come home had me snarling.

DUY: I'll say this for the scriptwriting: it's economical. There's nothing in it that doesn't need to be in it. Even Jane's date and her ringtone are important plot devices later.

TRAVIS: I love the pure silliness this one indulges in. The intern's intern, the naked raving, awkward dates, and largely anything involving Loki aren't "plot necessary," they aren't action-drama-typical, but they are adorable.

SAMANTHA: Everyone needs a Kat Dennings in their life.  That was totally worth saying.

MATTHEW: The battle scene in Asgard with the dark elf ships was great. Heimdall jumping off the rainbow bridge and tearing open one of them blew me away.

JD: I remember thinking “Wow, a Thor story can go absolutely anywhere it wants to.”  Monsters, space ships, magic, science, humor, grief, super heroics. Thor can do it all and other MCU properties can't do that as well (except Guardians of the Galaxy, I suppose, but they weren't around yet). It may make for odd shifts in tone, but I can forgive that.

MATTHEW: In general, Thor as a character is built like that.

DUY: Very adaptable.  I thought the spaceships were actually out of place though.

BEN: The spaceships tipped it too far into “cosmic space movie” for me.  I know they probably aren’t going to do flying wooden chariots, they did a metal one, but whatever.  It didn’t mesh with my version of the character.

TRAVIS: It got a little too Empire with the ships. Not just sci-fi, but explicitly Empire Strikes Back.

JD: I think the Thor films are secretly cosmic space movies.

DUY: Malekith tends to be the big example for Marvel having underwhelming villains, and I think he's incredibly standard, but I don't think he goes into the "he totally sucks" territory. I would be hard-pressed to think about how to adapt him faithfully into the big screen for a moviegoing audience, since he's basically a cosmic Joker.

SAMANTHA: Malekith seemed secondary to me, Loki was the main antagonist in my mind. Was that not supposed to be the case (going from comic to screen)?

DUY: Well, Loki is the main Thor antagonist, but he’s only in like three scenes in this movie.

BEN: Loki was originally not supposed to be in this movie, but was added because of his increased popularity following the Avengers.

JEFF: Post-credits scene with The Collector, this was the first mention of the Infinity Stones wasn't it?

BEN: Directed by James Gunn.

JEFF: Probably the best scene from this movie, almost as cool as the Nick Fury post-credit in Iron Man.

I remember thinking “wow, a Thor story can go absolutely anywhere it wants to.”  -JD

BEN: Patty Jenkins was originally attached to direct.  She backed out due to creative differences.  Portman was so upset she threatened to leave the project too, but ultimately was under contract.

JEFF: I heard about that, almost wish they had let her (Portman) walk.

TRAVIS: It would have wrecked the already thin spine remaining to the movie.  And, removed most of the cast.

SAMANTHA: I read that Patty was going for “Romeo and Juliet-esque in Space” - how do you think that would have played out? Being that I haven’t read much comic canon in terms of Thor, how far from or close to would that premise have been?

BEN: In the comics, Odin hated Jane.  He regularly punished Thor for loving her.

SAMANTHA: Ok, well I get the whole star-crossed lovers thing, in that case. Maybe Marvel shot it down because there had been no segue into it from the previous movie?

DUY: Elements of it are still there though, right? Odin is really a douche, first he says to Loki that they aren't gods and that he should learn to live with the fact that he's a mortal at the end of the day, and then he tells Thor not to pursue the mortal.

TRAVIS: They need more kissing in these.  Just the Thor cast all kissing each other for a third of the next movie.

SAMANTHA: I forgot they recast Fandral.  Josh Dallas was already contractually obligated to Once Upon a Time at this point.

MATT: The movie felt like Jane was just there to punch Loki in the face, which granted was cathartic. Otherwise, she's just hanging around, making Sif anxious and being a plot device. She'd getting totally Padme'd.

DUY: Both Jane and Sif disappeared in Ragnarok.

MATTHEW: The Dark World really only served to show how unnecessary Jane’s character was to these movies.

DUY: I mean, really, she's Thor's anchor to Earth, the reason he begins to care about it in the first place as anything more than a pet planet. Now he's well attached and he doesn't need her as that device anymore.

MATTHEW: It’s weird, because she’s such a great actress, but she’s the one thing in these movies that didn’t click with me.

DUY: I think she's such a well-known star, and not transformative like RDJ, that it's hard to not see Natalie Portman instead of the character she's actually playing. So it actually works to my advantage that I haven't seen her in much of anything.

ANTONIO: I don’t remember why I didn’t think more highly of this movie the first time around.  Digging the melding of fantasy and space tech.

SAMANTHA: I loved Frigga’s fight scene.  I know it didn’t work out well for her, but she’s badass.  Well deserving of the Viking funeral.

LAMAR:  That funeral scene....visually it's one of the greatest things Marvel has done in their films. When a goddess transitions, it should be a big deal, and everything from the layout to the lighting got that across properly.

SAMANTHA: It wasn’t as long as I remembered, but the funeral was visually stunning.

BEN: Antonio’s funeral description.

SAMANTHA: He’s gonna have to do more than wrestle puppies to get a Viking funeral.

BEN: I meant his tombstone inscription.

SAMANTHA: “It wasn’t as long as I remembered?”

BEN: And “it still seemed like forever.”

SAMANTHA: Aww and Loki’s hologram to hide his anguish?  Total uppercut to the feels.

DUY: Loki really does have his own subplot, and goes quite a way into the theory that he’ll die in Infinity War.

ANTONIO: He’s instrumental in Thanos losing, obviously.

SAMANTHA: Yeah, I definitely feel that coming.  Ragnarok seemed to really build him up as a face so that he can ultimately die a hero’s death.

ANTONIO: Loki dies, Thor gets mad and uses his new Hammer-axe to cut the Infinity Gauntlet from Thanos’ arm, and then Tony uses it to fix everything and die.

SAMANTHA: Is that an official prediction?


SAMANTHA: Watching you, then…

ANTONIO: “See you in hell, monster,” wasn’t a very good Loki line.

SAMANTHA: Shoulda been a perfect indicator that he wasn’t dead.  He wouldn’t have gone out on a bullshit line like that.

I don’t remember why I didn’t think more highly of this movie the first time around. -Antonio

JEFF: They ended the movie with a really cool set up with Loki posing as Odin but then kind of wasted it in Ragnarok by having it ended at the start of the movie, I'm guessing there were big changes in what they had originally planned for third movie. I loved Ragnarok but this seemed like something they had to write themselves out of for that movie.

SAMANTHA: I had completely forgotten about it by the time Ragnarok came around. I feel like you’re right, they were probably going somewhere with it, but ended up scrapping it in favor of the current movie. No complaints here, though!

JEFF: I had forgotten about that too actually, they might have planned to use Jane originally but scrapped it.

SAMANTHA: Does anyone think if Jane’s Thor got a movie (a whole other conversation, I know) they’d cast Natalie? Because I feel like Natalie is one of those actors who excel in supporting roles. Would they have to at this point or would they throw original casting out?

JD: In a post–Infinity War reboot?  Hell yes!  Please and thank you.

DUY: They might want to cast Natalie, but I very strongly doubt Natalie would take it.

SAMANTHA: OK, so, then let’s play ‘Who would you cast?’  Jane Foster’s Thor gets the green light.  Who gets the hammer?

MATT: Hmm, I think Jennifer Lawrence might be good.  Lupita Nyong’o if you realllly want to piss off the neo-nazis (I’m game).  Gwendoline Christie might be good too.

SAMANTHA: Gwendoline Christie (and I feel bad for saying it) frequently slips under my radar!  I’d honestly back any of those ladies – but then, do you think they’d consider Jennifer with her already established as Mystique? – for the role.  I wonder if Vince would start shopping Rousey for something like this.

DUY: It has to be noted that as the comic currently stands, Jane and Thor would have to be played by different people.

SAMANTHA: I can definitely see why, but would Marvel go that route? That’s a lot of money in casting, unless they went with a newcomer for when Jane’s actually Thor?  I’m also kind of rethinking Natalie Portman in that case. Why wouldn’t/couldn’t she do this if it happened?

JD: In my head Serena Williams was supposed to be Wonder Woman.  Maybe she can be Thor Jane now?

BEN: Having played Mystique wouldn’t be a problem.  At least it hasn’t been for Michael B. Jordan or Chris Evans previously.

SAMANTHA: Good point!  I mean, J-Law *is* in everything, and I was just reading that Natalie was kind of problematic for Marvel, so… yes! Let’s do Serena Williams!

MATTHEW: I love how they consistently and solidly establish that Thor is their big gun.  He goes head-to-head with somebody wielding an Infinity stone and walks away victorious.

ANTONIO: Team effort!

DUY: “The Aether cannot be destroyed.”  “No, but you can…” at which point Mjolnir returns to kill Malekith is such a badass moment.  If only the entire last fight wasn’t randomly a comedy.

BEN: Who wins the award for best supporting actor?

MATTHEW: Is that even a question at this point?

JD: Rene Russo?

MATT: Here’s a curve, the Warriors Three.

BEN: Who wins the “Val Kilmer in Tombstone” award for the most dominating performance?

SAMANTHA: Is it not Hiddleston?

DUY: Hiddleston steals every scene he’s in even though he’s barely in it.  So him.


DUY: Comic recommendations for Dark World? I'm gonna go with the obvious and say Simonson's run which introduces the Dark Elf. But I'll also go with Jason Aaron's run, which has Thor doubting himself as a god and Malekith as a cunning political leader.

MATTHEW: Astonishing Thor... not so much in the sense of being like the movie, but it's just a great big, otherworldly story with Thor handling stuff that no other hero can. It does deal with Ego and The Collector though, which is a nice tie-in with the Guardians of the Galaxy movies. Jurgens wrote a really good story with Malekith and Kurse.

TRAVIS: Thor: Vikings. Iron Man/Thor: God Complex. And, in terms of tone, Conspiracy and DeConnick's Captain Marvel run.

DUY: For Sif badassery, I can't recommend enough Kathryn Immonen and Valerio Schiti's Journey Into Mystery run, which really showed she can carry stories on her own. The Warriors Three have a cool Marvel Fanfare story written by Alan Zelenetz and drawn by Charles Vess, and then a cool Marvel Spotlight by Gerry Conway and John Buscema. Both are collected in a Warriors Three premiere collection. Finally for Loki, I recommend the Agent of Asgard series, which really showed off his manipulative skills.

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