Of all the movie super heroes, Thor was the one I was least familiar with before his first movie came out in 2011. At first glance, the comic book Thor looked like the hardest to adapt to the screen. In a genre of goofy costumes, his is by far one of the goofiest. His whole Norse God origins make him seem out of place in the Marvel world built on scientific geniuses, science experiment mistakes and characters like Spiderman, The Hulk and Iron Man. Everything about the character seemed to be everything that makes people dismiss the entire genre.
Then I watched the first movie and everything about it was done right. Enough of a wink to the camera to let us know that director Kenneth Brenagh, and his cast, all knew they were making something kind of goofy, but they weren’t gonna half ass it. The fish out of water angle with Thor coming to Earth for the first time was the perfect excuse to openly joke about his character’s goofiness, while still making him a part of this world, ready for the massive Avengers movie that would come the following year. So was everything I liked about Thor based on its exceeding my very low expectations? Would Thor: The Dark World be a disappointing sophomore slump, or prove that this is a legitimately entertaining character, strong enough to carry his own franchise?
After the events of The Avengers, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is back in crazy space world, kicking ass and cleaning up the mess left buy his adopted brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston), who is now in a dungeon, deep below Asgard, the home of Thor, Loki, their dad Odin (Anthony Hopkins), and mum, Frigga (Rene Russo). But even the sweet taste of ass kicking won’t help Thor forget Natalie Portman’s Jane, the hot piece of tail he tapped in the first Thor movie, then had to leave behind, until a love interest was needed for this sequel.
Long ago, before the beginning of time, there were some dark elves who had some bullshit. The bullshit is actually called the Aether, but it’s such a cookie cutter, clichéd and standard comic book movie item of desire McGuffin, that they might as well have just called it ‘some bullshit’ and moved on, instead of wasting the four to six minutes it took for the writers to come up with ‘The Aether’.
After one hell of a coincidence, Jane is possessed by the Aether and Thor needs to release Loki from prison so they can form an uneasy alliance to take on the dark elves who are back, dark elvier than ever.
Tom Hiddleston’s Loki continues to be the most resilient comic book movie bad guy since Ian McKellen as Magneto in the X-Men franchise. Which is an interesting comparison, because it proves something more comic book moves need to learn. You don’t have to kill your villain at the end of every movie. Sure, McKellen and Hiddleston’s crowd pleasing performances are probably the main reason they get to come back again and again, but it’s also the characters they play.
If the good guy gets to win without killing the villain, it means you can build on these major characters and the increasingly interesting relationships between them and their nemeses. If not, you get something like Spiderman or Batman, where you need to reboot the entire franchise every few movies because they keep blowing their bad guy load in two or three movies.
Whether it’s the kind of piecemeal, hodge podge of the ever growing X-Men series, or the meticulous studio calculation and corporately synergised machine of the Avengers world, I think both series prove that playing long game makes for more interesting movies. And more than that, they’re just fun. Batman and Spiderman can have all the dark and tragic back stories they want, but when I’m watching a movie about cheesy super heroes, give me the goofy fun of Iron Man, Captain America, The Avengers and Thor any day.