So… We’re now solidly in Phase 2 of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe. Following Iron Man 3 (which I wasn’t really that great a fan of) comes Thor 2: The Dark World. Personally, I think Thor 2 made up for any faults I had with IM3 – this movie was brilliant. Not perfect – no movie is – but still brilliant. Ok, well actually there probably are a few perfect movies… Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal, all 3 Lord of the Rings. But they’re rare. Thor 2 has been out for a few weeks now, so I won’t worry too much about spoilers in this review. Consider yourself warned if you haven’t seen it.
As I understand it, Thor 2 picks up between Avengers & Iron Man 3, so it’s somewhere in that 6-month period and almost two years after the first Thor film. The plot is actually pretty complex – they crammed a lot in this one movie, which is a good thing. I usually write up the plot in these reviews, but this time I’ll be lazy and just link to the Wikipedia page for the movie:
Okay, now for what I thought and all those juicy spoilers I promised. Last chance if you haven’t seen the movie and wanna see it spoiler-free, otherwise keep reading.
The Plot / Continuity / Differences
So essentially the plot is Jane Foster gets possessed by evil red energy, bad guys want the energy, Thor has to protect then rescue Jane from said bad guys and needs Loki’s help. There, that’s out of the way. The plot in itself doesn’t come from the comics, but it does borrow elements from several different storylines. As such, it’s kind of difficult to compare the plot to the comic like I did with the original or Captain America: The First Avenger. Instead, I’ll just jump into a list of differences that long-time Thor fans will notice throughout the movie. Keep in mind that unlike other Marvel movies so far, Thor seems to use primarily the 616 universe as inspiration instead of the Ultimate version.
- The Dark Elves : the history of the Dark Elves as well as their overall look are different from the comics. The CU elves actually made me think of the 616 Skrull, just with dark gray skin instead of green. Here the elves use advanced technology rather than magic, and Malekith’s magical abilities, which in the comics are his primary weapons, as well as his relationship with other villains – most notably Surtur – are not used. There is also no mention of their vulnerability to iron, which admittedly could have been a real boon during the final fight of the film.
- Kurse : One of the few guys who has actually defeated Thor in combat, the Dark Elf Kurse is a major character in the movie. Here, he is Malekith’s loyal henchman wherein the comics he wasn’t particularly loyal to Malekith at all. In the comics, Algrim the Strong was a champion among Dark Elves, who was tricked into attacking Thor by Malekith. He was later turned into the hulkish monster Kurse by a cosmic being called The Beyonder. In Thor 2 he instead volunteers to be infused with the Aether (that red energy), which is apparently a one-way-ticket the Dark Elf berserkers (called Kursed) did in battle to become stronger warriors. Again, no magic is apparent (in the comics Kurse’s magical abilities were increased along with his strength) – he is basically on the same level strength-wise as Thor, maybe just a bit stronger. In the comics, Kurse eventually became a good guy, but in the movie he is killed by Loki.
- Frigga : Odin’s wife gets a lot more screen time in Thor 2, but her actual character or abilities isn’t expanded on much. In the comics, Frigga has some major magical abilities and is nearly as powerful as Odin. Sticking with the more grounded approach in the movies, Frigga has no noticeable magic although she does use hologram technology (?) to trick Malekith. She also holds her own against Malekith in a sword fight until Kurse intervenes. Unlike in the comics, where Frigga was around to the end, here she is killed by Kurse. This event is then used as the motivation for Loki to help Thor, since otherwise Loki would have had little reason to.
- The Humans : Jane Foster is so far off from the comics, there’s not much point to discussing it. She’s still an astrophysicist in this one and hasn’t switched to a medical career yet. In fact, her work is what kick-starts the crisis, so I guess it works. The Jane of the comics is a tough woman, however, and they may have tried to insert that element when she stands up to Odin at one point.
Acting / Costumes / Special Effects
The acting, costumes, & eye candy were all on par for what you’d expect from a Marvel blockbuster. My one beef about the acting would be the interaction between Darcy and her new intern Ian. The two bicker a lot and then suddenly start sucking face after he saves her life near the end. For me, there was no chemistry between the two, and Ian just seemed like a superfluous extra guy played by some unknown English guy. Darcy’s lines weren’t as good this time around, since her comedy bits usually relied on the interaction between the two. Chris Evans had a brief cameo as Captain America when Loki turned into him, and his mannerisms were very Loki-ish.
We visit several other realms this time around, and all of them look fantastic. Numerous non-human denizens of the Realms are seen during the battle in Vanaheim near the beginning, and all of them look great as well. We even get to see a rock giant, which is the big guy that Thor smashes into pieces in the trailer. Hulk fans may know these guys as the Kronan, which is what Korg was in Planet Hulk.
What to watch for as a Marvel fan
There were TONS of cameos and references in this movie for other Marvel characters. Here is a brief list of the ones I caught and/or can remember at the moment:
- The battle on Vanaheim is full of eye candy & cameos. The combatants include dwarves, trolls, demons, and I’d even swear I saw a wolf-man in there too. The aforementioned rock giant may have just been a generic rock creature, but I’m betting it was actually a Kronan like Korg in Planet Hulk. Either way, this is definitely a pause-worthy bunch of scenes when it comes out on DVD.
- Odin’s crows finally make an appearance, circling through Asgard as they head back to the palace.
- When Eric Selvig is writing all the whiz-bang science on the chalkboard, you can see a reference to a universe called 616. This is the official name for the mainstream Marvel continuity.
- When Odin is explaining to Jane about the Aether, he tells her that it is one of six powerful “stones”. This is, of course, a reference to the Infinity Gems of the comics, which can be put together into the Infinity Gauntlet to give a its wearer almost limitless power. The gauntlet itself can be seen in the first Thor movie when the frost giants break into Odin’s vault near the beginning – it’s the golden gauntlet sitting on one of the pedestals (The Eye of Agamotto from Dr. Strange is also on a pedestal there, in case you’re interested).
- When the portals are opening towards the end, one leads to a fiery, volcanic realm. This is the realm of the demons and home to Surtur, a major villain in the comics.
- The ice monster from the first movie makes a return, although obviously it’s not the same one. When a portal to Jotunheim opens, he leaps out and causes havoc. Not really an easter egg since it’s a prominent scene, but still a fun nod to the first movie.
- This Marvel movie has TWO credit scenes – one in the middle and then one after. The mid-credits scene shows Sif & Volstagg delivering the Aether container to a wierd white-haired guy surrounded by alien stuff. Fans will know this guy as The Collector, one of the universe’s oldest living beings whose obsession is collecting (and protecting) rare items. The scene also makes references to the fact that the Power Gems (stones) shouldn’t be kept together, which in the comics was an edict put into effect after the whole Infinity Gauntlet fiasco with Thanos happened. After recieving it, the Collector even says to his assistant “Two down, four to go.” or something to that effect. There are numerous easter eggs seen in the guy’s collection, but the scene itself is a reference to the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy movie.
- The final end-credits scene is more comedic than anything, but it shows the Jotunheim monster playing in the park. I’d say it’s a dog reference. or maybe cat.