I’m so glad that I didn’t watch this in a cinema, because they would have kicked me out 🙂 Watching Thor: The Dark World for the first time
a couple of days several weeks about a month ago (er, yes, apologies, and this is the one where I gripe, so you can skip it if you don’t want to read that), I was struck by an inexplicable urge to laugh. Especially in the first act of the film.
Thor has always been an outlier in the Avengers; neither enhanced by science in some way, nor gifted with a preternatural ability which has been transformed into a weapon, he is a literal god. Asgard, with Yggdrasil and the nine realms, is vastly different from the rest of MCU and its distinctly recognisable, human, heroes. I suspect that the purpose of the upcoming film Guardians of the Galaxy is to expand upon the notion of other worlds, other cosmos, and will act as another way of integrating the two distinct sensibilities of the futuristic and the mythical together. In saying that, however, when setting the foundations of Asgard in Thor, director Kenneth Branagh cleverly made the decision to humanise his gods; creating a scenario not unlike Greek mythology, wherein gods are sometimes foolish and scandalous, just like human beings. Marvel has expanded on this in Thor: The Dark World, imparting new knowledge, including the fact that these so-called immortals can, and do, die.
When I first heard the subject matter of Thor: The Dark World was ‘dark elves’, I thought “uh oh”… because I have read Lord of the Rings, I have read The Silmarillion, I have read about Lord of the Rings through (some of) the History of Middle Earth series, and I have watched the films. And while the LOTR trilogy does not encompass the development of Middle Earth and the separation of the different strands of elves, it was still structured upon this knowledge, and directly adapted from J.R.R. Tolkien’s works, which are heavily reliant upon Norse mythology. Thus, to use characters such as the ‘dark elves’, when there is already such a strong visual trend which has remained ever since the LOTR trilogy was screened, and which continues in The Hobbit trilogy, was somewhat of a risk, in my opinion. I was prepared for some similarities, I figured that they wouldn’t matter too much in the main scheme of things. However, I was still apprehensive.
And rightly so. Not only did the ‘dark elves’ of Thor look similar to the elves of Lord of the Rings (with their cybermen masks off, that is), they also spoke in the same-sounding Elvish tongue, which was subtitled, as in LOTR and The Hobbit, and used script which, again, was very similar to the script which Tolkien invented. I was expecting a magnificent villain; the dark elves depicted as having been denied the right to rule by the Aesir, and now dispossessed and living in darkness while they waited for the right time to strike back and reclaim their homeland. This could have been nurtured some wonderful ambiguity and caused a degree of sympathy for them. There was not. Additionally, the dark elves were not fleshed out in the least. This is something which I could have passed off without more than a slight pause, usually – after all, elves do tend to be quite static in their various interpretations over the years. However, in combination with their other deficiencies, it simply emphasised an overall lack of depth. I thought I would be watching something with a vaguely original premise and realistic characters, rather than flexible cybermen. I was hoping for rich detail and history and a culture. At the very least, I was expecting a convincing performance from Christopher Eccleston as Malekith.
I was to be disappointed. The entirety of the dark elves component of the film was pushed to the background – I’ve heard that several Christopher Eccleston scenes were cut out of the final film product, and thus reduced the audience’s knowledge of the dark elves and their engagement with them. They were simply two-dimensional fighters who existed to only to put Asgard at risk and fight some battles in a way that would reunite Thor with Jane Foster. What’s more, the plot was ridiculous. Hello, LOTR, anyone? Did the first 20 minutes not ring a bell for you? For me, it was like watching the start of Fellowship of the Ring all over again – there is a voice-over, there is a battle epic in scope as the fate of the world is decided, there is a Macguffin (which possesses people and corrupts them just like the One Ring, and moreover, is not as pretty), there is the victory at a great cost, there is the question of what to do with the Macguffin, and the answer “we must bury it where no one will ever find it!” (I told the screen to throw it in Mount Doom, but apparently they didn’t hear me). Then there is the inevitable, oh, oops, our plan didn’t work, here it is again (very conveniently) for Jane to encounter. Overall, the first part was unexciting and felt rather unoriginal. And then, times passed …. and we were thrust into a Star Trek fusion! I swear, that was really what I thought! Star Trek: Into Darkness just popped into my head, with Khan and the last of his race on this spaceship, except here they were all alive wanting vengeance. There were several other moments where I was unexpectedly thrust into what seemed to be another movie. For example, I was vividly reminded of Stardust when all the windows were blown out, where I felt it had been used to a greater effect and was more dramatic, because it was the first time I’d seen it happen.
To sum things up, I agree with what critics have said – Thor: The Dark World was a very unbalanced film. There were parts that I liked (and I shall talk about them in due course), but the aforementioned were not those.
What did you think about the villains of Thor: The Dark World? Do you agree that the opening sequence lacked originality, or are you all bristling in defense of the director, Alan Taylor?
Do let me know!
Let’s call me Lily