#22 in my Ranking of The MCU Phases 1-3.
They took all that was good of Thor, sapped all of the color out of it, clothed it in darkness, and grounded it in a more recognizable reality. That process made it so much more boring.
Gone are the operatic tones and performances. Gone are scenes of father and son yelling at each other over big things in large sets with bright colors. Instead we get father and son arguing under their breaths about things in dark rooms with “realistic” performances. It’s such a drab drag of a film.
First we get a prologue about the Dark Elves who fought Asgardians five thousand years before when the Dark Elves tried to put the entire universe into darkness. They, of course, failed, and will surely never be mentioned again. Just ahead 5,000 years, and it’s two years after Thor had visited Earth, and some undetermined amount of time after Thor had his little adventure in New York, the nine realms have been thrown into chaos and Thor helps to tamp down on rebellions and plunderings. Thor has succeeded enough that now there is talk of him returning to Earth for the first time since the last time he went to Earth and didn’t see his sort of girlfriend Jane Foster.
Jane Foster, in order to justify her mere presence in the movie, falls into a random hole that takes her directly to where the aether is, the mystical substance that was going to darken the universe at the hands of the Dark Elves five thousand years prior. The aether inhabits her and sends her back to Earth. It is unclear if this was a random occurrence or if the aether is somehow intelligent with agency (I’m leaning towards random since the aether does nothing else on its own in the film). Thor takes her back to Asgard where the Asgardians are amazed by the aether’s presence but have no idea what to do. The only one who knows what to do are the Dark Elves (Surprise! They’re back!), who have been in hibernation for the past five thousand years and wake up that very day. Probably because they have some sort of aether detecting peace of fantasy tech that can detect the substance across vast distances instantaneously. Or, they came out of hibernation a couple of days before the event from five thousand years before is going to repeat. Or something. The Dark Elves and their motives are really unclear.
I’m sorry. This movie was tough to sit through. It’s garbage from beginning to end. The plot doesn’t matter because it makes no sense. Much like Iron Man 2, I was left constantly asking myself as I watched, “What is the story of this movie?” I mean, what’s Thor’s emotional journey in this? It seems like it’s actually about his relationship with Loki, but Loki disappears for more than an hour, having nothing to do with the movie at all for almost two-thirds of the film’s runtime. The Dark Elf plot feels like a serial adventure while the stuff with Loki (which was added late in the process after people loved him in The Avengers) is the actual meat of the emotional journey. It’s a rather stark juxtaposition. But even then, the “meat” is given almost no real time to develop before Loki “dies” again and we’re off to the film’s climax.
Now, I’m not one to nitpick things not conforming to reality, or even to a film’s own established rules on smaller things. My focus is on character and theme. If those things are going well, I tend to be more forgiving of stupid nonsense. However, when the basic tenets of storytelling are being shredded through sheer incompetence, these bits of idiocy bug me more and more. For instance, the portals that seem to follow no rules whatsoever and become so important late in the movie. Well, they don’t follow any discernable logic. I think that’s the point, but when fights to the death turn based on this randomness, it doesn’t feel like randomness, it feels like a screenwriter trying to be clever while also giving his characters easy outs of tough situations.
This makes me kind of sad. Thor was one of the bright spots of Phase 1, and Thor: The Dark World is probably the worst movie of the franchise.