With the release of Avengers: Endgame, one unexpected Marvel movie has come back around for discussion. One that a whole of people probably weren’t expecting to be all that important in the grand scheme of things. I am, of course, talking about the second Thor movie - a film which received solid reception on release, but has since diminished in its reputation.
In turn, this has enabled a whole host of jokes about how the collective Marvel fandom having to once again think about what is considered one of the weaker entries in the franchise. One whose role with a particular Infinity Stone/MacGuffin necessitated insertion into the fourth Avengers film.
And while Chris Hemsworth himself has reportedly expressed discontent with the film, as well as the characterization for Thor (signaling the shift for the mini-franchise and character from Ragnarok on) I’m still going to express some disagreement. I’ll even go so far as to say, I genuinely don’t understand the hate. I think Thor: The Dark World is a pretty great film.
Much of it may be a matter of personal preference. While Hemsworth has undeniable, natural comedic talent, there was still something to the more serious Thor. One that didn’t need the silliness of circumstance in order to make him an interesting character. Who had a strong sense of nobility, whose anger and arrogance, and needed lessons about humility, were the kind of factors that played well into his role as the God of Thunder.
As for the film itself, I wonder if it’s also just this weird matter of reputation. Where the consensus starts to latch onto a specific perceptive about a film and gradually people just follow suit. Kind of like Return of the Jedi. A film that is nowhere near as terrible as the masses like to believe. (Quite the opposite, in fact.)
Sure, it does have a bit too much of Marvel’s fingerprints all over it. But it’s hardly the only Marvel film with this problem. Age of Ultron and Iron Man 2 feel like films about directors warring with the studios producing them. (And both of which saw their directors depart after release.) Dr. Strange was a visual feast that was otherwise largely forgettable beside the needed foundation it lay for more important films to come. And Captain Marvel might just be the most Marvel of Marvel films, to the point that it barely has an identity of its own.
And make no mistake, The Dark World is a fun film – something that can be hit and miss across the MCU, in part because it’s not always successful, and in part because it’s sometimes misplaced. The Dark World has a genuinely charming cast, with a support system that I would argue is one of the best in the MCU. Stellan Skarsgaard’s Erik Selvig, Jaimie Alexander’s Lady Sif, Kat Dennings’s Darcy Lewis. All of these are genuinely great characters that, unfortunately, got dropped by the wayside as the mini-franchise chose to focus its sights elsewhere.
It’s also just about Tom Hiddleston at his best (well, okay, Ragnarok Loki is pretty great too). Off the megalomaniacal high of Avengers, facing down the consequences of his actions, the true anti-hero God of Mischief really starts to emerge. One who feels no remorse for his attempted conquest of Earth, still verbally spars with his much-hated (but-oh-please-won’t-you-just-give-me-your-approval) father, and genuinely mourns the death of his mother. One who easily acts as Thor’s ally during the second act, highlighting the sibling competition between brothers, and leads a fakeout in the face of Christopher Eccleston’s antagonist that shows he really can play nice with the good guys when he chooses.
Any number of criticisms you can give to the film can be given to many films in the MCU. There’s a climactic battle somewhere on Earth that turns into a bit of a mindless, CG-driven affair. The villain’s motives remain muddled, and his entire character underdeveloped. There’s a giant hole in the sky and people running around shouting technobabble. These are part of parcel of the MCU, for good or ill.
This is also a film that has no less than four female characters (by compare, later films like of Ant-man and Dr. Strange could barely even muster up one). Not to mention the first relationship between two women in the MCU (which originates in the first Thor). It lets Jane Foster be a bit of a reckless dork. It lets Kat Dennings show her stuff as one of the most grounded (and snarky) humans in a world of gods and superheroes. It sees Thor’s mother Frigga kick Christopher Eccloston’s ass. And it includes a sequence where Thor shoves his brother Loki out of a moving vehicle. Because sometimes that really is the best way to deal with a sibling when they’re annoying you.
So yes, I think this film is underrated, and nowhere near as bad as the masses would like to believe. Even if it doesn’t necessarily rank high in the MCU pantheon, it’s still a pretty great comic book flick all the same.