Thor: The Dark World – The Good, the Bad, and the Fascinating

SPOILER ALERT. Do not pass go if you haven’t seen this film yet and do not want spoilers. If you have seen it or don’t care about spoilers, welcome.

The Good

1. Brotherly Bonds

Thor and Loki stand side by side on Svartalfheim in Thor: The Dark World
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Thor and Loki are thrown into an uneasy alliance and mutual quest for vengeance after the loss of a loved one, and their brotherly banter and shared angst over their messy past sustains this film for a good 30 minutes. I love seeing them work together, even if Loki plays Thor and plays Thor hard toward the end of their little truce. He wouldn’t be Loki if he didn’t manipulate Thor and the others around him in some way. But their dynamic pulls you in and makes you wish for more once their time together ends. Maybe we’ll see more in Thor 3?

2. Dark Elves

Malekith and Algrim stand side by side on Svartalfheim in Thor: The Dark World.
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With so much going on in the film, Malekith was not as developed a villain as he could have been. Still, I found myself rooting for him more than a little. Granted, that reaction partly derives from my distaste for Odin. But, it really comes down to the “brothers in arms” dynamic between Malekith and Algrim. They deeply care for and respect each other as comrades, and again, I wish we’d seen more of their interactions before Algrim became Kurse and summarily stopped speaking. On a shallower note, I adore the Dark Elves’ aesthetic and their creepy, expressionless battle masks.

Dark Elves stand ready for battle in Thor: The Dark World.
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3. Everyone’s a Badass!

Nearly everyone got their moment to show why they’re bad mutha-you-know-whats. Frigga used a stolen sword from a palace guard to hand Malekith and a few other elves their asses. Heimdall took down an entire space ship with a couple of daggers, a sword, and a well-timed jump. The Warriors Three (minus Hogun) and Sif dispatched handfuls of warriors on their own. Even Loki took out a group of attackers with nothing more than a dagger. While Jane, Darcy, and Dr. Selvig didn’t do much sword fighting, they created the tech that ultimately saved the earth from destruction. Badass!

The Bad

1. Rampant Ableism

In this film, Dr. Eric Selvig still deals with the aftermath of Loki hijacking his brain, and the writers went all in invoking the trope of the stereotypical, mentally ill, unwashed vagrant. What’s more, the film relentlessly played that one note, ableist joke over and over again. Selvig’s mental health issues are framed as pure comic relief. We’re supposed to laugh at his residual mental health issues. We’re supposed to laugh at the sheer amount of medication he takes to function daily. We’re supposed to laugh about him behaving like he’s drunk and not quite right. I did not laugh.

2. Oh, the Sexism

While Frigga got to be a total badass, she was ultimately fridged to facilitate the reconciliation between Thor and Loki and to fuel their epic quest. The powers that be also had no idea what to do with Jane for most of the film after settling on her needing protection from Thor & Co. She quite literally spent a good 30 minutes of the film lying down, out of the frame while Thor, Loki, and the menfolk actually did things. As a side note, I’m so very good on Sif and Jane having any friction over Thor. Can we not, movie?

3. The Racism

The powers that be couldn’t have written Hogun out of the film more gracelessly if they tried. He shows up on screen for a hot minute before Thor, literally and actually, tells him to stay off-world. That’s the last we see of him besides a two second shot of him observing all the action. I’m also not very happy with Algrim/Kurse sacrificing himself in service of whiteness and ultimately becoming a monster and with Kurse being the one to kill Frigga. I’m about done with the imagery of hyper violent, monstrous, black men menacing white women, thank you very much.

The Fascinating

1. (Post) Colonial Critique

J. Michael Straczynski has explicitly discussed the themes of imperialism, colonialism, genocide, and oppression he invoked in the first Thor film. In fact, he revealed at a recent convention that, given his way, he would’ve delved more deeply into those themes regarding the relationship between Asgard and Jotunheim. Those themes (accidentally, I believe) carried over into this film. It’s easy to see a parallel to world history as the mostly white Asgardians subjugate the monstrous Jotuns and the “dark” Elves. I hear Odin’s version of events, and I wonder if the Asgardians are truly heroes or work as an imperializing force throughout the nine realms.

2. Allegorical People of Color

I’m actually really over the alien, seemingly villainous creatures used as stand-ins for oppressed peoples and specifically people of color given the imperialist narrative. I’m over the idea that these are the bodies with whom I’m meant to identify given the rarity of people of color in these films. Rarer still do we see people of color as lead characters. Still, I do identify with Malekith, Laufey, and Loki (in the first film) because their stories echo my own.

3. All the Genres!

This film blended science fiction and historical fantasy together in ways I’ve not seen before. The first film set out the same sort of genre buffet, but you ain’t seen nothing until you’ve seen warriors fighting against each other with broadswords and laser guns in the same scene. We also witness more than a few space ship battles and more jumping into dimensional portals than you can shake a stick at. My roomie actually leaned over to me during the film and said, “This is a little more sci-fi than I anticipated.” For what it’s worth, I thought they blended genres believably.

Readers, what did you think of the film?

By Marena

Marena recently earned her Master of Arts degree in Social Justice & Human Rights & primarily explores social justice issues in the production & consumption of popular mass media. You may find her creating fanworks, testing her hand-eye coordination with beadweaving, flailing over her fictional faves, reading everything from fanfic to theory texts, or watching low budget sci-fi. You can find her writing on Marena ni yukyats.

2 replies on “Thor: The Dark World – The Good, the Bad, and the Fascinating”

I liked it, a lot. Maybe even more than the entirety of Thor 1 because the tempo was higher and everything clicked a little bit together. I agree with you on Malekith being a sloppy, no background villain and when I heard that it was most of his scenes that ended up on the floor ..disappointing. As I told my boyfriend: he wants to keep things the way they are and this makes him the most Villain of Villains? (okay, he should keep it to just his own planet, but still).

I’m still flabbergasted with how little Jane does (she’s a bloody scientist why isn’t she DISCOVERING everything) and may wrote a frustrated little piece of fanfic about it. I also still don’t believe in her and Thor being star-crossed lovers because all of it is so blah.

Hogun and Frigga were painfully obvious and could have easily been fixed. Put one of the dark elves battles on his world and let us see him ride first into battle. Frigga used another hallucination and is struck but alive (just like Loki does, numerous times). Tadaa, easy as abc.

I liked it better than the first Thor in a lot of ways too, at least in terms of pacing. I also tend not to enjoy the “fish out of water” schtick, and there was a lot of that in the first film.

I agree; Malekith was very underdeveloped, and I’m hoping we’ll get some of the deleted scenes in a blu-ray release. But, his whole arc would’ve been helped by keeping those scenes in the film even if it ran a little longer or meant moving around some other things. I really liked him from what little we got, but he was ultimately not the Big Bad I craved.

YES to Jane having so little do to! Jane is an astrophysicist in the MCU; she couldn’t have helped pilot the ship? Or fudge around with Asgardian technology or…anything but being sidelined for a good chunk of the film. I mean, she was able to do SOME things at the very beginning and very end, but even then it was so little relative to many of the others. And, yeah. I mean, I bought them a little more this film than last film, but I really and truly do not give even kind of a crap about their love story. It just doesn’t…click for me for whatever reason.

And, BOOM, you just fixed what the writers did with Hogun and Frigga and made the film much less racist and sexist in two sentences. Sigh. I spent a good chunk of the film saying to myself and my roomie, “I will never forgive the writers for this.”

But, yeah, overall I enjoyed it and will likely purchase it when it hits the shelves. I want a ton of special features!

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