Preface: As promised last year, I plan to review every single currently available movie in what is known as the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) over the year 2024. These will appear in order of their release over that time period. This is the eighth installment. (Oh, and by the way, after I've exhausted all of the currently available MCU movies I will be rounding out the year with some of the other available movies made from the Marvel comics pantheon.)
Notes: In each of the MCU installments you will be seeing references to two recurring events that occur in nearly every MCU movie.
Where is Stan Lee?: Stan Lee was the driving genius behind Marvel Comics. He usually shows up in a cameo. Sometimes these are so quick you gotta be sure you don't blink. Occasionally he gets a line of dialogue.
And the Credits Roll: You should always stay in the theater for the credits when watching a MCU movie, because during the credits and at the end there is a teaser (or two) that is worth the wait. Often they were a teaser for the next installment of the films.
The director of the first Thor film, Kenneth Branagh, was interviewed prior to the release of The Avengers, after a comment by Marvel Studios prez Kevin Feige that Thor would go off on a new adventure. He basically said he didn't see it happening. Whether that influenced the future of the franchise or not, it did probably influence the fact that Branagh was not brought on board to direct the new Thor film. (I mean, after all, who needs such negativity...?)
The cast of the new film, as previously stated in this series, however, were on board. Which means we got Chris Hemsworth in his starring role as well as Natalie Portman coming back as Jane, his human girlfriend, and of course Tom Hiddleston as the nefarious Loki. Plus Anthony Hopkins and Rene Russo returned as Odin and Frigga, king and queen of Asgard, respectively.
Thor: The Dark World (2013):
In the pre-history of the realms there was a great battle for control of the realms between the warriors of Asgard and the dark elves led by Malekith. (Christopher Eccleston) Although Malekith tried to unleash the dark force of the source called the Aether, he and his minions were defeated and the Asgardiands, led by King Bor, the father of Odin took possession of the Aether. But they could not destroy and so, instead, chose to bury it where "no one could find it". (Good luck with that... Never underestimate the power of the Dark Side... whoops, wrong movie...)
Flash forward to present day. Dr. Jane Foster along with her crew have discovered a portal that seemingly connects worlds. Objects dropped into the portal seem to disappear, only to appear again. During these experiments Jane gets drawn into the portal where she is infected with the Aether and it becomes a part of her. (Told you...)
There is a new twist on the horizon. It seems that every 5000 years there is something called a Convergence, a force that aligns the Nine Realms and opens up the possibility of causing some bad things to happen. And it reawakens the dormant Malekith who uses the convergence to try to regain access to the Aether which he believes belongs to his people, the Dark Elves. And since the Aether is now in the possession of Jane (or vice versa...), Malekith invades Asgard in an attempt to regain it.
In the process he kills Frigga. (Not his best decision. This is not going to go well... ) So Thor, along with his half brother Loki, who had been imprisoned for his malfeasance in the quest to let the enemies take over the realms in the previous adventure (see The Avengers) gather to prevent Malekith from success in subjugating the realms under control of Evil.
Where is Stan Lee?: Back on Earth, Dr. Selvig, who has been having a little trouble holding on to a grasp of reality has been confined to a mental institution. He is delivering a lecture on the Convergence using a pair of shoes as helpful illustration. After he ends his lecture he asks if the are any questions. Stan is one of the inmates ad says "Yes, Can I have my shoe back?"
When Thor and Loki appear on Malekith's home world, Loki appears to have betrayed Thor in favor of his new ally Malekith. He asks Malekith for a good seat to watch the destruction of Asgard, But in the end, Loki's betrayal of Thor turns out to be a ruse to get Malekith to let his guard down. Only during the ensuing battle. Loki is apparently killed. (But, that is not a spoiler alert because we all know Loki is not so easily defeated, (Although we won't find out that until the end of the film. However, if you are aware of the future entries, you already knew that... Kind of like killing off James Bond in a Bond film... of course he isn't really dead...)
A the Convergence becomes more and more imminent, Thor and Malekith end up having to battle across the realms. The Convergence allows them to slip easily between the worlds. Ultimately, of course, Thor wins the day as Malekith is defeated.
And the Credits Roll: As a squad of Asgardians take the Aether to the home world of a character referred to as The Collector, they tell him that since the Tesseract is on Asgard, it would not be a good idea that two Infinity Stones be located on the same world. And thus the seeds of the massing of the the stones is implanted as, just as the scene ends the Collector says "One down. Five to go."
It is a mystery why Thor: The Dark World ended up doing so poorly. Most lists I have seeen rank it at the bottom of the MCU pantheon. Is it really all that bad? I don't think so. The action comes a lot more frequently in it, which makes it a better movie than some. Although the Convergence never quite makes the impact that the writers probably hoped,
The fact that it garnered a few nominations but failed to win any awards across the realms of critics probably is indicative of it's poor reception. Some of those nominations even were probably due to the limited options of availability of eligible material. (After all, only four movies were in the running for Saturn Awards for Best Comic Book to Film.) Tom Hiddleston still manages to make any appearance of Loki shine, whether the rest of the cast makes any effort at all.
Well folks, the curtain falls for this endeavor. Time to roll. Drive safely