“Thor: The Dark World” – Marvel’s CBM Crossroad

11 Nov

Thor: The Dark World, (or TTDW) is pleasing to most Comic book movie fan audiences. If you are keeping up with the CBM’s, you probably like Marvel entertainments crop of recent films. If you’re viewing is more incidental than committed then you may be solely be keeping up with general developments in contemporary action-adventure films. Marvel has a range of films characters and properties at other studios, and their main competition DC Comics hasn’t produced enough films to really stand out as a consistent challenger.  Still the recent “Dark Knight” trilogy and “Man of Steel” box office are raising expectations.  Making excellent use of CGI technology and production craft, clearly fan appreciation rivals the kind of fan reception that used to accompany Westerns in the mid 20th century.  If you think that means all things are rosy in comic book movie genre, despite some impressive consistencies in story telling, we want to encourage a more critical reception. Without venturing into spoiler territory, we will explore what we’re getting in these movies.

Marvel defines “Thor: The Dark World” this way:

 Faced with an enemy that even Odin and Asgard cannot withstand, Thor must embark on his most perilous and personal journey yet, one that will reunite him with Jane Foster and force him to sacrifice everything to save us all.” [1}  

 Across the board, critical reception seems to approve of the pacing, the humor, and depth of narrative complexity despite some questions about the “lightness” of its tone and content.  This is an odd criticism of a film that is supposed to be noted for its “darkness.” But what does this “darkness” mean at Marvel?  Industry wide “Darkness” seems to be a stylist quality; an attribute apparent in J.J. Abrams last franchise spectacle: “Star Trek: Into Darkness” for Universal [2]. Let’s define whether this darkness is really anything to aspire to?

In an attempt to understand this film, we will review in number of categories: story pacing, story content, narrative complexity, loyalty to original source material, character description, cast selection and utilization, and lastly consistency in regard to franchise development.

 STORY PACING:

An almost industry standard, Hollywood films do not waste a second in regard to story development [3]. A potential perpetual challenge to actors, unclear segues, quizzical moments, pregnant pauses, probably find themselves rushed to the editing room floor.  American films fill very conceivable moment with talk, action, and transition.

STORY CONTENT:

Though fan boy filmmakers and audiences love seeing comic’s source material on screen its unclear whether general audiences are equally mystified.   With references to the dark elves, the nine realms, and the Marvel’s pre-Universe, TTDW makes excellent use of Thor lore [3]. To satisfy fan lust, this is the second film that used the (now legendary) post credits teasers to provoke fan boys. Still being insular doesn’t necessarily result in satisfying story telling yet this is where 50 years of (largely unseen) story telling can result in a wide volume of story material.

NARRATIVE COMPLEXITY:

Though not apparent in this film, there are many routes to arrive at complexity.  One of the most effective is non-linear story telling to install a kind of disequilibrium while providing story details.  Though so many productions deny this assessment can result, story content can be too complex.  Inscrutable narratives are just that.  This film avoids this mistake.

LOYALTY TO ORIGINAL SOURCE MATERIAL:

Touched on before, Marvel has cleaned up the main character’s womanizing, updated Jane Foster’s background and removed seemingly useless story conventions like a secret identity to make the material more palatable to general audiences.  Only in this way, General audiences dominate and rule in this regard.

CHARACTER DESCRIPTION:

Does Marvel seek to give its characters depth, range, and complexity?  At this point, as somewhat typical of this genre, these attributes tend to be reserved for the villains.  This tales’ Malekith certainly is no match for the previous two film’s power villain Loki.  Yet lets face it Thor’s character shortcomings really played well against the villain’s pitiful weakness in family background.

CAST SELECTION AND UTILIZATION:

Impressive, yet I’m sure the pathos of a character sacrifice will be regretted in the future.

CONSISTENCY IN REGARD TO FRANCHISE DEVELOPMENT:

Excellent.

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Marvel will admit that it has at this point finished half of phase two of their production planning for the next three years.  That means films for characters like Iron Man and Thor have been released and in terms of critical reception and box office both faired very well.  All they have left of phase two is a “Captain American” (2014), another team movie “Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014), and an “Avengers” sequel in 2015[4].   What characters get individual movies? Unless you’re the Incredible Hulk, if you had one successful movie before, you get one again.   Though they figured prominently in the Avengers, both Black Widow and Hawkeye we’re introduced as supporting characters that are not slated for individual adventures or films.

So what is there to worry about?  In comic book circles despite earning a lot of cash, there are blogs where fan boys and girls actually say Ironman 3 wasn’t that good.  Yeah they said the same thing about Ironman 2 but this time Robert Downey Jr. has all but signaled he will not be returning in any other solo movie.  When fans site their displeasure with claims the character’s greatest villain is lame; one has to accept the fan base paid yet may still be unsatisfied.  Yeah, Thor is still making money and despite Rotten Tomato reviews rankling [5] in the seventies no one has called the film outstanding.  But let’s be fair, as stated before, Marvel seems to hit most of its marks and that’s seems to be enough for most contemporary film audiences.

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Necessary references:

[1] http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1981115/

[2] http://www.startrekmovie.com/#about

[3] Please see the films of Pedro Almodóvar, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, and Ang Lee.

[4] http://www.cinemablend.com/new/10-Things-You-Need-Know-Seeing-Thor-Dark-World-40204.html

[5] http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/thor_the_dark_world/

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11 Responses to ““Thor: The Dark World” – Marvel’s CBM Crossroad”

  1. Open Book November 11, 2013 at 2:40 PM #

    I saw Thor 2 this weekend and I liked the first one better. To me this installment of Thor was all over the place. The story wasn’t as tight and there were way to many jokes and explosions and fight scenes. I didn’t like the way Thor and Jane Foster’s reunion was handled or how she ended up on Thor’s planet. Also, where were Thor and Loki’s helmet’s? They are flying around space and not protecting their heads? Also, what about Natalie Portman’s helmet and oxygen mask? She’s flying all over space without any protection from the elements?

    • comicrelief2 November 15, 2013 at 1:58 PM #

      Ha Ha OB,

      Speaking of Natalie, (the Oscar winner), it occurred to me that this (her appearance in another franchise) is at least her second major role in science fiction drama. It impresses me that the roles are so different.

  2. Open Book November 11, 2013 at 2:41 PM #

    CR-

    Great review. What did u think of this Thor compared to the first one?

    • comicrelief2 November 15, 2013 at 2:24 PM #

      OB,
      I have to admit I liked the first one better. One of the difficult jobs in the sequel game is proving that the endeavor was worth executing.

      I think I ended up expressing how impressed I was with the Marvel movie machine.

      It was nice seeing the whole cast collected in costume again.

  3. ozzie20 November 12, 2013 at 10:38 PM #

    I’ll be back later on to catch up with your article CR. I was answering the last of the questions on mine before I forgot. You ask amazingly good question that made all my brain cells work and now they are all worn out, lol! I enjoyed it though! 🙂

    • comicrelief2 November 15, 2013 at 2:25 PM #

      Ozzie,

      Anytime Ozzie, thanks for not holding my late timing against me.
      I miss that we don’t do it as frequently any more, but it’s always fun.

  4. ozzie20 November 13, 2013 at 8:45 PM #

    Cool article CR! I love it when you do these type of articles and I can jump into and explore the comic world! I learnt lot’s of things. I always thought that Marvel and DC were more equal, with Marvel just beating DC. I didn’t know Thor had an alter ego in the comic books. Also I could of sworn Robert Downey Jr. signed on to more Ironman films, I must have mistaken it with The Avengers, lol!

    Do you think The Black Widow and Hawkeye will ever get their own movies?

    • comicrelief2 November 15, 2013 at 2:26 PM #

      Ozzie,
      Now that’s quite a few questions. Here goes I’ll do my best.

  5. comicrelief2 November 15, 2013 at 2:26 PM #

    1. Marvel and Dc really are not equals. They lost the best of their collection in the process yet Marvel owns it’s own entertainment studio now. And so far they have made a lot of money purely adapting their own material. Unless DC attempts to do the same they may continue to fall behind even though there’s greater evidence that DC intends to give Marvel a run for it’s money.

  6. comicrelief2 November 15, 2013 at 2:26 PM #

    2. Yeah in the comics his name is Donald Blake. It’s been a long time since this aspect of this aspect of the character was regularly used.
    http://www.toycutter.com/2010/10/donald-blake-action-figure-marvel.html

  7. comicrelief2 November 15, 2013 at 2:27 PM #

    3. I haven’t kept up, and I’m not sure how many more he intends to do. I’m sure some are the Avengers sequels.

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