I wasn’t a giant fan of Iron Man 3. At first. For whatever reason (haters hate here) it didn’t resonate with me when I watched it in theaters. But when I gave it a second viewing I thoroughly enjoyed it.
This was not the case with Thor: The Dark World.
I loved Thor: The Dark World immediately.
If someone were to describe a movie to me as a violently mashed together concoction of the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Star Wars prequel trilogy I would think that the movie in question sounded dumb and that the someone describing it to me was a descriptive genius – you know, like you’re thinking right now.
The Dark World is an expansion of the action aesthetic found in the first act of the 2011 Thor film, full of realms and helms and all sorts of other fantastical nonsense. The Dark World doesn’t worry about being grounded any more than it worries about realism or grit. Of the eight movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe thus far it is the one deepest ingrained in comic book sensibilities, to the point that as they were unfolding I could imagine some scenes laid out on a page in panels and bubbles.
Part of that comic book sensibility stems from the impressive visuals throughout the movie. Much as one of my favorite parts of Captain America was the Norman Rockwell meets Jules Verne visuals, Dark World’s science-fantasy worlds, characters, weapons and gadgets are absolutely a highlight.
The Dark Elves look like ghoulish neo-Storm Troopers as they cram into their razor sharp star fighters and the tavern Thor and his bros and his platonic lady friend hang out at could just as easily be in the Shire, and yet it all jives. The original Thor movie made the mistake of taking an otherworldly demigod of a protagonist that stemmed from the pages of a book called Journey into Mystery and tying him to the exotic Middle of Nowhere, New Mexico. Hilarious as the juxtaposition may be, it was kind of a huge mistake, one that the Dark World doesn’t repeat.
But, as much as I wish I had something more academic than “it looks awesome” to say about Dark World, I kind of don’t. The story isn’t bad, the sequel certainly fares better than Iron Man 2, and Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston are the perfect Thor and Loki, but The Dark World probably won’t surprise you or leave you awake at night. Though, at this point, if you’re going to Marvel’s eighth installment in the Avengers’ mythos expecting high literature, you need to tilt your neck up and look a little higher.
For better or worse Marvel’s movies have never been, and probably never will be, sweeping dramatic opuses. There will never be a Marvel equivalent of The Dark Knight. And that’s fine by me. Marvel’s movies are adventure stories about good guys and bad guys throwing action at each other. And I think Marvel gets that.
Like it or not, Marvel’s movies have a very distinct tone. It’s a tone that lets them put out movies with styles as disparate as the pseudo-buddy-cop-Christmas-comedy Iron Man 3 and the otherworldly science-fantasy Dark World while still maintaining a sense of connection and continuity.
DC’s Nolan-verse is a contemplative dinner in a lavish café. It’s gorgeous and thought-provoking but it can get a little stuffy and you only go there once every two to four years. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is more akin to the closest place you can find to buy a burger after midnight.
And Dark World is one hell of a burger.