I haz a bit of a sad this weekend, as the LOLcats might say. I finally watched Thor: The Dark World on Friday, and fell completely, totally head-over-heels in love with it…but while I’ve got friends who enjoyed the film, the person in my life who would have most understood my, er, obsession with it is the friend who died last month.
So I’m going to share my fascination here, and see if I can get it out of my system. (And hey, Bones comes back tomorrow, and one obsession can distract me from the other.)
It’s not that I wasn’t aware of the character of Thor, or the arc. I saw The Avengers (Whedon!) and have even seen the Iron Man films. But I don’t go to a lot of movies in the cinema, mostly because I’m terrified of finding myself stuck for two hours watching a film that bores me. So I didn’t see the Thor films (or the Captain America one, which I’m going to watch this week, though I don’t think that will hook me in quite the same way.)
And then I caught part of the first Thor film on cable, and went, ‘hmm’ and then went back and watched the whole thing, and that led to re-watching The Avengers, and that led to buying the digital download of The Dark World on Friday. Which I’ve now watched three times…and some scenes a lot more than that.
(This surprises no one who knows me. I take my obsessions very seriously.)
So here’s what I love about this film, which is pretty much everything:
For starters, I like character arcs, enjoy being able to see characters change, particularly when I can track it as it happens. And we have that in spades with Thor, with his complete reversal from where he is at the beginning of the first film to where he is at the end of this one. (And – huge bonus! Thor’s not the only interesting character arc we see.)
Also, to truly love a story, I have to actually like the main characters, not just find them interesting. And I do with this film. Thor himself is charming, confident, protective, dedicated…and not remotely threatened by strong, intelligent women. (Um…sounds like Booth, does it not?)
Actually, many of the things I like about Thor are revealed in his interactions with the women – all of whom are interesting to me in their own right. (The fact that there are four, in an action film, is worth a separate cheer.)
I find Sif in particular fascinating. She’s a warrior, confident in her own right, who responds to Thor’s teasing rebuttal about everything being on fire in Vanaheim by casually – and competently – saving him from an arrow. But she’s not stupid: when faced by the rock monster, she steps back with nearly a smirk on her face saying, “All yours.” (Which in turn leads to one of my favorite funny Thor lines: “Anyone else?”)
I’m not sure whether Sif is supposed to be a romantic rival to Jane or not. Early in the film, we have Odin’s suggestion to Thor that he look in front of him for romance, and Sif’s counsel that he not focus so exclusively on Earth. But there’s never a hint of disrespect or jealousy directed toward Jane herself (for example, when Sif comes to spring her from the guards) and her loyalty to Thor is absolute, both in her willingness to help him and Jane escape, as well as in her threat to Loki.
So we have a warrior who is confident in her abilities and yet cheerfully defers to someone more equipped than she is to win a battle; who, whatever her own feelings for Thor, never responds less than courteously to the woman he loves. I like all of that. (Also – I saw a tweet yesterday that sounds like Sif is going to be an upcoming episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, so…yay!)
Frigga, Thor’s mother, is similar in many ways (which makes sense, since she, too, is an Asgardian woman.) She’s devoted to her husband, but doesn’t live in his shadow, going her own way in terms of contact with Loki and her very different response to Jane. But while she’s not a warrior as Sif is, she never falters when confronted by Malekith, and later, when Jane says to Thor, “she saved me,” his response, (“she saved us all a thousand times”) intrigues me. I’d love to know more of her history, love to know more of what he means by that.
Even Darcy – who does often annoy me – is presented as strong in her own way. Left on her own, she figures out how to spring Erik from the psych ward, and, with her ‘intern’ takes an active role in the battle at the end. Meanwhile, it’s with Darcy that we see how reflexive are Thor’s protective instincts as he moves to block her from whatever is happening with Jane and the cops.
As to Jane herself…how do you write a human woman as a love interest to a ‘god’, and make her even semi-credible? I think we see the answer here: start by making her a very intelligent, insatiably curious scientist. I love her response when they land on Asgard (I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that she likes roller coasters…) as well as when she’s being examined by the healers. Her own situation is precarious, and she probably hears the one healer say to Thor, ‘she will not survive,’ but her focus is on the scientific wonders she’s seeing.
While on that topic – you know how above I noted parallels between Thor and Booth? There are a few between Jane and Brennan as well, including a comment she makes in a deleted scene where she tells Thor, while working on the science, ‘when I don’t know what else to do, I work.’ But she’s also very different from Brennan in how she handles her emotions, which is why I like the reunion scene so much. I find it nearly impossible to let someone know they’ve hurt me, so I see her ability to be honest with him as a strength.
In terms of the overall plot…I’ve been spoiled by Bones, I think. I expect to see women being instrumental in the solving of the main problem, and the film gives me that. Malekith’s not defeated simply by Thor’s strength and abilities alone – it’s Jane who figures out how to use the convergence against him, and the setup for the finale is all her idea. This isn’t to say Thor’s not capable of plotting – he’s the one who figures out how to get them off Asgard and free Jane from the Aether, and that’s how I like my romantic stories, really: men and women working together to solve a bigger problem.
It’s more than that I like stories where the woman has an actual role besides being the sidekick: I don’t generally enjoy romances where it’s external conflict between the hero and heroine that’s keeping them apart. Such stories often seem artificial and contrived to me, so I’m glad that the film addresses those issues in the first minute or two after they reunite – he screwed up, he apologizes, she accepts his explanation/apology (“which is …not terrible as excuses go”) and they’re a unit from that point on.
And then there’s Loki. As a rule, I’m not intrigued by villains and seldom find them interesting in their own right. But show me one who’s not always evil, or raise questions about what evil is and isn’t in the context of his or her story, and I’m there. And that’s what we have with Loki. Having not seen the first Thor film when I first saw The Avengers, there was nothing qualified about my reaction to Loki in that film: he’s the bad guy, and lots of people die (including Coulson!)
But here, we see that yes, he’s a villain, but he loves his mother, and has a more clear-sighted view of what it means to rule than does Thor. Odin, having seemingly been established in the first film as a wise and good king, views his father’s solution to victory over the Dark Elves (“he killed them all”) as completely reasonable, and prefers to sacrifice all of his own people to even considering Thor’s plan for defeating Malekith. When Loki notes the lives he’s taken are a ‘mere handful’ in contrast to those Odin has taken, he’s not wrong, and while his actions on earth were undeniably evil…where’s the line? Who gets to draw it, and why, and what kind of person should that be?
(Probably not a sociopath, even one capable of loving his mother, but …dang, the third Thor film is a long way away.)
But it’s not just the questions about leadership and morality that make me love Loki’s story – it’s what we see in his relationships, especially with Thor. He doesn’t trust Loki, is right not to, and yet, over and over, we see how much he wants to, and that, even with Thor, Loki’s motives and feelings are not as clear-cut as they first appear.
One of my favorite scenes is where we see them go from an almost-rational discussion of Thor’s future with Jane, to nearly coming to blows over their mother. It ends with this exchange, which shows us most clearly, I think, what they mean to one another, as well as how far apart they are:
“She wouldn’t want us to fight.”
“Well she wouldn’t exactly be shocked.”
Thor’s hint of a smile fades. “I wish I could trust you.”
Loki watches him walk away before saying softly, “Trust my rage.”
So …interesting, likable characters who grow and change, humor, romance (I love the shot at the beginning of the reunion scene where Jane turns and sees him standing off to the side, watching. And the very last bit, after all the credits have rolled? Whoo-boy.) The only thing I’d like to have seen, and hope to in the next film, is a growth arc for Jane. No idea if they’re doing that or not, given that there’s already a lot of ground to cover with Thor and Loki, but I hope so.
They’re starting work on the next one, but it’s going to be years. *taps fingers impatiently*
“You betray me, and I will kill you.” (Thor, to Loki.)
“Betray him, and I’ll kill you.” (Sif to Loki, a while later)
“If you even think about betraying him -” (Volstagg to Loki, a while later)
“-You’ll kill me? Evidently, there will be a line.” (Loki, to Volstagg)
“Loki, with all his grave unbalance, understood rulers as I know I never will. The brutality, the sacrifice…it changes you. I’d rather be a good man than a great king.” (Thor)