“Thor: The Dark World” Review: Why are god like aliens dying like cheap TV Sci-fi red shirts?

Hello. This is a Korea in America. Today, we have the new movie in the Marvel cinematic universe, “Thor: The Dark World”. After seeing this movie, you may notice that they have no idea where to go with the Superhero genre. Is this the end to the rise of the Superhero?

What is “Thor: The Dark World” about?

Stripping away all the external comic book skins, it is a typical terrorism movie. You have a terrorist, somewhat of an euro trash in ways, trying to get a hold on the McGuffin weapon: the nuclear bomb or a bioweapon. This McGuffin weapon will lead to the end of the world. You have all seen this cliché plot line.  You have a hero that goes against his side to save the world because his side is totally incompetent.

He is right and every single person in a higher position is an idiot!

Afterwards, somehow, our hero gets of scot free. This has led to the saying “It is better is ask for permission afterwards!” This requires a lot of suspensions of belief since this would not happen in real life. “Thor: The Dark World fails in this aspect.

The Superhero Genre and Me

I have never been  a fan of American comic book medium. I had grown up with Manga rather than comic books. I have tried to get into comic books but never could because of the drastic difference between the two mediums. Even on a philosophical level, there is a drastic contrast that I would not really want to get into now. In any case, because of this, Superhero movies were not a popular genre in Korea. Even now, while they open big in Korea, the current crop of Superhero movies is rather seen in terms of Sci-Fi action movies rather than as Superhero movies. We do not really get the Superhero psychology.

I do appreciate what Superhero comics had done in the past in terms of character development and its influence on American psyche. In the modern world, Superheroes are more influential than Cowboys in regards to the modern American psyche. However, I see the brick wall the Superhero genre has splashed into in the recent decade. It is the reason why a lot of the superhero comics seem to be pretty crappy.

Well…. It’s one of the reasons.

It is the issue of scope! The Superhero genre cannot deal with scope!

At the heart of Superhero psyche is that scared and alienated pre-teen Jewish boys who created Superman. You have had experiences going back to a childhood home and thinking it was smaller than your memories. A pre-teen’s perception of scope is very limited to his or her immediate surroundings.

To a pre-teen, everything seems epic in its importance. However, in reality, it is not. That is why the solutions are rather simple in scope. It is an alignment of scope between the actual situation and the response to it.  Since the problem is simple, you can have a costumed person come in and solve the problem.  The issue is that the pre-teen does not see this alignment because of the distortion of perception.

This distortion of alignment of scope between the actual situation and the response to it is at the core of Superhero psyche. In any superhero movie or comic, you have a situation which is usually created by the acts of one or a group of villains. If you look closely, this situation is not large in scope. However, it is inflated in scale with the involvement of super powers and lofty objectives such as conquering the world.

So, what is the response to this situation? Send in one or a group of Superheroes to beat up the villains! This only works because of the alignment of scope between the situation and the response. However, when there is too much inflation of scale, it causes a misalignment!

Should not the scope and scale of the situation align? If so, should not the scale of the situation and scope of the response align too?

The misalignment between the situation and the response

Since the creation of Superman, the number and types of  super powers have increased drastically with the number of superheroes out in the wild. However, the misalignment issue has never really been solved with in the superhero genre.

This is the reason why, in “Avengers”, the aliens are only attacking a few blocks of New York and there are no actual military troops around. If you really think about it, the U.S. army could relatively easily beat back the aliens from what we are shown on screen.

This is the reason why, in the first “Captain America”, the villains were not the Nazis but Hydra, a comic-y secret organization.  Captain America would not really change much when fighting with Nazi Germany. There is too much of a scope difference for one person to make a drastic difference even if the person is a super soldier.

If you really look, large scope responses are treated to as evil in most comic books. Take Lex Luthor. His is a character that embodies a larger scope since he functions through organizations. It is his organizational abilities that make him equal and even surpass Superman in reach. However, he is a villain and his character tends to be shoe-honed in to a smaller scope role by isolating him from external organization.

Think Purple Mech suit!

All large organizations including governments are seen to be evil or at least negative. Why is this? It is because, without negating the entities that work with larger scope, the role of the superhero ends up being a glorified civil servant.

Now we reach “Thor: The Dark World”.
This issue of the misalignment between the situation and the response existed in the previous Super Hero movies. If you really go deep, the misalignment exists ever since the Sci-fi & fantasy movies became more main stream.

One thing about the “Harry Potter” movie franchise is that I never really got that Wizard world had that much influenced over the normal world. The Wizard world is so sloppy and incompetent in so many areas that the Wizard world would be exterminated in a more realistic movie franchise. Another example would be the “Twilight” franchise. Leaving aside the quality of the movies, their epic battle is like a local gang war out of the 1910s.

Just get me a company of modern infantry and they are all dead. It would have been a blessing for all humanity!

The thing is that, previous movies made an effort to disguise the misalignment between the situation and the response. “Thor: The Dark World” is one of the current crop of movies that does not bother and thus becomes rather silly while trying to be heavy in tone.

“Thor: The Dark World” and suspension of belief
“Thor: The Dark World” is this generic terrorism movie with the “Thor” comic book elements put on top on a superficial level.  However, the comic book elements put on top inadvertently reveals the issues with the misalignment between the situation and the response that terrorism movies commonly try to hide.

Movies try to generate suspension of belief by using a relatively approachable McGuffin weapon. We have some understanding about nuclear bombs or bioweapons from media exposure. Before the cold war’s end, it was not enough to detonate a nuclear bomb to sufficiently increase the scale of the situation to a global level while still keeping the scope of the response restricted to the actions of the Hero.  This was done by having the terrorism event trigger a global incident i.e. Nuclear war. With 9/11, there were no longer the need for a middle step between small scope terrorism and a global scope incident because terrorism became real to the general public.

When the concept of Norse gods who are really aliens with high technology but still use swords and tactics out of the Middle Ages is added, all the clichés of the terrorism movie genre does not work.

It becomes too ridiculous.

First of all, you have this “god like aliens” performing the roles of red shirts just dying because they are stabbed. Their strength seems to disappear when the script requires it. This is because the script is written for humans essentially. You have seen many extras die like idiots in generic action movies. We accept it because they are just human extras.  However, when “god like aliens” die like extras in direct to DVD movie, there is a mismatch that reduces our suspension of belief.

Second, mixing use of archaic weapons and high tech weapons is a tricky thing to pull off. When you mix them together and do not really think about how they are being used, it just looks silly when people just stand there and die because the other guy is using ray guns. This happens in “Thor: The Dark World” because the script requires it.  For generic action movies, this is acceptable since it is guns versus guns. But in the context of the Thor movie, it’s just stupid.

Third, having “god like aliens” over react because of a rather small scale terrorism event reduces the believability of the premise. At most, one or two hundred people died from the attack which is rather silly since the number of the terrorist were about 15 and the best they got were ray guns. The terrorists just mowed down the “god like aliens” like Superheroes fighting local earth thugs. “God like aliens” should not be a stand in for silly humans.

Fourth, “Thor: The Dark World” uses the 70s and 80s approach to going against one’s own side. It is the magical “no one dies because of your action when you know someone died because they were doing what they should be doing unlike the heroes” approach. It is the one punch and every passes out to later wake up with just a headache cliché that Modern movies seemed to have abandoned.

These ridiculous aspects of “Thor: The Dark World” bring to surface what the movie should be hiding. It is a very small scope movie in which the situation is solved by one meat head beating up a rather weak Euro trash smallish guy hoped on “Space” PCP. This is a drastic contrast with the hugely inflated scale of the movie caused by the McGuffin weapon that the script does not even know how it works and the premise of the “god like aliens”. In that way, it is like “Man of Steel”. If superman just went somewhere and fought Zod in the first 30 minutes of the movie, the results would have been much better for everyone except Zod and Co.

At the end of “Thor: The Dark World”

The whole movie feels like it just used a SPEC script floating around and added the Thor elements without much thought. This is more evident when you get into the Loki scenes. While Tom Hiddleston is still great in the role, his subplot felted tacked on the main plot from a better more personal movie like the first “Thor” movie. The other characters, especially those in Asgard, have less to do compared to the first movie.

Thor is now just a generic character with Thor’s powers which seemed to be less defined than the first movie.
Odin does not seem to be the same character and also with a much reduced role.
The Warriors Three are in the movie for about 5 minutes

Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster is more of the plot device in this movie and has much less to work with. She could have been replaced with a generic scientist and the movie would not have suffered. As a result, Thor and Jane Foster have literally no chemistry and the few romantic scenes they have are really awkward e.g. “Star Wars Prequels”.

While everyone thought that the earth scenes were the weakness part of the first ‘Thor” movie, now it seems that it helped to prevent the scale of the movie from inflating out of control. The situation in the first ‘Thor” movie was just the conflict between the real son and the adopted son who both just happen to be “god like aliens” and princes.  So, it seemed right that the response to the situation was to have the brothers fist fighting it out.

After thoughts

“Thor: The Dark World” is a generic terrorism movie with Sci-fi fantasy elements wrapped around it. The main problem is that the two sides of the movie do not align together to deliver simply dumb fun which is the best outcome for a generic terrorism movie like this. The scale of the situation is too large for the scope of the core story. For the scale of this movie, it should not be solved with a fist fight like you would have in the recess yard in pre-school. At least, the “Twilight” franchise had gangs of emo vampires. “Thor: The Dark World” only has two overgrown meat heads fist fighting while silly humans run around like lemmings.

It is rather dull and ridiculous! Just see in on DVD when it comes out.

Score: C +

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