Trailers@24 Panels: THOR: THE DARK WORLD

Here at 24 Panels, we like to give each new comic book movie trailer the roundtable treatment. This time, we take a look at the first trailer for Thor: The Dark World, from director Alan Taylor (episodes of Game of Thrones and Nurse Jackie).

DAVE: So, the trailer for Thor 2 is here, and it looks… well, just about what you think Thor 2 would look like. And that isn’t a bad thing.

If there was any real question surrounding what we were going to see in the first footage from the film, it was mainly the degree to which the change in directors was going to impact the overall style of the sequel. What we see here pretty much confirms what I think most of us were expecting: Alan Taylor is making a film which very much feels like a direct continuation of the first film. The overall look might have a little more grit to it, but beyond that, there does not appear to be any significant alteration from the groundwork set in the first film by Kenneth Branagh.As such, the main emphasis here seems to be on how the sequel will be continuing the story threads from the first film, and it is about what you would expect: the relationship between Thor and Jane Foster will continue to develop; a big new threat seems to be facing the whole of reality; the relationship between Thor and Loki will continue from Avengers as Loki gets dragged into the action; and so on, and so forth.

I know that it might sound like I am being dismissive of the trailer, and I really don’t want to give that impression. I like what I see here, but there is nothing to make me any more interested in the film than I already was. The amazing Christopher Eccelston looks and sounds like an imposing villain, and the action is fantastic. What is missing from this trailer though is some sort of hook to really grab the viewer and get them excited. Iron Man 3 has been playing up the emotional aftermath Tony Stark is dealing with post-Avengers, as well as paying off plot threads from the prior two films; the next Captain America film is going to have the whole man-out-of-time and Winter Soldier hooks to grab the audience with. So far, there doesn’t appear to be an obvious hook to sell Thor: The Dark World with. Instead, we have a Superman II style trailer which tells us that “the adventure continues, the romance continues, etc.” Which, to reiterate, is fine. It just means that I have little more to add than “I’m looking forward to the film.”

What about you Dru? How did this trailer strike you?

DRU: You’re right that there isn’t much “new” here: the Anthony Hopkins voice-over suggests Brando in Superman, the threat over London calls Star Trek Into Darkness to mind, and the alien design screams Prometheus. And that’s just the first 30 seconds.

Once Thor shows up, though, it’s clear to me that this is very different tonally than the previous entry in the franchise. Branagh really played up the “fish out of water” aspect of Thor’s coming to Earth, mostly for comic effect (I recall Pop-Tarts, smashing coffee cups, and a mid-sentence collapse into unconsciousness). That’s being reversed here, with Natalie Portman’s Jane being swept away to Asgard, where most of the film will presumably take place (or, if not Asgard, other non-Earth realms). Jane strikes me as less inclined to react to Asgard with hilarious results; I’m guessing they’re going to be pushing the “wonder” aspect a little harder.There’s glimpses of a forest-set battle that more closely recalls Lord of the Rings than the frost planet of the first Thor, and I’m thinking that’s a smart card for the marketing folks to play. The Hobbit may have been a steaming pile, but it also made a steaming pile — of cash! — so people obviously still have a hankering for these kinds of spectacular fantasy worlds. That bodes well for The Dark World.

Like Iron Man 3‘s promotional material, this trailer also ends on a bit of a down note. The suggestion that Thor will have to make some significant sacrifice (Jane? Loki?) in order to vanquish his foe echoes, for me at least, Tony Stark pulling his suit behind him through the snow. These heroes will be challenged in Phase Two, and I have no doubt that it’s going to build towards something immense in Avengers 2.

Two final points: (1) How great is the Hannibal Lecter-esque treatment of Loki in the post-title card sting at the very end? You had to assume that Loki would be some kind of uneasy ally with Thor in this, and I like how they’re handling it based on that quick glimpse. This is precisely the advantage of keeping continuity across all of these films and franchises: this will be Loki’s third Marvel film, and he’s already had quite the journey. I’m sure I’m not allowing is looking forward to seeing where this film takes him. (2) Where is this Christopher Eccelston of whom you speak? I’m not familiar with his work (he’s on some stupid sci-fi thing, right?), but I’m guessing he’s the dude with the long braid and the half burnt face? He’s got one line and you see his face in one shot! Can’t really tell too much from that.

Anyway, I’m excited for this one. How about you, James?

JAMES: For me, Thor was the most perfunctory of the pre-Avengers films, which had the thankless task of establishing Thor in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I thought Branagh’s film, while entertaining, could’ve accomplished what it set out to do in far less time. Because of that, Thor feels incredibly padded (like shoehorning in the introduction of Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye). This is all a long-winded preamble for me to say that this film has a lot of ground to make up for me.

From this first glimpse of The Dark World, my reaction seems the same as both of yours: “it’s fine.” What I am looking forward to in this film is the action taking place on Asgard (or should it be in Asgard? Anyway…). So many superhero films have fantastical elements to them that are so under-explored in film for the sake of not alienating viewers and keeping the material “grounded” (I’m sure budgets have something to do with it too). With its recent successes, Marvel’s taking more chances on this front; I mean, we are getting a Guardians of the Galaxy movie. I’m really hoping the film explores these worlds. As for what we get of the plot, it looks like typical superhero sequel fare in terms of bigger threats and difficult emotional choices (see Superman II). What really got me excited, though, was the appearance of Tom Hiddleston’s Loki; I think he’ll be the most interesting part of the film.

But you’re both right, Thor: The Dark World looks and feels utterly familiar, which, I suppose, isn’t necessarily a bad thing. And I think part of that is Marvel’s approach to filmmaking, which is an awful lot like the Classical Hollywood studio model or the television model. Marvel has a tendency to hire directors and writers with no distinct style — which isn’t to knock Jon Faverau or Kenneth Branagh. Marvel is meticulously creating a universe that has a unified look and feel across several films that is becoming almost impenetrable by a director’s personal style. There are only so many films I want to see with the same look, same feel, same sound. I get Marvel is going for a sense of consistency, but I don’t think it needs to be that strictly adhered to.

Ultimately, The Dark World looks fine and I’m sure Marvel will turn out another fine product, though I’m not expecting something as exceptionally entertaining as The Avengers.

Andrew, what say you?

ANDREW: I’ll be totally honest: I thought that the first Thor was going to suck. It certainly had a number of A-list names attached to it – Portman, Hopkins and Branagh (which still baffles me) – but it didn’t seem like it would work in practice. The two leads were completely unknown to me at that point, and at the end of the day, I just didn’t care all that much about Thor as a character. In all fairness, this was largely because my encounters with Thor didn’t come from his own books, but through his supporting appearances in arcs like Infinity Gauntlet and Siege, but the film certainly didn’t scream “must watch.”Then I finally did see it, and realized how wrong I was. Thor caught me totally off guard, able to blend the familiar elements of the superhero film with Norse mythology while grounding it in some excellent and deeply human performances. It’s almost banal to talk about how good Tom Hiddleston is as Loki (both here and in The Avengers), but the rest of the cast more than held their own, and the film struck a good balance between action and the typical origin arc of learning to use your powers responsibly without lapsing into paint-by-numbers archetypes. On the whole, Thor turned out to be my own sleeper hit of the Avengers cycle, and was certainly a better film than I figured it had any right to be.

Thor 2, however? To be honest, as much as I liked the first, I’m not exactly clamoring for more. Chris Yost on script is a good sign, insofar as comic writers are more likely to have some base understanding of the characters and the world (as opposed to Marvel buying the script for a 48 Hours reboot and casting Thor and Loki as the leads). Branagh has been swapped out for Alan Taylor, which is a little more mixed; yes, the man has directed for an impressive number of acclaimed series (including Oz, which needs to be more popular than it is, and certainly more enjoyable than Raimi’s recent film adaptation…I kid, I kid), but it’s hard to say if he’ll have the skill to make a big-budget film on par with the first.

As for the trailer itself, it suggests the film is going to follow the typical super-sequel pattern of resolving plot threads from the first – Thor returning to Earth and bringing his lady love to Asgard – while increasing the scale and size of the action sequences – a few really big spaceships, as opposed to that Day The Earth Stood Still-looking thing from the first. Odin’s back, and it looks like there’s going to be some kind of traumatic death or noble sacrifice, enough to make Thor do the Vader scream (though being a comic book, I think we all know that death is hardly permanent).

Visually, the film looks very polished, and while little details are revealed by the trailer, it signals enough to give a general sense of what the arc is going to be, and what’s on display is certainly fine. I guess my reservation, aside from a new director at the helm, is whether we’re going to see a post-Avengers comedown in the current cycle. In other words, during the pre-Avengers phase, each individual film alluded to a larger future narrative in the works, whereas in this cycle, we know that Avengers 2 is a given. Consequently, I’m worried that there will be less of an impetus to make a solid standalone film in favour of four films that exist solely to get characters from one team-up to the other.

I suppose that only time will tell on that one. At any rate, Thor 2 has me intrigued, but not salivating. That may change as more trailers get released, for better or for worse, but Thor has proven me wrong once before. Whether lightning will strike twice remains to be seen, but I suppose that handling lightning is well within our resident long-haired Norse god’s wheelhouse!

Dave

Dave is the co-host of 24 Panels Per Second.

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