Thor: The Dark World (2013) – MCU Retro Review

Last Updated on July 30, 2021

Heading into the final few chapters of Marvel’s Phase 3 in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, we decided it was time to take a look back at the last ten years worth of films (18 in all) and re-evaluate them based on how well they hold up today and how connected they are to the greater MCU now that the films have advanced so far into the timeline, which culminates in AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR and it’s untitled sequel. Are they as good as you remember? Do they still hold up today? Are the deeper MCU connections even deeper than before or weaker? Join us as we attempt to answer those questions and take another look at the last decade of Marvel Studios with our Retro-Review Series!

DIRECTED BY: Alan Taylor
WRITTEN BY: Christopher Yost and Stephen McFeelyChristopher Markus
STARRING: Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Natalie Portman (Jane Foster), Tom Hiddleston (Loki), Anthony Hopkins (Odin), Christopher Eccleston (Malekith), Stellan Skarsgård (Erik Selvig), Idris Elba (Heimdall), Kat Dennings (Darcy Lewis), Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Algrim/Kurse), Ray Stevenson (Volstagg), Zachary Levi (Fandral), Tadanobu Asano (Hogun), Jaimie Alexander (Sif), Rene Russo (Frigga),
STORY: Thor teams up with Loki in order to save the Nine Realms from the Dark Elves led by the vengeful Malekith, who intends to plunge the universe into darkness.

Although the THOR movies certainly have their fans, it wasn’t until THOR: RAGNAROK came around that I actually found myself enjoying one of the God of Thunder’s (Chris Hemsworth) adventures, which is a shame, because the THOR universe is full of incredible potential. You’ve got great actors like Anthony Hopkins, Idris Elba, Stellan Skarsgård, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, and, of course, Chris Hemsworth himself, who has rapidly grown stronger with each appearance. Combined with the fantastic worlds and riveting mythology, the first two THOR movies should have been much more than they were. That’s not to say that THOR: THE DARK WORLD is bad, it’s just…frustratingly mediocre. Perhaps I should save that as the title for my autobiography.

Directed by Alan Taylor (Game of Thrones), THOR: THE DARK WORLD pushes the Marvel Cinematic Universe further into the realm of sci-fi and fantasy, setting the stage for GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY and DOCTOR STRANGE to explore the rest of the galaxy and expand the franchise into other dimensions. Unlike the first movie, much of THE DARK WORLD takes place on Asgard or the other realms, and the film only brings us back to Earth periodically to check in with Dr. Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), Dr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård), and intern Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings), who has her own intern this time around (groan), before the grand finale in Greenwich, London. Speaking of the finale, the big face-off between Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) and Thor certainly is exciting, with the pair hopping through dimensions and Mjølnir desperately trying to keep up, but the villain is about as one-dimensional as you can get, which keeps the stakes from feeling as large as they should. With the fate of the Nine Realms on the line, we should really care a little more. Malekith and his Dark Elves may not go down as one of the more complex baddies in the MCU, but I’ll give them one little compliment; their masks successfully cross the line from being potentially silly to downright creepy. I did say little compliment, right?

THOR: THE DARK WORLD also continues with one of the issues I had with the first film; the relationship between Jane Foster and Thor. They desperately want us to care about their romance, but I’ve never felt all that much chemistry between the pair, and that lack of chemistry is all the more evident every time Thor and Loki (Tom Hiddleston) share a scene. With their distrustful, yet loving, relationship and back-and-forth bickering, the brothers are the saving grace of THE DARK WORLD, frequently supporting the weak narrative and providing a great sense of fun.

In many ways, THOR: THE DARK WORLD feels as though it’s merely treading water while it waits for AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON to arrive, but there’s still enjoyment to be had, provided you don’t look too deeply.


The Dark Elves may not be the most exciting villains in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but they do possess some fairly cool technology, such as the Kurse Stone, which grotesquely transforms those who utilize it into super-soldiers. After hiding a Kurse Stone within his body, Algrim (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) activates it while being held in Asgard’s dungeons, which leads to his subsequent escape and memorable rampage throughout Asgard.

With the dungeon rampage underway, Heimdall (Idris Elba) senses something strange and leaves his post. Running down the Bifrost Bridge, Heimdell leaps onto an invisible ship and successfully brings it down single-handedly. Bad-ass.

Despite its title, THE DARK WORLD isn’t without humour, and we’re treated to several moments which may leave you chuckling, such as Dr. Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) streaking nude through Stonehenge while being chased by the police, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) taking on the form of Captain America (in a delightful cameo from Chris Evans), and Thor and Loki’s bickering over who should fly the Dark Elf ship they commandeered to escape from Asgard. “I think you missed a column.”

After frequent warnings about the consequences of crossing him, Loki’s sudden but inevitable “betrayal” of Thor still comes as a bit of a surprise, with the trickster stabbing his brother, throwing him down a hill, and cutting off his hand. Sure, it’s all a bit of trickery, but there’s a moment when we really believe it.

Dr. Erik Selvig: There’s nothing more reassuring than realizing that the world is crazier than you are.

Loki (as Captain America): Oh, this is much better. Costume’s a bit much. So tight. But the confidence, I can feel the righteousness surging. Hey, wanna have a rousing discussion about truth, honor, patriotism? God bless America!

Odin: She does not belong here in Asgard any more than a goat belongs at a banquet table.
Jane Foster: Did he just-? Who do you think you are?
Odin: I am Odin. King of Asgard. Protector of the Nine Realms.
Jane Foster: Oh. Well I’m-
Odin: I know very well who you are, Jane Foster.
Jane Foster: [to Thor] You told your dad about me?

Loki: Malekith! I am Loki of Jotunheim, and I bring you a gift. I only ask for one thing in return; a good seat from which to watch Asgard burn.

Dr. Erik Selvig: [to Thor] Your brother’s not coming is he?
Thor: Loki is…dead.
Dr. Erik Selvig: Oh, thank God!…I’m so sorry.

Malekith: The Asgardians will suffer as we have suffered. I will reclaim the Aether. I will restore our world. And I will put an end to this poisoned universe.

The rock creature which Thor (Chris Hemsworth) faces off against during the battle with the Mauraders is a Kronan, the species who just so happened to be the foes which Thor fought in his very first appearance in Journey into Mystery #83. THOR: RAGNAROK’s Korg (Taika Waititi) is also a member of this species.

Hugin and Munin, Odin’s (Anthony Hopkins) ravens, show up once again aftering appearing in both THOR and THE AVENGERS. They serve as Odin’s eyes and ears and gather information throughout the nine realms.

When Dr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) rambles on about the Convergence, the chalkboard behind him contains a number of easter eggs, including a reference to the 616 Universe, which is the main universe in Marvel Comics. This implies that Dr. Selvig may very well be aware of other universes. Additional references to The Fault, The Nexus of All Reality, and The Crossroads seem to support this.

Loki (Tom Hiddelston) tells Algrim (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) that he will see him in “Hel,” referring to the region of Niflheim which serves as the home of the dead who are neither honored nor dishonored. It was also ruled over by Hela (Cate Blanchett), who we would be introduced to in THOR: RAGNAROK.

When we see the Nine Realms begin to converge, one of the realms is Muspelheim, home of Surtur, who, again, we would met in THOR: RAGNAROK.

During the mid-credits scene when Volstagg (Ray Stevenson) and Sif (Jaimie Alexander) enter The Collector’s museum, a Cosmic Cocoon is spotted behind them, a possible reference to Adam Warlock, who would be further teased in GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2.

Although THOR: THE DARK WORLD may not introduce us to any characters who are destined to play a major role in the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the post-credit sequence does provide our first introduction to Taneleer Tivan/The Collector (Benicio del Toro) as well as his aide/slave, Carina (Ophelia Lovibond). As it would be unwise to keep two Infinity Stones so close together, Volstagg (Ray Stevenson) and Sif (Jaimie Alexander) entrust the Aether to the care of The Collector. Both Carina and The Collector would appear again in GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, with The Collector also set to return in AVENGERS: INFINTY WAR. As we’ve come to expect, Stan Lee makes a cameo in the film as a fellow patient in the mental ward which Dr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) finds himself in after the events of THE AVENGERS. Did he ever get his shoe back?

As the ruler of the Dark Elves of Svartalfheim, Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) sought to transform the universe into one of eternal night through the power of the Aether during the Convergence, a rare alignment of the Nine Realms. Malekith very nearly succeeded a millenia ago but was defeated at the last moment by King Bor (Tony Curran) and the armies of Asgard. Malekith escaped along with Algrim (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) and a handful of followers before they were awakened by the re-discovery of the Aether in the present day. Described by Odin (Anthony Hopkins) as the most ruthless of his kind, Malekith’s motivations rarely stray from simple revenge and the destruction of the universe; even when he claims to value the survival of his race, he’s shown to be all too willing to sacrifice his own people in order to achieve his goals.

Algrim, Malekith’s most loyal follower, is almost two villains in one as he’s transformed into Kurse after infiltrating Asgard in order to destroy it from within. With his strength greatly increased to the point where even Thor (Chris Hemsworth) cannot defeat him, Kurse is only brought down thanks to some trickery by Loki (Tom Hiddleston) which activates the Black Hole grenades attached to his belt.

Unfortunately, neither villain is particuarly interesting, especially Malekith who comes across as one of the more disappointing Marvel villains. According to Christopher Eccleston, much of the character’s backstory and motivations wound up on the cutting room floor, leaving us to wonder whether or not a compelling antagonist was lost in the edit.









About the Author

9860 Articles Published

Based in Canada, Kevin Fraser has been a news editor with JoBlo since 2015. When not writing for the site, you can find him indulging in his passion for baking and adding to his increasingly large collection of movies that he can never find the time to watch.