THOR: THE DARK WORLD (Film Review — Test Audience Feedback Style)

By the hammer of Thor!

By the hammer of Thor!

Ever been to a test screening for a new movie?  They give you a rare opportunity to see a major motion picture, way ahead of its release date, as a work-in-progress.  Temp music, incomplete special effects, no credits — once you get used to the abnormalities, you can focus on the story.

Afterward, you fill out a questionnaire with questions such as, “Were any scenes boring?”, “Did you like the villain?”, “Would you recommend this film to others?”  Sometimes you’re asked by a moderator.  Sometimes by the filmmakers themselves.  The goal is to collect constructive criticism that can help shape and improve the movie through editing and reshoots.

Marvel Studios did this several months ago with Thor: The Dark World.  I had a chance to attend but couldn’t due to a scheduling conflict with an industry mixer.  I chose the mixer.  (Free booze.)  Now after having seen the film, I realize I didn’t listen to the Grail knight from The Last Crusade — I chose poorly.

I’m not saying that Thor 2 is bad.  I’m just saying I wish I were at the test screening, so let’s pretend I was.  Read on, but be warned — MAJOR SPOILERS lay ahead.



I’d say somewhere between “sort of” and “not really”.



  • Cool Viking funeral scene.
  • Fun cameos from Chris O’Dowd, Chris Evans, and a Kronan.
  • Jane Foster’s reaction to meeting Thor’s mom and dad is great.  It’s the Asgardian version of Meet the Parents.
  • Thor hangs his hammer on a coat rack.  Ha!
  • Seeing Odin punish Loki for his actions in The Avengers.
  • Jane and her science sidekicks check out Fringe-like anomalies in London where trucks rotate in the air, shoes pop in and out of different dimensions, etc.  Very cool.  I like that the anomalies are caused by the Convergence — a cosmic phenomenon that occurs every 5,000 years when the Nine Realms align, which eliminates barriers that normally stop people from crossing over.  But I would’ve liked it better if I hadn’t already seen it.  A lot.  Mystical mayhem caused by planetary alignment has been done in T.M.N.T., The Dark Crystal, Kull the Conqueror, etc.  The first Tomb Raider flick even has the same “every 5,000 years” time frame.  The 1990s Hercules trots this out too.  The animated Hercules done by Disney, the parent company of Marvel.  I’m just saying.
Smallville Doomsday, Two-Face, and some Elves. Oh wait -- wrong comics company.

Smallville Doomsday and Two-Face.  Oh, wait — wrong comics company.


Oh, yes, sir!  Let’s start with thinning out the herd.

Characters from the first film are ditched to make room for newbies that don’t go anywhere, such as Kat Dennings’ intern, who Jane refers to as, “My intern’s intern.”  That’s funny at first but I’d rather see his screen time go to Hogun the Grim, the Asian member of the Warriors 3 who shows up in the opening battle and then gets sent home for the rest of the film.  (No wonder he’s grim.)

It’s great to see Rene Russo kick butt this time around as Thor and Loki’s mother, Frigga, but just as soon as her role starts to expand, she gets herself killed.  Don’t get me wrong, I like that her death unites her feuding sons against a common foe, but how about just maiming her instead?  Or at least reshoot Anthony Hopkins’ phoned-in reaction to his wife’s demise.

I love that a love triangle is set up early on between Thor, Lady Sif, and Jane.  Sif pines for the God of Thunder who only has eyes for mortal Jane.  Even Odin advises his son to forget her and open his eyes to Sif’s obvious affections.  This is perfect, especially later on when Sif is put in charge of Jane’s rescue.  The jealous look on Jamie Alexander’s face upon seeing Portman on her turf promises to further the triangle.  And then… it’s completely dropped!  Never to be mentioned again.



The allusions, whether intentional or not, to bad comic book movies of the past.  What’s that old adage about how if you’re going to steal, then steal from the best?  You guys did the opposite and stole from the worst!

  • Beautiful heroine possessed by super-powered force that makes the heroine’s pupils dilate black, a la Jean Grey in X-Men: The Last Stand?  Check.
  • A primary-colored tentacled cloud that floats around wreaking havoc like Parallax in Green Lantern?  Got it.
  • What about a baddie who gets half of his head charbroiled along the lines of Two-Face?  I know what you’re thinking — The Dark Knight is one of the best comic book films of all time.  True that.  But I’m saying that Malekith resembles Two-Face in Batman Forever, one of the worst of all time.  Game, set, annnnnd match.

    Sexy Sif.

    Sexy Sif.


Four “S” words — Show Some Skin, Sif!

There’s no getting around it, actress Jaimie Alexander is hot, as is her character, so let’s see her costume reflect that.  No need to feel exploitive since this’ll be more faithful to the comic book version where Sif shows off her Asgardian gams all the time.  Female audience members get to gawk at shirtless Chris Hemsworth, so why shouldn’t the male viewers get their own share of eye candy?  Maybe if Jaimie brought sexy back, then the Sif/Thor/Jane triangle wouldn’t have been dropped.



Post-end credit scenes.  I love ‘em as much as the next fan, but enough already.  Marvel Studios’ first features — The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2 — had just one.  Then The Avengers jumped to two.  (Shawarma anyone?)  Now The Dark World has three!  (The second and third ones may be back to back, but they still count as separate scenes.)

Thor reuniting with Jane is nice, despite the cheesy slow-mo.  There’s no need for the creature from the Frost Giant world chasing birds like a dog.  The main one — the teaser for next summer’s Guardians of the Galaxy — plays more like a full-on scene than a true teaser.  And man, it’s overfilled with fanboy stuff that no mainstream audience will ever comprehend.  I’m a fanboy and I barely comprehend it.



Sure.  All three apply.


ANNOYED.  Science so sophisticated that it appears as magic to mere mortals is a good way to ground Thor’s world in the less comic bookie reality of S.H.I.E.L.D. assassins and armored Avengers.  (Side note: How’s Marvel gonna handle Dr. Strange when he gets his magical shot on the big screen?)  As good as it is though, it’s taken too far here.

Laser-shooting swords and laser machine guns resemble human weapons too much.  Try toning down the sound design.  Black hole grenades don’t have to sound like real grenades.  The flying Viking-like skiffs are coolio, but I was taken out of the movie each time I saw one because I was trying to figure out which Star Wars movie the sound effect was stolen from.  (It was Episode V, wasn’t it?)


FRUSTRATED.  Transporting Jane to Asgard is a fantastic idea to do in a sequel, but someone should’ve told this to Portman.  She walks among incredible Norse castles and spires as if passing by a 7-Eleven — no reaction whatsoever to otherworldly visions that she was so curious about in the first movie. *

What happened to the epic, heroic music established in the Kenneth Branagh film?  There’s no trace of it here — no Thor score, no Loki themes or Asgardian motifs.  I guess they’re technically here, but not the same ones.  Why start over?  Someone should write something about this.  I don’t know who, but someone. (Editor’s note: Someone did. Click here to see who.)


CONFUSED.  What’s up with Loki and Thor’s scheme to avenge their mom’s murder?  Loki pretends to cut off Thor’s hand to trick the villains into thinking the brothers are fighting.  That makes sense, but why do it when the villains aren’t there to witness it?  They witness the fight, but not the I-hate-you/you-hate-me dialog that leads up to it, so why bother speaking it?  Maybe I should watch this scene again.

Brothers in arms.

Brothers in arms.

If running around pantless helps Dr. Selvig think, then why didn’t he drop trou in the first Thor film or in The Avengers?  He did a ton of think-tanking in each but stayed fully dressed.  His need to strip in order to get brain synapses firing even has him streaking Stonehenge.  It’s such a big character quirk that it’s not believable that we’re just now learning of it after seeing the character in two other movies.  Remember Marty McFly’s debilitating problem with being called chicken?  It was set up in Back to the Future Part II and paid off in Part III, but it’s never mentioned in Part I.  A character flaw like Marty’s or a character trait like Selvig’s not appearing until late in the game is unrealistic.

Having said that, if you keep the pantless thing going, have Selvig pose like The Thinker by Rodin/Rodan.  (One’s a French sculptor, the other’s a Japanese monster, but I forget who’s who.)  You know what I mean, right?  The statue of the naked guy sitting on a rock with his chin resting on one hand like he’s deep in thought.  That’d be funny.  Even funnier — have Selvig sit next to the statue!



Yeah.  What’s up with the editing?  Watch the scene where Malekith’s evil sidekick, Kurse, kills Russo.  In one shot, he has her in a strangle hold.  The next shot is a quick cutaway.  Then we’re back to the strangle shot except there’s no strangle.  Then another quick cutaway, followed by the (no) strangle shot for a third time, but now the strangle is back on!  Someone wasn’t paying attention in the continuity department.

As bad as the clumsy editing is, it’s better than the double play of news footage featuring Stellan Skarsgard running nude around Stonehenge.  The entire scene – frame for frame – is shown twice in its entirety.  Why?  This redundancy diffuses the humor of the second time it appears.  Darcy calls around looking for Dr. Selvig, not knowing where he is, until her intern sees him on the telly — streaking around stone slabs.  This is funny, but would’ve been funnier if the audience hadn’t already seen it.  What happened here, Marvel?  Did a previous test audience think Stellan was introduced too late in the picture?  If so, they were right, but recycling footage isn’t the answer.  You guys have billions!  Spend some on a reshoot.

While you’re reshooting Stellan’s intro, how about adding some denizens to the Nine Realms that aren’t Earth and Asgard?  The climatic battle between Thor and Malekith, the one with them popping in and out of converging realms, would be more dramatic if Seven of the Nine weren’t completely empty.



You’re welcome.  Now when can I get a sneak peek at Guardians?


* Editor’s note: In a recent interview with David Letterman, Natalie Portman talked of a scene where she sees the splendor of Asgard for the first time and how she had to fake her amazement in front of a giant green screen.  The scene was cut, so it’s not her fault.



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2 Responses to “THOR: THE DARK WORLD (Film Review — Test Audience Feedback Style)”

  1. […] Thrones helmer Alan Taylor was drafted to direct his first feature and for a review of that, click here.  Composing duties went to returning Marvel musician Brian Tyler who did a solid job scoring Iron […]

  2. […] In a tie-in to Thor: The Dark World, Coulson and company sweep up Dark Elf debris after the film’s events a la Damage Control, a Marvel comic about a crew of specialists who do likewise after superhuman combat.  This leads to a global adventure steeped in Norse mythology, which leads to an episode better than the movie itself. (For my Dark World review, click here.) […]

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