Thor: The Dark World, and the Comforting Universe of Marvel
Posted by Al Giordano - November 7, 2013 at 5:25 pm
By Al Giordano
In 1967, I was seven, and my parents granted me a weekly “allowance” of a whopping 25 cents. Other kids I knew received as much as a dollar per week, but I was thrilled to enter the ranks of consumers even with limited purchasing power. My chums and I would go together to the candy store to spend these riches on on packets of cards with our favorite baseball, football and basketball players, each containing a stick of chewing gum.
At the store, there was a rack of magazines and comic books, and I noticed some titles with the names of super heroes I had seen on TV cartoons. After school, on weekdays, on the black and white television, there were five such programs. On Mondays, there would be a half-hour adventure of Captain America, the World War II everyman who had been converted into a super-soldier by an experimental serum. On Tuesdays, the millionaire playboy and arms-dealer Tony Stark would suit up as Iron Man. On Wednesdays, the Hulk would fly into fits of rage and smash the same kinds of tanks that Cap rode and that Stark manufactured. In very Catholic form, there was fish on Fridays, as Prince Namor, the Submariner, would rule and protect the seven seas, harassed by humans and their governments whose stupidity was destroying the oceans.
Thursday was “Thor’s Day,” a different kind of hero, because he was a god from another realm, named Asgard, straight out of ancient Norse mythology, and his story reflected the generation gap that was raging throughout society in the 1960s. I found the Thor myth irresistible. Thor had long, flowing blond hair and an authoritarian father who forbade him his love for an earthling, Jane Foster (a metaphor for the struggle for racial integration that defined those times). Thor rebelled from his dad, King Odin, adopting the humans of earth and protecting them from super-villains, intergalactic monsters, and even from rival gods. When not saving the world, he disguised himself as a handicapped doctor, Donald Blake, who needed a cane to walk, and at times when his vengeful father stripped him of his powers he would be stuck in that limping body. When danger appeared, Blake would strike his cane into the ground, it would transform into the mighty hammer Mjolnir, and the longhaired God of Thunder would jump into action.
The suggestion that there were many “gods,” and not just the one I was dragged off to church on Sundays and Catholic school on Wednesdays to be instructed in how to worship, presented an extremely liberating idea. Kids naturally identify with and want to be heroes. But Thor suggested an entirely new heresy: that we could aspire to be as gods, even if, like him, we had personal problems, societal taboos, and family expectations to disobey in order to do so.
When I noticed, at the candy store, that there were comic books featuring these heroes, and that they cost 12 cents apiece, I realized I could purchase two a week on my hefty allowance. I’d take them home, read them over and over again, save them like treasures of gold in a trunk in my room, and lament that I couldn’t afford all the titles. Not only did those five books come out each month - Captain America, Iron Man, Hulk, Thor and The Submariner – but there were other titles like “Tales of Suspense,” which that year featured team-ups of Cap and Iron Man, and “The Avengers,” which had an ever-changing ensemble of those guys and others, including heroines like the former Soviet super-spy, Black Widow, and The Scarlet Witch (an introduction to the concept of mutant heroes who had genetically evolved beyond human limitations, and which alerted me to another book, X-Men, where she and her speedy, overly protective, mutant brother, Quicksilver, also appeared), and, from Africa, Prince T’Challa, the Black Panther. Around the same time, new programs began appearing on Saturday morning television, featuring Spiderman and the Fantastic Four, whose exposure to nuclear radiation gave them freakish powers, and those books were on the stands, too.
There had to be a way to be able to read all those amazing stories. I set to work convincing my friends – especially the ones with larger weekly budgets to expend – to watch those cartoons and to begin buying the books, too. Then we’d lend and borrow and trade until each of us was able to read every title each month.
The common theme of each Marvel book was that of the flawed hero. These guys and gals were markedly different from the protagonists of the rival DC Comics brand – the most well-known DC stars were Superman and Batman, each of which had TV series, not cartoons, in which they were played by human actors – in that while the DC canon of heroes were iconic, bigger than life figures, they also seemed predictable and one dimensional to me. The Marvel cast’s lives all revolved around the annoying problems each faced in their home, school and family lives. In other words, the Marvel heroes were a lot more like us kids, trying to navigate an era in which technology and mass media had begun to outpace humanity’s ability to cope with it all. They seemed more attainable and accessible.
Guys like Peter Parker would save the city as Spiderman, but would always lose the girl, get mistreated by his boss, screw up in his school studies because he’d been out all night fighting crime, and Spidey would be demonized by the Daily Bugle as a menace despite his good works.
Spiderman was the prototype for the “flawed hero,” and became a huge success among young comic consumers, so Marvel’s creators quickly doubled down on the genre, and began to produce super beings not merely plagued by bad luck, but whose own powers, and their difficulty controlling them, made them downright neurotic. Hank Pym was a scientist who, in the comics, invented a helmet to reduce him to the size of an ant, and later another to make him many stories tall, and the legend of “Ant Man/Giant Man” was born. He was obsessed with his wealthy white Anglo-Saxon Protestant debutante girlfriend, Janet Van Dyne (she always seemed styled after Jackie Kennedy, with her purses and hats), who – through the use of “Pym Particles” invented by Hank - could reduce herself to the same insect size, sprout wings, and sting rivals who could not see her coming, “The Wasp.” Hank flew into jealous rages every time another man even talked to Janet, and she calculatingly sought his attention by flirting with other heroes. Their domestic squabbles – and Hank’s cockfights with other Avengers - filled years of pages of the Avengers books. But when evil threatened, they’d bury their differences, suit up, and defeat the monsters. The characters were just like people one found in any project. They may have had extraordinary powers or talents, but they were ordinary people dealing with the same personal weaknesses regular mortals deal with every day.
If you grew up in the New York metropolitan area, these Marvel heroes were your neighbors. The aforementioned Daily Bugle was at 39th Street and Second Avenue in Manhattan, and Peter Parker took the subway to work there from his Aunt May’s triple-decker at 20 Ingram Street in Forest Hills, Queens. The Fantastic Four’s headquarters, The Baxter Building, was at 42nd and Madison. Up Mad Ave was the SHIELD headquarters, at 59th Street, near Central Park. The Stark Tower, where Iron Man’s uniforms and weapons were made, up the block at Columbus Circle. On the east side of Central Park was the Avenger’s Mansion at 890 Fifth Avenue, at 70th Street. In the then hardscrabble zone of Hell’s Kitchen, south of Times Square, a blind public service attorney, Matt Murdock, who had lost his sight as a kid from a collision with a toxic waste barrel and saw his other five senses sharpened by it, would go after mobsters and other ill-doers at night as the acrobatic Daredevil. And down in Greenwich Village, where the folk song hippie culture was thriving in those times, at 176A Bleeker Street, lived the oddball master of magic, Doctor Stephen Strange. Out somewhere in Westchester County, in these books, was the classroom to which I dreamed of being able to attend: Xavier’s School for Gifted Children, at 1407 Greymalkin Lane, a mansion where Professor Charles Xavier trained young mutants to control and use their powers for good, and formed the team called X-Men.
In each month’s comic books, these guys and gals would save New York City and its residents from terrible and evil attacks and threats (only in the next century would life begin to imitate art, except that there were no heroes to save it).
So much of the Marvel Universe took place in New York, and the comics themselves were also penned and inked there, at Marvel headquarters, where Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and the other pioneers of the genre would invent new heroes and villains, float new titles, and communicate hyperactively with their young fans. Each comic had a letters section – Stan “The Man” Lee would answer many of the letters there – and the frames of the comics themselves would be filled with little notes, one-liners, inside jokes, and clues from Lee, Kirby and other writers and artists, dropping little Easter eggs of hints about what might happen next, or how the same storyline was playing out that same month in another of the titles. In all this swirl of activity, they had created a subculture of nerdy, bookish kids, who found the Marvel Universe more comforting than the often-banal, and sometimes tragic, circumstances of our own daily lives.
Marvel Comics created a world where values mattered, but they were more evolved values, more attractive to me, than those we got from school, Church, television or family. Nobility and self-sacrifice was the mark of each hero. Inner independence and willingness to disobey family or societal norms to save the day was their trademark. Overcoming personal problems and the obstacles placed by such institutions in order to do so provided much of the adventure and journey of the books.
And these books mirrored the societal tumult of the 1960s. When Charles Xavier and his old friend Max Eisenhardt, the super-villain Magneto (in the movies he is named Eric Lensher), a survivor of the Holocaust and Nazi death camps, debated on whether mutants should separate from or integrate with the human race, their arguments provided a platform for the then-current debates embodied by Martin Luther King and Malcolm X on the direction of the civil rights movement. Captain America, while he had the most jingoistic red-white-and-blue uniform and shield, frequently questioned and challenged the policies of the US Armed Forces and its government, arguing that might did not make right, that the ends don’t justify the means, that peace was always preferable to war, and that a soldier must never be a bully. Tony Stark developed inner conflicts and guilt about his work as a weapons inventor and magnate, and fell into bouts of alcoholic stupor so messy that at times others had to don the Iron Man suit while he was passed out drunk. The Hulk was persecuted by the military industrial complex and simply smashed any weapon it would send his way. The same US government whose citizens these heroes saved time and time again persecuted not just The Hulk, but also the Submariner (the themes often involved the environmental destruction by man of the seas and the earth, and the efforts of heroes to stop it), the X-Men, and all mutants. The comics were a teach-in on power and its abuses. The message did not “protest” or “denounce” such societal ills, but, rather carried the strong, repeated suggestion that they were violating the true “American Way,” which was not to be a bully but to stand up to such villainous behavior in a nation born, after all, out of an anti-imperialist revolution.
At some point, my young friends and I moved on from comic book heroes to rock and roll stars, guitars replaced baseballs and footballs, and girls became more interesting than being nerds alone in our rooms. But speaking only for myself, I have felt since those days that so much of my own values system was instilled thanks to Lee and Kirby’s Marvel Universe and its Campbellian heroes’ journeys. As I grew older, I felt certain nostalgia for that universe. From time to time, mass media would attempt to make grist from those characters. A particularly bad “Hulk” TV series came out in 1978 starring Bill Bixby, who seemed to have been spray-painted green, but was completely non-credible and untrue to the book, stripped of its warnings about mechanized and militarized society. And I had turned 18 anyway and was off on my own “anger management” journeys by then.
All the problems those heroes confronted – greed, imposed sameness and persecutions against being “different,” environmental and military destruction, and evil figures who plotted world domination – began, year after year, to encroach upon the real world we lived in. But there were no gods from Asgard to come down and save us from these monsters, no superhero teams to fly out from an Avengers Mansion to protect New York or anywhere else. And yet when, upon the realization that nobody else would save us, I threw myself into the anti-nuclear movement in my teens and twenties, and found a new kind of hero called an organized people, the storylines from those comic books would come back to me and suggest tactics and strategies, as well as clues to finding the inner strength to overcome my own weaknesses and difficulties in that work.
The most compelling of those comics to me were the “teams,” particularly X-Men and the Avengers. Each featured a group of talented individuals with gigantic egos to match their powers, different cultural roots and norms, and serious personality conflicts between them, who would have to overcome those differences to be able to work in a team and confront an urgent crisis that none of them could solve alone. And as life marched on I found in all my ventures the exact same situation to overcome. After all, what is “community organizing” other than the art and science of getting people to put down their petty differences and pool their diverse talents to save the day from evil impositions?
Fast-forward three decades to the turn of the century. I found myself forty years old, self exiled to Mexico, disillusioned with a media career from which I had burned the bridge behind me. Speaking a language that was not my native tongue in daily life, far away from anybody I had known for more than a few years, and using dial-up Internet to post writings that no other publication would touch about the macabre world of the drug war, with a tiny online portal called Narco News, which had only about 3,000 readers a day. That summer, the motion picture X-Men hit the cinemas worldwide. Well, I thought, that’s interesting, and took a bus from the indigenous town I lived in to a nearby city to see the premier. A box office success, grossing almost $300 million dollars, X-Men gave birth to 13 more years of big budget movies from the Marvel Universe, including two sequels. Ushered back, in that cinema, to the imaginary high school of my dreams – Xavier’s School for Gifted Children – it struck me how very alone I felt, and I longed for the days when I used to organize others to right great wrongs. I missed the camaraderie of organizing. A writer has to be a bit alienated to see the world from outside of it, but I had taken the lone writer thing too far.
I was pleasantly surprised to find the cinema where X-Men premiered filled with young Mexicans, who laughed at those moments in the film when inside jokes known only to those immersed in the Marvel Universe were told, things like references to a yellow spandex uniform that the Wolverine character had worn in the early X-Men books. Really? I thought. These kids are as much into this myth as I was at a younger age? It infused me with a certain hope, that maybe my own values system, which had led to my self-expulsion from United States culture, in fact would someday “go viral” and cease to be such a lonely domain.
Three weeks later, I found myself sued by the richest narco-banker in Mexico, and his bank, for reports I had posted on Narco News. This was a super-villain worthy of Marvel comics, except he really existed in life, and really was bent on world domination. I thought, damn, where is my team of super heroes to stave off this menace? When very powerful people go after you, you find out who your reliable friends are, and how few they are while most duck and hide at moments of moral crisis. What little funding support I had to keep writing on third world wages dried up very quickly. A lot of folks were quietly betting that I would lose that fight. It was evident that as marginalized and small as I already was, that someone very powerful was trying to destroy whatever little shred of life I had left.
Damn, I wished I had a team like Professor Xavier had in the comics! And then I looked around and thought, well, maybe I do. My codefendant, the Mexican journalist Mario Menéndez Rodríguez, once trained alongside Che Guevara in Cuba and elsewhere, and fought legendary battles he still has not written about. He knows something about heroism in the face of grave threats. My lawyer, from back in my no nukes organizing days, Tom Lesser, had become over the years one of the most successful defenders of the First Amendment in the United States. Thirteen years prior, we had collaborated with the late Abbie Hoffman, presidential daughter Amy Carter, and others, to put the CIA on trial, and won. Other outsider (mutant!) journalists, suffering as I was and alienated from the industry, began getting the word out that this monster was suing us. Readers of Narco News began donating for a defense fund.
And as word spread across the Internet, I began receiving emails from young people I’d never met. They said things like, “I got my first job at a newspaper, but they won’t let me print the truth.” And, “I’m paying $20,000 a year for journalism school, but they’re teaching me total crap.” And they all said, “Can I come work as an intern in your office?” That was pretty funny, since there was no office.
I went back to New York – hometown to the Marvel Universe - to confront the libel charges against me. And I confess that many of the stunts I pulled to defend our press freedom from the super-villain narco-banker and his slimy lawyers came straight out of the Marvel canon. We not only won the case, but we did it with swagger, verve, and in a manner that increased Narco News’ global audience a hundred fold, and that suddenly moved me from the “no longer relevant” category back on stage in this over-mediated world.
Winning was great. But with it came a debt: what to do for all these, by then hundreds, of young people who emailed me asking if they could come work for this project? And with Xavier’s School very much on my mind, the School of Authentic Journalism was born.
So, you see, I’m basically still seven or ten years old, dreaming of attending a school like that, where somebody with experience can help me control and best utilize whatever mutant talents I might have. Except by the time something like it became possible I was the guy with experience, and victories under my belt. I never got to attend Xavier’s School. But I got to start one, and over the past decade we’ve built an international team of talented individuals whose first weakness was that we had to learn to work together to defeat evils greater than any one of us could do alone.
For ten years now, we’ve taken in hundreds of young talents, many we’ve been able to help, some we could not, some even fell into the side of evil: Just like the X-Men school! Yes, I’m still ten. Get used to it.
Which brings me to the new movie, Thor: The Dark World. It is the twenty-ninth major motion picture based on the Marvel Universe since X-Men came out in 2000. Hardly a night goes by on cable television when you can’t find one or more of these movies playing anew. Their success at the box office with younger generations guarantees there will be many, many more. And suddenly that obscure little comic book universe has infiltrated popular culture in every land.
Thor: The Dark World is part of a specific series that began with the first Iron Man movie, followed by The Incredible Hulk (both in 2008), Iron Man 2 (2010), Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger (both in 2011), which each served as prequels to Marvel’s The Avengers (2012), the highest grossing film of that year, the third most watched film in human history, and the most viewed movie ever produced by Disney. My little childhood nerd universe now infiltrates the minds of the next generations, and these films have been so very true to the values taught by the original 1960s comic books they were based upon. If I could boil down their combined message into a single axiom it might be: You have super talents? So what? Learn to work as a team!
The Avengers prequel I most identified with was the first Thor movie. Its money moment was nothing less than a treatise on the efficacy and spirit of nonviolent civil resistance. Thor, the arrogant warrior-prince and heir to the throne of Asgard, had been stripped of his powers and of his mighty hammer, Mjolnir (“forged in the center of a dying star”), plunged down to earth by his father, Odin, and pursued even there by his whacked-out brother Loki, who sought to destroy the human race along with Thor. In the town of Puente Antigua (“Ancient Bridge”), New Mexico, the giant robot sent by Loki to destroy Thor and everyone else was leveling the town to ashes. Not even Thor’s comrades, Lady Sif and the Warriors Three, could stop it. Thor – powerless, and stuck like the Dr. Donald Blake of comics lore, in a mortal human coil – instructs his friends to return to Asgard and stop Loki, saying, “I have a plan.” As his new human friends and his Asgard colleagues look on, shocked and scared, the unarmed Thor walks toward the robot monster, and speaks directly to his insane brother through it. “Brother,” he says, apologizing for having offended him, “take my life, not theirs.”
When Odin had cast Thor from Asgard, he also threw his powerful hammer down to earth, which – very much like Arthur’s Excalibur sword – nobody there could lift from the ground. Odin spoke into the hammer saying that, “he who shall be worthy of this hammer shall have the power of Thor.” But as this drama unfolded, Odin was stuck in his “Odin Sleep,” a kind of semi-aware comatose state necessary to old Asgardians who live an average of 5,000 years, and thus are seen as “gods” by earthlings. While in the Odin Sleep, Thor’s father (played by Anthony Hopkins) still sees and hears all that happens in the “nine realms,” one of which is earth, or “Midgard.” The robot monster swats Thor like a mosquito and leaves him to die in New Mexico, with his human love interest, Jane Foster (represented on this earth by Natalie Portman) crying over him as he breathes his last breath. What Thor has just done – saving earth from the robot monster by giving his own life – suddenly echoes the words of Odin (“he who shall be worthy shall have the power”), the hammer flies from the ground and into Thor’s hand. He earns back his worthiness through selfless sacrifice. His flashy Asgard cape and uniform return to him. Natalie Portman cries out “Oh. My. God!” Thor destroys the robot, saves the planet earth, and returns to Asgard and his birthright. And there you have it: Civil Resistance 101, in a single movie scene.
Thor returned to earth for The Avengers movie to defeat – this time in a team with Cap, The Hulk, Iron Man, The Black Widow, the archer Hawkeye, and under the leadership of Nick Fury and his Agents of SHIELD – Loki once more, and save New York City from alien invasion.
So how do you top that in yet another sequel in the series?
Here in the realm called Mexico, we got to see it a week earlier than denizens of the United States. At the midnight premier the cinema was filled, young people were in fact almost fighting over the scarcity of seats.
Having now established, in the first Thor movie and in the Avengers, the basic origins of this super Norse god and his miscreant brother Loki, Thor: The Dark World brings the viewer right back to the earliest comic book versions of the 1960s when the comic book, “Tales of Asgard,” preceded and gave birth to the Thor books. The origin story out of the way, now we get to hear from the top actors of the Motion Picture Academy, as the roles of Anthony Hopkins as Odin, Rene Russo as Frigga (adoptive mother of Thor and Loki, and a powerful sorceress), and Idris Elba as the all-seeing Heimdall are deepened exponentially. Natalie Portman – like Hopkins, already bestowed with the Academy’s highest honor – also steps onto center stage, as Odin’s sneering contempt for Thor’s descent into intergalactic miscegenation provides a Romeo-and-Juliet forbidden love story for the saga. And the very funny Kate Dennings (of the TV series, Two Broke Girls) returns in the role of Darcy Lewis as the audience’s representative and interpreter of these strange gods and realms. Chris Hemsworth and Tom Middleton reprise the sibling rivalry of Thor and Loki. That’s a lot of resources expended as many of the top actors on earth are now part of the international teach-in on the Marvel Universe that these films are bringing forth.
We live in a time when the world’s dominant religions and their myths have lost credibility and terrain. It’s no wonder that religious fundamentalists loathe science so much: new discoveries keep decimating their claims. If past is prologue, this is an hour of history when new myths will begin to overtake the dominant ones. As I watched and enjoyed Thor: The Dark World, it occurred to me that maybe, just maybe, these movies and the comics they are based upon may be grist for an emerging, more relevant, mythology for humanity’s current and future struggles.
In 1990, Harold Bloom, deploying the ancient Hebrew translation services of David Rosenbaum, published The Book of J, a new translation and interpretation of the oldest known text upon which the Judeo-Christian Bible’s Old Testament and its first chapter, Genesis, were based upon. Bloom concluded that the original text was not intended at all to be part of any religious canon. He posited that it was written as a savagely funny parody of how rulers used myth to establish order through religions and bureaucracies. The comedic work – penned soon after the fall of King David and with it the golden times of an empire gone awry – would later be appropriated by rulers and sold as a religious text, and became the new, dominant mythology for centuries to come. Judaism, Christianity and Islam would eventually be built upon it. The J book was the first draft of the simple story of Adam, Eve, a serpent, and a “tree of knowledge of good and evil,” in which the original sin of the first man and woman was to disobey authority and eat a consciousness-altering plant that permitted them to “be as gods,” infuriating a jealous monotheist god.
Bloom also concluded based on an analysis of the writing style that the author of this parody of religions that got turned into the mythological basis for the three major religions of today was most likely… a woman.
History teaches us that old orders and creeds fall to new ones at those moments when technology outpaces humanity’s ability to believe what it previously thought gospel. People have always turned to myths – their gods, monsters, and super-powered beings - to explain the inexplicable.
The current cycle can be traced to 1882, when Friedrich Nietzsche wrote, “God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. Yet his shadow still looms.”
In 1966, as some guys were having fun at Marvel headquarters creating comic books about gods and super beings, TIME magazine put the Nietzsche quotation on its cover. The rest has been society catching up with the concept.
If we humans were truly capable of the great evolutionary leaps described, say, in X-Men comics, we might blessedly jump into an advanced state in which we no longer need gods or myths to explain our circumstances to us. But my money is more on the idea that history keeps repeating itself, and that humanity – ill-served by its present set of religions and myths – is groping around for a new mythology to hang its believer hat upon. I would prefer the former, bet on the latter, but thankfully I’ll be pushing up daisies and so will all of you before this matter is settled decisively.
Perhaps the need for myths and grand stories is what defines us as human, and later our attempt to bureaucratize and institutionalize them into creeds is what gets us into trouble as a species.
Technology has always played a role in the belief systems of our species, and motion pictures and cable television are surely dong their part, for better and for worse, in forming the next ones.
But if a sarcastic text penned by a woman upset over the fall of the Davidian renaissance thousands of years ago can become the basis for what today are the three major monotheist belief systems on earth, who is to say that children’s comic books cooked up by some fun-loving New Yorkers in the twentieth century, later boosted on the silver screen and television reruns for the entire world to see and contemplate, won’t be the source material for the emerging and new dominant myths?
I am inherently distrustful of bureaucracies and institutions, and iconoclasm is the highest calling I know, so I won’t be promoting what I’m about to suggest: that the Marvel comic universe and its vast global popularity among the newest generations is very well positioned in the competition of ideas and between myths to become the seed from which new widely-held belief systems sprout.
And yet, at the same time, I find that idea comforting. If we are going to have myths and “gods” and all that fuss, there might as well be some new and improved values attached to them.
Thor: The Dark World is not only a great rock ‘em, sock ‘em, action flick and Shakespearian drama all at once. It is also true to the values promoted by the original books: Values read by children who today belong to the fifty-something generation that has begun to run the world. The values of the two Thor movies and the entire series of Avenger-related cinema include: Be yourself, disobedience from those who don’t want you to be yourself is the highest calling, plotting of world domination is for fools who always lose, and, most importantly, you may have talents or special powers, but if you don’t learn to deploy them as part of a team, all else will be lost.
The climax of the movie – during which portals between earth, Asgard, and seven other realms briefly open as a super-villain from an extinct realm tries to use the moment to impose permanent darkness upon all of them – involves that very kind of teamwork between Thor and his human friends. All hell breaks loose as our protagonists keep falling through those portals and the fight extends to the entire universe. Paradoxically, at this moment of extreme danger come some of the funniest laugh-out-loud moments of the picture. The scenes remind much of some episodes of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, produced by Joss Whedon, who had directed the Avengers film but not this new Thor movie. Whedon was another kid who grew up on Marvel comics, and he’s often acknowledged their influence on his Buffy series. Directing the Avengers was a childhood dream come true for him. In Thor: The Dark World, even though Whedon isn’t behind the camera lens, it’s as if the teacher – Marvel – has also learned new tricks from its apprentice, Whedon. The result is some of the fastest, most adrenaline producing, fifteen minutes of cinema I’ve ever seen. During that climax, it’s not just Thor who is heroic, but the motley crew of ordinary humans around him, all teaming up to literally save the universe, and in a big, chaotic hurry. This “god” truly helps those who help themselves.
Remember, also, if you see this magnificent movie, something that is true for all the Marvel motion pictures: You must sit through the credits to the very end. Without offering spoilers, suffice to say that there is not just one, but two, scenes that prequel future episodes from the Marvel Universe on the silver screen. One includes the stunning appearance of Benicio Del Toro in a role he’ll play in the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy movie. The other involves Thor, Jane Foster, and some clean-up yet to be done from the opening of the portals between realms, suggesting strongly that the Thor movie franchise is here to stay.
Among the lessons of Thor: The Dark World are that Gods don’t exist. And neither does justice. They must be organized. So be it.