While watching Thor: The Dark World, my desire was to switch this week’s list of movies to watch to a list of TV series to watch. The whole movie is like Game of Thrones meets Doctor Who, the former an understandable influence since director Alan Taylor has helmed six episodes of that show (the fact that Christopher Eccleston is in the movie has nothing to do with the latter). He’s also won an Emmy for his work directing The Sopranos and a DGA Award for his work on Mad Men.
Other series I was reminded of while watching include The Wire, because of Idris Elba, Lost, because of Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, and The IT Crowd, because of Chris O’Dowd. But most of these are already so well known, and they really don’t have a lot to do with Thor 2 other than talent connections. I also wasn’t interested in checking out 2 Broke Girls just to make a well-rounded yet thin point.
So, here’s your usual list of movies I thought to recommend after the Thor sequel. Not surprisingly, there are no appropriate documentaries included this time. You’re welcome.
Minor SPOILERS if you haven’t seen Thor: The Dark World.
Superman II (1980)
Loki is Thor’s arch-nemesis. Thor is kind of like Superman. So is Loki like Lex Luthor? Except for the family/home world connection, yeah, sorta. And in The Dark World he very much has a Luthor in Superman II thing going on. In that sequel, the guy takes a bit of a backseat to the new main villains, Zod, Ursa and Non, and in the end he’s playing double-crosser to them and the superhero, not always clear whose side he’s really trying to aid. Here, Loki is not only not the main villain — that would be Malekith and the Dark Elves — but he joins up with Thor to defeat them, and he too keeps double-crossing, not always clear whose side he’s really trying to aid. It’s also worth comparing the new Thor to Man of Steel (out on video this week), not for the villains but for pretty much everything else, especially the Krypton/Asgard stuff.
Hell in the Pacific (1968)
The hero/villain team up is more and more regular thanks to comic book movies, including X-2: X-Men United and X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and earlier this year we saw a bit of it in Star Trek Into Darkness. But it’s a pretty old idea having two characters who are mortal enemies forced to get along and work together against a common threat. I thought of recommending The Good, The Bad and the Ugly for Tuco and Blondie’s being enemies then collaborators whose greater enemy is Angel Eyes. But I mentioned that in the Riddick list. So instead here is John Boorman’s far less celebrated WWII film in which an American (Lee Marvin) and a Japanese soldier (Toshiro Mifune) find themselves alone together on an island. First they continue their war-dictated conflict, with each having the upper hand at different points, but eventually they come together for their joint survival. There’s no bigger physical villain to overcome, unless you count nature, though there is the thematic villain known as hate — sorry, that makes it sound a lot cornier than it is.
Maybe you have to be a Dane or a lifelong Norse mythology nerd like myself to enjoy this animated feature based on both the traditional stories of Thor and Loki as well as a Danish comic strip and comic book series. Like in The Dark World, the plot here involves humans being brought up to Asgard, though this time it’s because Thor makes two sibling children his slaves as punishment for something Loki, of course, actually did. But no, he doesn’t fall in love with the girl human in this story, as he’s married to Sif, just as he should be. While a Danish production, and the most expensive for the country at the time, the hope was for global appeal, and the original director was Disney animator Jeffrey James Varab, who’d already ventured to Europe to work on Asterix and Caesar. He actually quit the project so the main credit for director on the film is the comic’s writer/artist Peter Madsen. Varab went on to be a pioneer of computer animation with his work on Casper.
More on the humans in Valhalla and Thor on Earth aspects of The Dark World: the back and forth premise has been written about by Huffington Post’s Mike Ryan as being a lot like the New York City/Australia location swap in this “Crocodile” Dundee sequel. Ryan actually makes the two Thor movies out to be sort of rehashes of the two Dundee movies (with fears the next installment will be “Thor in Los Angeles,” because I guess having it based on Almost an Angel wouldn’t make sense). He also uses the comparison — which makes sense given both sequels deal with the girlfriend being in jeopardy and relocating her to the hero’s exotic home — to argue why the Asgard scenes aren’t very interesting in Thor 2 and why it’s a good thing that the action returns to Earth in the end. Agreeing there, I’d like to also recommend the awful pleasures of Masters of the Universe and Beastmaster 2: Through the Portal of Time.
Thor 2 uses the “Trojan prisoner” trope, which is getting really old these days. And since it was previously used in a movie of the same franchise, The Avengers, it’s particularly familiar to watch Kurse allow himself to be imprisoned in order to break out and make Asgard vulnerable from within so that Malekith and the Dark Elves can attack the city. Of course it’s very Star Wars, too. For this bit of the movie, though, I’m going with a true Trojan Horse scheme rather than the prisoner variety. Mom and Dad Save the World is not a great movie, but there’s a lot of good humor in this sci-fi comedy where a couple is teleported to a planet of idiots and manages to save Earth from destruction via Super Death Ray Laser. At one point the good guys infiltrate the castle of Emperor Tod Spengo (Jon Lovitz) via a giant bust of his head, inside of which they’re hidden. Also, the grenade-like weapons in The Dark World reminded me of the Light Grenades (which will never cease to make me laugh) in this movie.
In The Dark World, Malekith’s evil plan is to return the universe to eternal darkness. In Ridley Scott’s hardly beloved fantasy film, the villain is the Lord of Darkness (Tim Curry), a Satan-looking baddie who wants to return the world to darkness — because he can’t come out in the light. In The Dark World, the means to the evil plan’s success is the “aether,” which coincidentally bonds with Thor’s girlfriend, Jane. In Legend, the means to the evil plan’s success is the killing of unicorns, who have a special bond with the human princess Lily (Mia Sara), who is also the lover of the film’s non-human hero (Tom Cruise in his least Tom Cruise-y role ever). There are also elves in this movie, but not dark ones.
During the Thor sequel, you may have groaned, “Oh, it’s the ol’ alignment of the planets thing again.” But there really aren’t too many of these, are there? Regardless, the best example of such a conceit is Jim Henson and Frank Oz’s kinda too creepy fantasy film involving some of the scariest characters ever to appear in entertainment geared toward children (and there are many of those if you think about it). In The Dark World, it’s all about the Nine Realms coming into alignment, while in The Dark Crystal it’s the three suns. The hero in the latter, the (elfish) Jem, has to find a crystal shard before the Great Conjunction occurs or the evil Skeksis will rule forever. It’s very Lord of the Rings and Star Wars and every other hero’s journey movie. But with Landstriders, which were literally the things of my worst nightmares.
The two portals in the warehouse, in which keys or shoes or a brick could be dropped into one and fall out the other, immediately reminded me of this Pixar short, which played before WALL-E and earned an Oscar nomination. In the animated film, a magician has two hats that form a similar teleport effect so that anything dropped into one comes out the other. But as far as I know, there’s no chance of something getting lost in another dimension along the way. A better example came to me later: in Poltergeistthere’s a entry portal to “the other side” in the kids’ bedroom, but there’s an exit hole above the living room. Unlike in Thor 2 and Presto, however, it’s no laughing matter to watch the tennis balls and then a mother and rescued child go through this gateway. You can watch it in full in so-so quality below.
Did you get deja vu when you saw all that action taking place at the Royal Naval College in the end? If not, you probably haven’t seen this first of the two Jack Ryan movies starring Harrison Ford as the literary hero. I guess for the connection you only need to watch the opening sequence when Ryan intervenes during an attack at the Greenwich landmark (which has been seen in many other films, too). But why not just enjoy the whole thing in honor of the recently deceased Tom Clancy?
For really no reason other than to allow for a comic relief phone call midway into the movie, Thor 2 has a “Baxter,” which is an unfortunate supporting character who would be the safe love interest for the female lead if it weren’t for that dang dream guy coming along (or back). Here the Baxter — which is named by the Michael Showalter movie The Baxter — is played by Chris O’Dowd, who is better than this. Rather than strictly recommending The Baxter, we could use a real oldie on this list, so I’m going with one of the many movies where Ralph Bellamy plays the “Baxter” role. And this the best of the bunch.
Remember when Kat Dennings was cool? Remember how we expected her to be a great new leading actress following her breakout role in this youthful rom-com? I know some of you think she’s still hot. I know some of you even watch her TV show. But all I unfortunately really know of her these days is as the annoying intern — still unpaid this long? yeah, sounds about right in this economy — in the Thor movies. Like O’Dowd, I’m pretty sure she’s better than this, especially given the way her character here is just on screen to make wisecracks, be jealous of Jane’s hot extraterrestrial man and then now find a man herself.
In addition to directing episodes from most of the great TV shows of the past decade, Taylor has made a few feature films in the past. They range from the wacky 90s indie crime comedy staple Palookaville to the terribly weak NYC-in-the-80s movie Kill the Poor. In between, he did this work of historical fiction starring Ian Holm in one of his best ever roles (he’d even played the guy twice before), Napoleon Bonaparte. There’s some thematic link to the Thor sequel, too, as the plot sees the exiled emperor playing a game of disguise in order to usurp the throne, not unlike Loki does. Oddly the horrible quality trailer from Video Detective below is the best available clip of the movie anywhere.
Bonus: Any and All Jim Jarmusch Movies (1980-present)
The bonus scene in The Dark World featuring Benicio Del Toro as The Collector first made me think Will Ferrell as Mugatu in Zoolander. But upon closer comparison, the resemblance isn’t that great. And now ever since a friend jokingly tweeted about how “it was pretty weird when Jim Jarmusch showed up at the end of Thor 2,” that’s really all I see. Either way it’s going to make The Collector’s future appearances continue to be too comical. Feel free to mix up Jarmusch’s own movies with movies he’s appeared in, since that’s where you’ll see his silver mane. Let’s hope there’s a scene in The Guardians of the Galaxy where The Collector goes into a monologue about smoking cigarettes. See below.
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