THOR: The Dark World (2013) - Humor makes Thor’s universe work, and I’d say the Marvel cinematic universe in general. With Norse demi-gods embroiled in family drama, and terrible plots to destroy the entire universe, you could see the movie going for the “gritty”, “real” formula.
And it does, in how it looks and feels. Nothing feels “unnatural”, in that nothing seems overtly cartoonish. Everything has rich textures and nuances, from the world of Asgard to the costumes and characters themselves. The special effects are nearly flawless, and quite beautiful in some instances.
However things never get bogged down in a self-serious tone. Jokes are cracked throughout, and it reminds people that this whole trip is supposed to be fun. THOR relies heavily on that, because his universe is so outlandish and requires genuine laughs for people to keep their belief suspended. It helps when most of the wisecracks are coming from the charismatic villain/rogue/trickster Loki, whom the audience loves. I think Marvel has learned to trust in that tactic for the rest of their films as well - if you keep the laughs going, the audience will return for a fun time. Iron Man 3, for all its pathos, still had some really funny moments.
Perhaps Marvel will try to make its great tragedy someday, its own “The Dark Knight”, full of pedigree, sweeping emotions and staying power. But for now, Marvel is content making a slew of great movies that aren’t timeless classics, but are immensely entertaining.
Brilliantly enough, by consistently pumping these movies out across a connected cinematic universe, Marvel has serialized movies. They’ve become epic comic books. Now people love Thor and Loki, not Thor’s first movie or the second. People didn’t like Iron Man 2? Well they love Iron Man, so they’re coming back for more when he comes back. But I doubt people will watch Iron Man 3 in 30 years the same way people watch Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade now. In other words, I think people will look back and remember the characters Marvel’s created more than their individual movies… and the whole will probably be greater (and more profitable) than the sum of its parts.
- G. Dudley