Thor: The Dark World is a 2013 American superhero film based on the Marvel Comics character Thor, produced by Marvel Studios and distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. It is the sequel to Thor (2011) and the eighth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). The film was directed by Alan Taylor from a screenplay by Christopher Yost and the writing team of Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. It stars Chris Hemsworth as Thor alongside Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Stellan Skarsgård, Idris Elba, Christopher Eccleston, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Kat Dennings, Ray Stevenson, Zachary Levi, Tadanobu Asano, Jaimie Alexander, Rene Russo, and Anthony Hopkins. In the film, Thor and Loki (Hiddleston) team up to save the Nine Realms from the Dark Elves.
Development of a sequel to Thor began in April 2011 when producer Kevin Feige announced plans for it to follow the MCU crossover film The Avengers (2012). In July, Thor director Kenneth Branagh withdrew from the sequel. Taylor was hired to replace him as director in January 2012. The supporting cast filled out that August with the hiring of Eccleston and Akinnuoye-Agbaje as the film’s villains. Filming took place from September to December 2012, primarily in Surrey, England, as well as in Iceland and London. Taylor wanted the film to be more grounded than Thor, inspired by his work on Game of Thrones. He hired Carter Burwell to compose the score, but Marvel replaced Burwell with Brian Tyler.
Thor: The Dark World premiered at the Odeon Leicester Square in London on October 22, 2013, and was released in the United States on November 8, as part of Phase Two of the MCU. The film was a commercial success, grossing over $644 million worldwide and becoming the tenth highest-grossing film of 2013. It received praise for the performances of Hemsworth and Hiddleston, visual effects, and action sequences, but was criticized for its generic villain and lack of depth. Retrospectively, Taylor expressed dissatisfaction with the film and said Marvel substantially altered it from his original vision during post-production. Two sequels have been released: Thor: Ragnarok (2017) and Thor: Love and Thunder (2022).
In April 2011 before the release of Thor (2011), Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige stated that following The Avengers (2012), “Thor will go off into a new adventure.” Kenneth Branagh, director of Thor, responded to his comments, saying, “It is kind of news to me. Here’s what I would say to that: It’s that I’m thrilled they’re that confident. I shall wait for the audience to tell us whether there should be a second one, and then if that’s a nice conversation to be had [among] all of us, that’d be thrilling. But I’ve got too much Irish superstitious blood in me to assume that Thor 2 will happen. But if Marvel says so, then I guess it must be true”. Feige later explained that Marvel Studios would gauge how well Thor did at the box office before announcing sequels, but stated, “Don Payne is working on story ideas for a part two. We’ve got various options with Ken [Branagh] to discuss coming back, but right now the focus is on the first one. Don is, slowly but surely, thinking about where to take the character next should we be so lucky”.
In June 2011, Walt Disney Studios set a July 26, 2013, release date for the Thor sequel with Chris Hemsworth reprising his role as the title hero. It was also reported that Branagh would not be returning as director but would likely be involved in a producing capacity. The Los Angeles Times cited the long commitment necessary for a special effects-heavy epic and the pressure to start the script process right away as reasons for Branagh’s departure, although he was initially enthused by the chance to direct the sequel. Branagh noted, “It was a long time [making the first film] and they were way too quick for me to get straight back into another, [but] it was a pleasurable experience and a film I’m very proud of.” The following day, Marvel formally hired Payne, one of the credited writers of the first film, to script the sequel. In August, Brian Kirk entered early negotiations to direct the Thor sequel. The film would have marked Kirk’s first time directing a big-budget motion picture, after having directed television series for HBO, Showtime and the BBC, including Game of Thrones.
In September 2011, Tom Hiddleston confirmed he would return in the sequel, speculating that in the film, “[Loki will] have to take responsibility for what he’s done”. Patty Jenkins, the director of Monster and the pilot episode of AMC’s The Killing, entered early negotiations with Marvel Studios and Disney to direct the film, after Kirk had passed due to contractual sticking points that arose during negotiations. Later in the month, Feige stated the sequel would “take Thor literally to other worlds” and would “primarily be the journey of that character, of he and Jane Foster and how the new dynamic with his father is working out, as well as what are the broader stakes for The Nine Worlds”. On October 13, 2011, Marvel confirmed that Jenkins would direct the sequel and Natalie Portman would return to star. Disney also moved the release date for the film to November 15, 2013.
- Chris Hemsworth as Thor:
An Avenger and the crown prince of Asgard, based on the Norse mythological deity of the same name. Hemsworth stated that the film addresses unresolved issues regarding Thor’s relationships from previous films, “For Thor and Jane, there are some unanswered questions now, since obviously he didn’t stop in and catch up with her in The Avengers. Thor might have some explaining to do in this one. And with Loki, we get down to the major bones of our conflict with everything that’s come from Thor to Avengers to now.” Hemsworth added, “Thor’s journey I think picks more so up from where we left the first one—About to take on the throne… and now coming to the realization of what responsibility comes with that. Also, Alan [Taylor] keeps talking about the dark side of that responsibility, and the secrets of being king or becoming sort of very political about what people need to know and what they want to know.” Hemsworth especially enjoyed the role of Thor in this film as he was able to, “… break him down and find his human qualities and his vulnerable side.”
- Natalie Portman as Jane Foster:
An astrophysicist and Thor’s love interest who is brought from Earth to Asgard by Thor after she is infected with a mysterious energy. Producer Kevin Feige said, “[W]hile Thor was a fish out of water on Earth in the first two films (Thor and The Avengers), this time Jane is very much a fish out of water in Asgard.” Portman added, “It was a whole different adventure this time. Because Jane is the fish out of water. I didn’t want to make it like Bill & Ted, or like a valley girl dumped into Shakespeareland.” Portman also said the film finds Jane at a different place in her life, “Jane has moved, so she’s now in London, not in Santa Fe anymore. Obviously she has gone through missing Thor and also being upset at him because he didn’t come knock on her door when he was on her planet. She’s definitely been getting over that and trying to move on.” Hemsworth’s wife Elsa Pataky stood in for Portman during the post-credits kissing scene due to a scheduling conflict.
- Tom Hiddleston as Loki:
Thor’s adoptive brother and nemesis, based on the deity of the same name, who forms an uneasy alliance with Thor against the Dark Elves. On where he wished to take the character in the film, Hiddleston said, “I’d like to take [Loki] to his absolute rock bottom. I’d like to see him yield, essentially, to his darkest instincts. Then, having hit rock bottom, maybe come back up. I think the fascination for me about playing Loki is that, in the history of the mythology and the comic books and the Scandinavian myths, is he’s constantly dancing on this fault line of the dark side and redemption.” Hiddleston recalled, “When I met Alan [Taylor], he asked me how I thought I could do Loki again without repeating myself and I remembered talking with Kevin Feige when we were on the Avengers promotional tour. I said, ‘OK, you’ve seen Thor and Loki be antagonistic for two films now. It would be amazing to see them fight side by side. I’ve been the bad guy now twice, so I can’t be again, or otherwise I shouldn’t be in the film. So we have to find a new role for me to play.”
- Stellan Skarsgård as Erik Selvig:
Foster’s mentor and colleague. Skarsgård said, the film finds Selvig in a “disrupted mode” explaining, “Having a god in your head for a while creates some psychological problems”, referring to the character’s ordeal following The Avengers.
- Idris Elba as Heimdall:
The all-seeing, all-hearing Asgardian sentry of the Bifröst Bridge, based on the mythological deity of the same name. Elba said he has a larger role in the sequel, “In the new film we’re going to get to know Heimdall the Asgardian a bit better, and we’re going to get to know Asgard a bit better. I can’t say too much, but the expansion of Thor in his world is going to be huge. My part was very small and functional in the first film”.
- Christopher Eccleston as Malekith:
The ruler of the Dark Elves of Svartalfheim. About Malekith’s motivation, Eccleston said, “There is a kind of tragic quality to his quest. Because he’s lost his wife, he’s lost his children. He’s lost everything. And he returns for revenge. And the agent for his revenge is the Aether. If he gets hold of that, he is omnipotent.” Eccleston continued, “What I thought about a great deal was revenge—there’s huge amounts of revenge. One quote is: ‘When you seek revenge, be sure to dig two graves.’ I did a film called Revengers Tragedy where I played a guy called Vindici—from the word ‘vindictive’—and he is the distillation of revenge. So, in a way, that was what I had to think of: how revenge can make you absolutely monomaniacal—though you’re still trying to make it recognizably motive-led. It’s just the personification of movie evil.” However Taylor stated that many scenes involving Malekith’s backstory had to be cut from the film to make it more efficient. Eccleston revealed that he speaks an invented language for the film explaining, “The Elvish language is definitely based on European languages. I think there’s probably some Finnish in there. It does have its logic and its rhythms. It also has many syllables and it’s very difficult to do while remaining naturalistic. It’s been a particular challenge for us but hopefully it gives the film some complexity and variety.” Eccleston also said the role required six hours of make-up and 45 minutes in wardrobe.
- Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as Algrim / Kurse:
A Dark Elf and Malekith’s trusted and loyal lieutenant who is transformed into a monstrous creature in order to destroy Thor. Akinnuoye-Agbaje described Kurse as “an amalgamation of a bull and a lava-like creature. He has very animalistic tendencies but with this insatiable and unstoppable power. As an actor, that’s one of the hardest things to embody. You have to realize you are probably the most powerful thing you could imagine. And you have to be that. You can’t pretend, so that when you face Thor, it’s real.” Akinnuoye-Agbaje stated the role required three hours of make-up a day and had to put on heavy duty prosthetics explaining, “The outfit weighed about 40 pounds. I’m sure there will be a certain amount of CGI but a good 80% was me in that suit.” About the character Akinnuoye-Agbaje said, “I suppose Algrim and Kurse would be the quintessential baddies, but in reality they are what I perceive as the scorn and the victims of the story. They are the elves who have basically lost their planet and their race to another race, the Asgardians. Here is a man/alien who places a noble objective beyond his own life and I think there is something extremely inspiring about that because he looks at the bigger picture and sees himself as a means to that end.” Akinnuoye-Agbaje added, “I worked with director Alan Taylor in trying to maintain Algrim’s humanity all the way throughout Kurse’s transformation, so that even when you see Kurse the beast, you can still relate to him as being Algrim inside. And symbolically we did that by keeping the same piercing blue eyes throughout.”
- Kat Dennings as Darcy Lewis:
A political science major who is interning for Foster. Her role in the film was expanded from the comic relief sidekick role she played in the first Thor film. Dennings said her character is “really bad at real science in this first movie. In the second movie, she’s more interested, but she still doesn’t know anything about it. She loves Jane, she really wants Jane and Thor to be together. It’s almost like her own little soap opera that she watches.”
- Ray Stevenson as Volstagg:
A member of the Warriors Three, a group of three Asgardian adventurers who are among Thor’s closest comrades, known for both his hearty appetite and wide girth. About the character Stevenson said, “He’s got a heart the size of a planet that he wears on his sleeve, so he’s like a big kid.” Regarding Volstagg’s role in this film, Stevenson said, “Volstagg is struggling, he has a brood, [the Warriors Three] are fighting for hearth and home as much as for the idea of Asgard itself. That’s where he has trouble.” Explaining, “He’s all too aware of how potentially threatening this new enemy is on both the home front and the battlefield.”
- Zachary Levi as Fandral:
A member of the Warriors Three, characterized as an irrepressible swashbuckler and romantic. Levi replaced Joshua Dallas in the role due to Dallas’s commitment on Once Upon a Time. Levi had been up for the role in the first film, but bowed out due to his commitment on Chuck. Levi compared the character to Flynn Rider, the character he played in the animated feature, Tangled, “Fandral is a little similar to Rider in some ways… He’s like this Lothario. He’s like Errol Flynn. He loves ladies, as do I”. Regarding the dynamic of the Warriors Three, Levi said, “The Warriors Three are here to support Thor. We are his confidants, his best friends. We’ve all grown up together in a lot of ways and fought many a battle together, escaped death. To me it’s the way best friends ought to be—they’re there when you need to talk and they’re there if you don’t want to talk, and they’re there if you need to escape from your father’s place in a flying skiff!”
- Tadanobu Asano as Hogun: A member of the Warriors Three, native of Vanaheim, primarily identified by his grim demeanor.
- Jaimie Alexander as Sif:
An Asgardian warrior, Thor’s childhood friend and Foster’s romantic rival, based on the deity of the same name. Alexander said there is more character development for Sif and the film explores the Sif-Thor relationship. Alexander elaborated, “I really tried to bring a little bit more vulnerability in this film. Sif is very much in love with Thor and very much cares about his well-being. So she kicks a lot of butt in this movie but she also opens her heart a lot.”
- Rene Russo as Frigga:
The wife of Odin, queen of Asgard, mother of Thor, and adoptive mother of Loki, based on the mythological deity of the same name. Russo said that her role was expanded and explores Frigga’s relationship with Loki, “You know, they cut me [down] in the first film. Kenneth Branagh sent me a nice note, because he understood, he’s an actor. You move on, what are you going to do? But I think they’re going to need a good mom in the next film. Loki needs his mom. I have a lot of compassion for [Loki]. But we might have to have a conversation about what he just did”.
- Anthony Hopkins as Odin:
The king of Asgard, father of Thor, and adoptive father of Loki, based on the deity of the same name, who disapproves of Jane Foster being in Asgard. Regarding Thor’s relationship with his father, Hemsworth said, “[T]he conflict between Thor and Odin was so great in the first one… so, certainly they disagree as I think they always will at times but there’s a far greater respect from each other. So it becomes, I guess, a more mature conversation, but there’s more at stake this time, too. It’s not sort of just their individual egos, the whole universe is at stake.” As to his approach Hopkins said, “I just play Odin like a human being, with maybe a little more dimension. I grow a beard, look hopefully impressive and keep it as real as possible.”
November 8, 2013
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