Plot convenience is a heckuva thing. When I first saw Thor: The Dark World (2013) in theaters, I remember thinking: what a mess. Since then, I have softened my stance somewhat. I did not watch it again until the eve of Avengers: Endgame when I made the mad decision to view all the films leading up to the MCU’s conclusion. Or at least the conclusion of whatever phase we then on. I have lost track. Phase Three? Who knows? Who cares? Armed with the knowledge of future events, it made Thor: The Dark World a little more palatable. Yet if you were clueless about these things as I was in 2013, then seeing the events of this movie unfold would be a little confusing. Hooray for space magic?
One of the first moments of plot convenience in Thor: The Dark World pertains to the relationship between Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Dr. Jane Foster (Natalie Portman). At the end of Thor, the two are separated by many light years of space, and a broken bridge thingy that allows Asgardians to zoom to the furthest reaches of the galaxy in moments. Yet somehow Thor ends up back on Earth for the events of The Avengers. There are a couple throw away lines in there about how he ended up there and that it was not the right moment to reconnect with Foster. In Thor: The Dark World, Thor is portrayed as having been busy bringing peace to the Nine Realms. So there. However, when Jane stumbles upon the Aether, a magical substance that does . . . something, and it gets sucked into her body, it attracts the attention of many dangerous beings, namely the Dark Elves. These are not your typical arrow shooting, woodland dwelling creatures. They want to use the Aether to bring darkness to the whole universe, and they are at odds with Asgard for preventing them from doing so thousands of years previously. Thor, though, manages to find a way to get to her on Earth before the Dark Elves with the help of his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston). Bringing Foster to Asgard, they seek to find a way to get the Aether out of her, but it only draws an attack from the Dark Elves that results in the death of Frigga (Rene Russo), Thor’s mother. Deciding that another attack on Asgard would be ruinous, Thor and Loki trick the Dark Elves into getting the Aether out of Foster, though they fail to destroy it. So, now armed with their ultimate weapon, they decide to start their plan of universal darkness with, say it with me, Earth. Of course, Thor manages to hammer them into oblivion, saving the day in the process. And he even decides to stick around on Earth for a little while with Foster after it is all over.
Big “shocker”: the Aether turns out to be an Infinity Stone, and as we go through the MCU, these become more important. The Aether is the red one that Thanos adds to the Infinity Gauntlet (really get creative with the naming there, don’t they?), or the Reality Stone. Ooooooo. Hey, that was Thor’s reaction in Avengers: Endgame! Anyway, as I mentioned above, in Thor: The Dark World the Aether gets assumed into Foster, for some reason. We do not know what this thing is exactly, just that the Dark Elves want it. And, also for reasons unknown, it repulses people who touch her when it is inside of her. How that means that the Dark Elves can plunge the universe into eternal night, I do not know. Again, plot convenience. The script says it, therefore it must be so. It would be nice if they made these things clear so we could understand the stakes involved. On the other hand, space magic. This is less of a problem later on in the MCU because it has been established that these stones can do remarkable things. But since it can do these things, it seems a little silly to just try to turn the lights out everywhere. Oh well.
Thor: The Dark World is full of the heroic moments you would expect from a Marvel movie. One interesting moment, though, from a Catholic perspective is when Thor refuses the throne of Asgard. To me, it really does not matter if it was actually Loki in the guise Odin (Sir Anthony Hopkins) offering Thor the right to rule. It is Thor’s decision that matters. When reading the Gospels, there are moments when the people want to make Jesus king of Israel. However, He always passes through the crowds before they can carry him off to make Him their ruler. For us, it is enough to be found worthy enough to be offered the opportunity to rule. It is for those who seek to govern that problems occur. Instead, Thor sees his ministry, if you will, as somebody who can help others more directly than can a king who has to consider a wider constituency.
As I said at the beginning, I disliked Thor: The Dark World less than the first time I saw it. If you have seen all the MCU films already, going back and watching this one will help it make more sense. Also, like most of the Marvel cinematic installments, there is nothing here to prevent the whole family from watching it, though it is rated PG-13. I guess it has this rating for some of the more tense moments. Otherwise, it is apparently an important piece of the MCU puzzle given that it is referenced in Avengers: Endgame.