Review: Thor: The Dark World
It’s been a while since I’ve done a movie review. Part of that reason is that I didn’t feel the movies I considered reviewing warranted wasting any more of my time beyond the two plus hours lost watching them. Sure Iron Man 3 had it’s moments and we all like the flashy suits, but my patience for Tony Stark’s growth as a character has worn thin. Man of Steel had a lot of potential, but just fell too short of the characters core for me to care. Then the god of thunder came crashing onto the big screen for the third time, mixing in the more mythologically “magical” side of Marvel’s canon and the response was generally positive if a bit mixed. Thor has long been a character that has straddled the concept in comics of magic in an ever increasing world of technology and so, the magical aspect has in many ways been peeled back to a reveal character more in line with science fiction then fantasy. This is exactly the type of peanut butter I like in my chocolate. Even though I’ve been reading Thor in comics for over 30+ years, I still prefer sci-fi over fantasy.
Now, a few critics were hard on the film and in some cases with good reason. Thor suffers from the same drawbacks of trying to put Superman on screen and give him a challenge worthy of a god, but I felt the story was entertaining and it was easily the best sequel in the MCU up until this point. The score on Rotten Tomatoes is a decent (if not uncommon) indicator of the divide between the critics at 65% and the general audience who scored it at an average of 82%. It solidified the character as a Marvel tentpole, locking in a third outing outside of the Avengers franchise and even spun off two episodes of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. with the second bringing Sif back to Midgard for the first time since Thor. I’m not really going to review the movie here in full, as most who were interested have probably already seen it. I was going to do this when the film first came out, but I didn’t get to see it until it had been out for a couple weeks and then with the holiday season approaching, things got very busy, on site and off. It seemed to make sense to do it with the DVD release, which just happens to be today. I want to take the opportunity to address my one true disappointment with the film, which actually doesn’t really have to do with the film at all.
The problem is merchandising and in this case: LEGO. Shocker, right?
As I said, I liked the film. It was a long way from perfect, but Marvel has a bigger problem now that the MCU is rolling along and garnering more and more success. They have to play in their own sand box. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a huge sandbox, but they made the rules and now they have to play by them. Everything they do in each of their movies has direct consequences for practically every other film and mini franchise. Things can’t get too big, or too out of hand in any one particular film without cutting into everyone else’s pie. If hey had destroyed as much of New York in The Avengers as DC did of Metropolis in Man of Steel, it would have made the tone of Iron Man 3, Thor and Captain America 2 and even MAOS drastically different. Sure, the Chitauri probably brought down a couple of buildings, or so severely damaged a few that they needed to come down, but what didn’t happen was the death of hundreds of thousands if not millions of citizens. With little to no positive interference from the films heroes.
I’m not trying to rag on DC, I just feel that they have started the race at the top of the hill. Marvel has attempted to keep the stakes more manageable, so as to escalate at an even pace. In some cases, they will even take things back a step or two and with a solid story that can be a really good thing. Sure, Thor: The Dark World had the fate of Earth and other worlds at stake, but the threat was manageable for one god/alien and a plucky band of supporting nutjobs. Captain America: The Winter Soldier has more of a cloak and dagger feel with what appears to be concepts of freedom, security and not surprisingly patriotism on the line. Iron Man generally just fights other egotistical tin cans or in the last films case, can openers. Guardians of the Galaxy has the potential to up the stakes to a more… well, galactic scale again, but I’m really getting a more heist/breakout style movie feeling from the trailer, so overall the pacing of the Marvel movies are building at a very even pace.
Was the villain a bit one dimensional? Sure, but how deep can you make an elf that hates light and life because his existence predates those things? I enjoyed Eccleston’s Malekith even if my favourite modern Doctor (not including the War Doctor) didn’t get to chew up as much scenery as I had hoped. Was the love story obvious and at times forced? Yes, but they have had what 5 hours to bring some of the important aspects of the classic comics to the screen, so I’m cool with it. I’d have to say that I enjoyed this one more than the first film and that’s really the best compliment you can give any sequel. It’s no Empire, but it makes me want to see more and that’s what puts butts in the seats.
Enough about the movie in general. Let’s get back top the real issue: there were no LEGO sets based on this movie.
Sure it seems to make sense that a film about elves and magic would have nothing to base building sets on, but… oh. Well, there are no castles or epic battles in this movie… dang. Ok, I’ve got it now. LEGO sets need vehicles. right? Isn’t that what we all have come to assume and or have heard from LEGO in some way or another? In that case, what could a movie about gods and magic and elves have for the kids to swoosh and pew? Actually, it had some vehicles I would have loved to see LEGO take a stab at and have come up with a few ideas that amount to what I believe could be another missed opportunity for LEGO.
I’ve broken it down into three sets based on the film at realistic price points, each with an alternate idea for a different set in the same size/price point. Taking a cue from the Iron Man 3 and Man of Steel sets from last year to get a general set up.
$13-$15 US/$15-$18 CAD
This set could go two ways. The first is to have a set that opens the movie with Thor and Sif battling the rock monster. This set could have a little catapult or cart if you wanted to expand the scene, but I’d prefer to fold those parts over into the creature. Something similar to the Crystal King Power Miners set but smaller would work and a head that pops off at the press of a button would be sublime. This first line will attempt to include the Warriors Three and Sif… because I want them and they are infinitely more popular* and interesting then the filler they put in the MOS sets. Let’s either replace Sif with Hogun or add him to the set because we don’t see him again in the film past this point, unfortunately.
Possible names: Rock Monster Encounter/Surrender or The Battle For Vanaheim
Second idea is to go the “small set=climactic battle” route and have the set be Thor fighting Malekith either in the dark realm or on earth. Some rock outcroppings and maybe a beat up little UK car to fall on them could round the set up in a nice boring package and make more sense then the little MOS or IM3 set.
Possible names: Battle Between Realms or Greenwich Showdown
$20-30 US. $25-$40 CAD
Continuing with the Warriors Three love is the scene where Frandral helps Thor, Loki and Jane escape on an Asgardian Skiff. The skiff was a neat design that could translate well to LEGO and you could throw in a turret to shoot at them and you’ve got yourself a set. Cut Loki and Jane from this one and add an Asgardian in the turret and maybe one on the skiff to fight off and really confuse those who haven’t seen the movie.
Possible names: Asgardian Skiff Chase seems to sum it up well.
As an alternate, I’d love to see a set with Heimdall and the scene where he single handedly takes down an elf starfighter is a favourite. A small tower for him to jump from and tear into the elf ship would be pretty sweet. The Elf starfighter is the second vehicle that when it appeared on screen I was disappointed that there were no LEGO sets. Throw a couple of dark elves in to pilot it and you’re set. Better throw Thor in there too, because he has to be since his name in in the title.
Possible names: Bifrost Bridge Defense or Heimdall’s Attack Ship Takedown
$50-$70 US. $60-$90 CAD
For the largest set, I’d love to see the scene where Thor and Loki begin their plan to rid Jane of the Aether and take off in the crashed elven starfighter with the help of Volstagg. A throne with a couple of smashed columns or what-not and a crashed elf ship for the set bulk and throw in Malekith and possibly Algrim/Kurse to wrap the crash scene and takeoff scene all into one. This could potentially be a great set and I would love to have seen it get made.
Possible names: Throne Room Escape or Attack On Asgard.
Or, they could do a grossly underscaled elven command ship either in the dark realm, Asgard or Greenwich since that thing got around. Depending on where you set it, it could have a differing selection of appropriate figs. It could be an interesting build actually and as with throne room set, if they added more pieces and bumped it up into a higher price range, the sets could really shine. Or be just terrible and give us an excellent opportunity to shake our angry review fists. Malekith and Algrim/Kurse would be a must in this one.
Possible names: Battle For The Aether or Dark Realm Encounter.
Now sure, it’s fun to speculate on sets that could have been. We even speculate on how existing sets could have been better or complain that “this scene” or “this vehicle” should have been a set instead of another. Unfortunately, I am a realist and can understand some very good reason why LEGO may not have wanted to do any sets based on this film. Whether I like those reasons or not.
First off, we already got a tonne of Thor and Loki figs in the Avengers sets. We had Loki in three sets and Thor in two and a polybag (Hawkeye got the same treatment for some bizarre reason). The minifigs they would have produced for The Dark World would have been virtually identical if they bothered to change them at all.
Also on the fig front, LEGO generally tries to go with really well known villains if possible. They’ve already put Doctor Doom in an Ultimate Spidey set even though the Fantastic Four are no where to be found, and there have been two (soon my precious) X-men themed sets produced and both have had Magneto as the villain. Which makes sense, because the X-men aren’t exactly known for having cool villains that would translate well into minifigs. Certainly not Mystique, Apocalypse, Mister Sinister, Sabertooth, Dark Phoenix, Lady Deathstrike, Alpha Red, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch (I’m hoping for some synergy next year) or the freaking Juggernaut. Those guys are just off the top of my head and yes I know they aren’t the highest profile villains in some cases, which is probably why we get two Magneto figs. Until recently, Malekith was a villain only known to die hard Thor fans who gravitated towards the Asgardian side of his adventures.
This could also be related to the reception of the Iron Man 3 and Man Of Steel sets. First, they kinda spoiled the movies for a lot of people (that’s more on IM3 though). They made little to no sense in their adaption from the final on screen product and the ones that were close, weren’t received well by many. MOS sets still languish on shelves here as do the occasional IM3 set, but at least the latter gave kids variant battle armours where MOS gave kids a bunch of random characters they probably don’t care about. Thor could have ended up providing the same “who’s that guy” moment when kids were looking at the sets on the shelf. If sales weren’t up to snuff on those two lines, LEGO may have been reluctant to take a chance on doing sets for the Thor and Cap sequels. After all, Iron Man has been far more financially successful as a franchise, if not as consistently good, so it makes sense to back what you see as a sure thing rather then take a chance.
Lastly, it makes more sense to go with the cartoon series’ that encompass a wider range of heroes then a single movie. One just happens to be coming out around the same time as The Dark World hits DVD and includes a more generic God Of Thunder. Pretty smart really. Also, a Captain America set right before that movie comes out.
It makes sense that they’d do sets based on Guardians Of The Galaxy too. If the movie hits, which everyone involved is going to do everything in their power to make that happen, the sets should sell really well. If the movie isn’t a hit, the sets will still have a lot to offer kids. Spaceships, battle scenes, five vastly different heroes and *spoilers* the possibility of minifigs based on no less then four villains from the GotG catalog.
Sometimes it’s hard to understand why LEGO makes the decisions it does (though keep in mind they are not making them alone when it comes to the licenses), but what it comes down to is the more successful the Marvel Cinematic Universe films, the better the chances we will get sets and figures based on our favourite characters. With Ant Man in production, threequels for Cap, Thor and the Avengers confirmed and talks of a GotG sequel and a Doctor Strange movie swirling rampantly, we could have a lot of great opportunities in the coming years.
Thor: The Dark World is available today from Amazon in whatever format you prefer, with all the assorted bells, whistles and a fancy new Marvel One-Shot featuring everyone’s favourite fraud, Trevor.