Dir. Alan Taylor ($644.7 million)
In order to give the fantasy element of Thor a more natural essence, Marvel Studios hired a director from HBO’s cornerstone program “Game of Thrones” in Alan Taylor. On that front, the film delivers. Taylor’s Asgard doesn’t rely on CGI at first as much as the first installment and travels to other realms—all with minimal computer generated images. Taylor manages to find the mystical in the natural. However, by film’s end, it becomes apparent that a Thor movie just can’t conclude without advancements in modern technology. The red aether infinity stone requires a massive amount of CGI as does the crashing space ship and most of Loki’s shenanigans. And then there’s Loki, a character so beloved by fans that Thor: The Dark World underwent reshoots (written by Tom Hiddleston and Joss Whedon) to feature Thor’s villainous adopted brother more predominantly than the original cut. Unfortunately these extra Loki scenes have little to do with the plot as the god of mischief doesn’t prove his worth until film’s climax.
This film also received a bit of director controversy, a trend all-too-familiar with Marvel Studios. Celebrated director Patty Jenkins (Monster) originally landed the job before Taylor. Creative differences lead Jenkins to exit. Natalie Portman allegedly tried to exit the project as well, but had to stay on set as her contract obliged. A movie star has far more value to a studio than an indie director. The problem with Thor: The Dark World is that it’s far too involved with movie stars than conflict. Chris Hemsworth became a bigger name after the first installment, plus Portman, Hopkins, Hiddleston, Rene Russo, Idris Elba, Ray Stevenson, and an extended cameo from Chris O’Dowd (“The I.T. Crowd,” The Sapphires) all take up the rest of the scenery. Christopher Eccleston (Shallow Grave, 28 Days Later) takes on a limited villain role, so limited that he’s hardly a match for Thor. The Thor sequel winds up as a thinly-veiled excuse to introduce one of the infinity stones, seat Loki on the throne of Asgard, and leave with Thor on Earth so he doesn’t have to show up and bring in the second act for yet another Avengers adventure. Clearly a worthy villain was not the priority.