Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the World-building and Character Development. There are definitely SPOILERS in this post.
So many SPOILERS.
Really, I was worried about Thor 2. There were a lot of things that I liked about the first movie, and some things that I definitely didn't like. Pretty much all of the stuff that happened on Earth (or Midgard, depending on where you're from). I didn't like the way that Jane turned into a giggly bubblehead whenever she was around Thor. I didn't like the fact that Thor, God of Thunder is apparently a very quick study when it comes to learning humility. And I didn't like the pushback from some people in the fan community against the casting choices for Heimdall and Hogun.
Thor 2 seems to have applied the lessons learned from its predecessor, because I fucking loved it. I know some will disagree, but I'd put this film on par with Iron Man 3 in the recent Marvel films. It is all about world-building and relationships, and gave me all the feels.
Thor and Odin
There are a couple of dynamics going on here, both of which the film addressed beautifully. The first is the father-son relationship between Odin and Thor. Odin charged Thor with bringing peace to the Nine Realms. Good luck with that, Thor. Odin notices Thor brooding over the mortal he left behind on Earth and basically tells him to snap out of it, especially when there's a perfectly good badass Asgardian woman right in front of him. Thor disregards this fatherly advice - not with arrogance, as before, but with a greater sense of perspective, having fought hard to protect Earth with the Avengers.
The second relationship is the king-heir dynamic that comes into play during the crisis that Asgard faces when Malekith and his Dark Elves attack. This is complicated by Odin's arrogance, which is probably borne out of Odin's faith in his own father, Borr, who had claimed to put the Dark Elf threat to rest centuries ago. It's further complicated by the death of Frigga - arrogance and grief prove to be a deadly combination.
Thor and Sif
I was so pleased by how Thor's relationship with Sf was handled in this film - I feared a cliche and overdone love triangle. I hate love triangles, but this one was so small as to be unobtrusive. Sif is a smart woman, a great warrior, and a good friend. She sees that Thor is in deep smit with Jane Foster, even if she doesn't think Jane to be a worthy companion for him. And then she does nothing but what she would have done anyway, as one of Thor's most trusted friends. She sets her own feelings aside for the good of Asgard, and kicks some ass while doing it.
Thor and Jane
No one is more surprised than me that Jane Foster did not entirely annoy the shit out of me in Thor 2 - in fact, I think she actually played a vital role in the plot, in a way that didn't seem forced. It makes sense that Jane would investigate gravitational anomalies caused by the Convergence. It's not implausible for her to fall through a portal to another world. And though it's incredibly stupid for her to touch a glowing red substance trapped in a rock on an alien world, it's not out of character for her to do so. The scientists in Prometheus made all kinds of bad decisions, too.
I like that both Jane and Thor keep their heads even after they're reunited. I realize that Thor's plan to lure Malekith away from Asgard is risky, but if he were thinking the way first-movie-Thor did, he would have gone along with Odin's plan and sacrificed Asgard to protect her. He didn't do that - nor did he know whether or not allowing Malekith to remove the Aether from her body would kill her. But it was the right thing to do. As Carrot Ironfoundersson says in the Discworld books, "Personal is not the same as important." The way this was handled was uncharacteristically wise for Thor, and showed growth of character.
Loki and Frigga
HOLY CRAP ALL OF THE FEELS! I have so much to say about Frigga and Loki's relationship, but I don't even know if I can find the words. I love that such a short amount of screen time showed us so much about Loki's childhood. Frigga's question, when she's projecting into Loki's cell, "And am I not your mother?" nearly killed me. She was the one that taught him how to cast illusions. She's the one who pleaded with Odin for mercy on his behalf. And her death is what motivates Loki to keep Malekith from achieving his goals - I'm not as naive as Thor. If Loki possessed any desire to save Asgard it was only to preserve it so he could take it as his own, or exact revenge on Odin. But I believed Loki when he said, "Trust my rage," as he and Thor prepared to confront Malekith and destroy the Aether. If the Dark Elf attack on Asgard had left Frigga alive and well, Loki wouldn't have given a bilge snipe's ass about what Malekith did with the Aether.
Loki's grief for Frigga was painted on the walls of his cell, even if it wasn't plain in his face and unkempt (and sexy) hair.
Thor and Loki
I couldn't stop laughing from the moment Thor freed Loki from his dungeon cell to the moment they arrived on Svartalfheim. The way that Loki was picking and needling at Thor as he flew the Dark Elf ship out of the palace was so indicative of their brotherly relationship, and absolutely hilarious all at the same time. I also loved that Thor was able to actually surprise Loki with his escape plan.
But Loki is always always always three steps ahead of Thor at all times. Even as I watched and had even more feels when Thor was holding a dying Loki in his arms, I knew that Loki was playing the long game - my only question was when the audience would see what it was.
I also think that Loki's death scene was his gift to Thor - for the time being, anyway, until the truth is uncovered. Thor wanted so desperately to believe that he and Loki could be brothers again that he bought it - hook, line and sinker. But it was also touching, and I think it was a "if only" illusion for Loki as well.
Darcy and Everyone
Darcy forever! Keep up the sassiness, girl! Also, I love that you have an intern.
"How's space?" indeed.
Malekith and the Universe
I went back to read io9's review of Thor 2, which I skipped the first time around because I wanted to go into the movie without any preconceptions. I was surprised that Charlie thought that Christopher Eccleston was a non-entity as Malekith, because I thought he was fucking awesome. When he destroyed Odin's throne during the Dark Elf attack, it was so obvious that the very sight of the golden throne in the cheerfully-lit palace was an affront to Darkness - a blatant offense to everything about him and his people. Sure, attempting to extinguish all light in the Universe seems like such an impossible goal for a Big Bad, which might have reduced the character's believeability, but I thought he carried it off quite well.
And that's pretty much what I thought. Now I have to go back and read what everyone else said.