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The Beginning
In 1962, the now-legendary duo of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby introduced "The Mighty Thor" to readers of Marvel Comics, unleashing a new era of action-adventure with their take on the hammer-wielding Norse god. Despite the Nordic-sounding names, the story was rooted in familiar, universal conflicts that have driven human drama since the beginning of time: a son impatient to prove his worth to his father; a lethally resentful brother; and a woman who helps a man see the world anew.

After the global cinematic success of Marvel's "Thor," the filmmakers reached once more into a rich archive of Norse mythology and comic book history for Marvel's "Thor: The Dark World." The movie paints an adventure of the most epic and spectacular proportions. Again drawing on universal and familiar themes, the film pits duty and family allegiance against personal aspiration and love. It sees a nation in conflict with an enemy long thought to be dead, but who now threatens the very existence of the universe.

"Thor: The Dark World" producer and Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige notes that writers Stan Lee and Jack Kirby had made an inspired move by looking to Norse mythology when deciding to create a god as a comic book Super Hero. He recalls, "A lot of people were familiar with the Greek and Roman mythologies, not so much with the Norse. When you read those stories, it's like the best of the Marvel Comics, because it's people who are very human, despite their powers -- despite their calling down the storm, the thunder and the lightning. They have family issues, in the two brothers fighting, Thor and Loki. It's a family drama and they're just as flawed as any of us, or any of the Marvel heroes. That's what makes the Marvel characters so relatable."

At the end of "Marvel's The Avengers," Thor takes Loki prisoner and returns him to Asgard to be jailed there for the crimes he committed in his attempt to take over Earth. From this starting point, producer Kevin Feige, executive producer Craig Kyle, the screenwriters and a large team at Marvel sat down to look at where Thor's story should go next. Screenwriter Christopher L. Yost explains, "We really wanted to look at how you could escalate the story personally for him and push things to the next level in terms of conflict."

Director Alan Taylor, describing Thor's journey, says, "In the first film, we saw Thor go from being an impetuous prince to taking his first steps towards maturing and growing up, and in our film that life story continues. He's moving closer to actually claiming the kind of power that comes with Odin. He's becoming not just a man, but potentially a king as well. In this story, as Thor matures and deepens, he has to give some things up and suffer."

To create the conflict, the filmmakers give Thor a worthy adversary -- the villainous Malekith. Introduced in June 1984 in issue #344 of Thor, Malekith is leader of the dark elves, who inhabit Svartalfheim, one of the Nine Realms. After waging war with the Nine Realms, and being defeated by Asgard, the dark elves were considered to be extinct. But Malekith put his planet and the surviving dark elves into hibernation for many thousands of years, until a calculated time when he was ready to avenge the universe and turn light once more into darkness. Malekith and the dark elves will prove to be formidable enemies with a violent and personal history with Asgard.

Producer Kevin Feige states that from early on Malekith was "the number #1 choice" for a villain to pit against Thor. "Malekith has a history," says Feige. "He has a unique world that fits into our desire to explore different worlds in this film. Some of his greatest adventures involved threatening Earth. He also has a great look that our visual development department could translate from the comic book to the screen in a cool way."

Marvel's creative executive Eric Carroll adds, "Malekith plays a big role in the Thor comics. Walter Simonson and the Surtur Saga where Malekith was introduced was probably the most famous and popular Thor saga out there. We always thought he'd be a really cool bad guy for this time around."

The dark elves also have their place in Norse mythology. Dark elves and also black elves are attributed to the "Prose Edda," a work written in the 13th century by Icelandic scholar and historian Snorri Sturluson. Black elves were called swart elves (singular svartalfar), and were beings that dwelled on Svartalfheim. The dark elves were called Dokkalfar, and they lived deep within the Earth.

Marvel's "Thor: The Dark World" also explores more of the Nine Realms and in doing so illuminates more of Thor's background and heritage. This gives the film greater scale and the audience more understanding of the history and complexities of Thor's universe, of which Earth is very much a key element. It also allows the filmmakers and scriptwriters a great opportunity to explore the cosmos and Marvel Universe with few limitations. This brings exciting and fantastical sci-fi elements to the film, such as otherworldly beings with mystical abilities and weird and wonderful landscapes.

The film opens on Earth, but we are quickly treated to tantalizing glimpses of the black and charred world of Svartalfheim, where dark elves Malekith and Algrim emerge from their bat-like hibernation. We then see a more earthy and lush Vanaheim where The Warriors Three and The Lady Sif are battling to bring about peace for the Vanir. Thor arrives to help and we establish that, as the peacekeepers of the Nine Realms, Thor and his dedicated warriors have been at war for a couple of years and have finally brought the cosmos to order.

In creating "Thor: The Dark World," Marvel filmmakers worked diligently to respect the film's origins and the legions of comic book fans it spawned and worked carefully to endear and excite not only those fans but fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as well. Executive producer Craig Kyle sums it up best when he says, "It's Marvel's job to celebrate the character that made the fans, but also introduce them in a way that we can allow others to now find those wonderful qualities in these characters. It's finding an entry point for everyone who wants to give these films and characters a chance."

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