THOR: THE DARK WORLD
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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