Movie Muses: Thor 2 and Why Characters Matter

Last weekend, I got to see another new movie.  I feel very spoiled.  Normally I wait for them to trickle their way down into the local dollar theater (which actually costs two dollars on weekends… I feel lied to) or just rent them later from Redbox.  But not lately.  Lately, I have been too eager to see these new films in theaters!

thor the dark world filmI went into Thor: The Dark World with mildly optimistic expectations.  By optimistic, I mean that I expected to be entertained, if in a very shallow way, by lots of action and adventure and things being smashed by a hammer and Loki being an extraordinary villain(ish). That’s all I wanted.  I had read a few reviews ahead of time that indicated the movie could be summed up as cheesy good fun and nothing more.

That is pretty much exactly what the second Thor movie is.  It is funny, it is fun to watch, and it is pretty shallow entertainment, but not in a bad way.  When we left the theater, though, I made a profound realization about this movie.  And this is the profound realization that I made:

“The plot kind of sucked.  If it hadn’t been for the characters, this would have been a horrible movie.”

Clearly, I am meant to be a movie critic because I think such deep thoughts.

But I stand by what I said. The plot is pretty silly.  Without giving away anything crucial (although just to be safe, I’ll cry spoilers! so you can’t get mad at me), this is basically how it goes:

Ancient evil elves want to destroy the universe using glowy universe-destroying goo.  Thor stops them.  The end.

 

dark elves thor dark world

Evil elves!

I know.  Wow.

But despite the fact that the plot was not terribly enthralling and a lot of it was simply Thor tossing the hammer and angsting about saving his girl, it was still enjoyable.  Why is that?

The answer is because of the characters.  Or rather, because of some of the characters.  Ironically, the main characters of this film, Thor and Jane, are not the strong ones.  They don’t do any growing or character development during the movie and while they are both generally likable and decent characters, they were not the ones who had the audience laughing and deeply engaged throughout.  Instead, the characters who held this movie together were several of the secondary characters.

One of the greatest fears we have when we go to see a sequel is that the idiot producers will look at what people liked in the first film and then overdo it in the second one (think: Pirates of the Caribbean franchise).  In a way, this movie did take what was good in the first film and give us more, but in this case it actually worked.

thor dark world darcy erik internThe characters that I enjoyed in the first film, such as Jane’s friends Erik and Darcy, were even funnier and more charming in this film.  They had a very strong supporting role and I cared more about them than I did about Jane.  Again, I had no hard feelings toward the female lead, but she wasn’t what drew my attention.

Now, there was one other character who was extremely important, crucial even, for the success of this film.  I’m not forgetting him.  I’m just saving him for last.

loki thor dark world lokiMany people liked the first movie more for the villain than for the hero, and in this movie, the character Loki is improved upon, if that is even possible.  He is even more sardonic and snarky and wounded and clever and interesting.  If anyone grows in this film as a character, it is actually Loki, although I will not tell you that he becomes “good.”  Watch it and see for yourself what happens with him.  No spoilers from me.  Suffice to say that Loki alone makes this movie worth watching.

Ultimately, this movie is about the characters more than it is about the story because, let’s face it, the story is pretty silly.  Furthermore, this movie is about the secondary characters rather than about the title character or his lady love because, let’s face it, they’re nice and all but not that fantastic.

thor dark world lokiFor someone who cares more about characters than plot, this film demonstrated something that I find is often very true for me as both a reader and a writer: characters are crucial.  Do not create stock characters, stereotypes, and meaningless minions.  Characters aren’t just there to walk through the story.  We are people and so we want to engage with real people when we read (or watch) a story.  Yes, the plot does matter.  The plot matters a lot.  But the characters are the ones to whom the plot happens, who make the decisions, who experience the adventures and intrigues, the ones we root for or can’t wait to see fail. We have to be able to like them or dislike them.  We have to be able to remember them.

If we don’t care about the characters, we won’t care about the plot.  The story will lose its impact, no matter how clever (or not!) it actually is.

So make the characters count.

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About Melissa

generally in love with things Celtic, mythological, fantastic, sharp and pointy, cute and fuzzy, intellectual, snarky, cheerful, or some combination thereof. Such things as sarcastic bunnies wielding claymores might come to mind...

Posted on November 13, 2013, in Characters, Film, Lantern Hollow Press Authors, Melissa Rogers, Movie Reviews, Plot, Story, Thor, Writing Hints and Helps and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I pretty much agree with everything you said, although I think your summary of the plot is a bit disingenuous, since we all know that one of the characters in this movie is the Norse Deity of Plot Twists. Speaking of whom, I love your list of adjectives for Loki. He is absolutely fascinating, and I can’t stop thinking about him, which is why I’m commenting on your post almost a week after reading it.

    • I freely admit that the plot description was very tongue-in-cheek and perhaps did not do the story justice, basic as it was. But I was trying to avoid spoilers (I didn’t want to be that reviewer!). If there is any depth to the plot, I think it does tie right back to the characters and what they experience, particularly our favorite “secondary” characters, if they can even be called that!

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