The first Thor film arrived in May of 2011, almost exactly one year after the disappointing but wildly successful Iron Man 2, and almost exactly one year before the fanboy-sating, billion-five-grossing, super-team-up orgy of The Avengers. Though no sure thing, it was a big hit, exceeding any reasonable goal for a tentpole entertainment directed by Henry V and centered around a Norse god whose powers include salon-quality hair and being able to afford the nicest hammer in the Asgard Home Depot. After the movie pounded out $450 million worldwide, nobody’s sniffing at our hero’s impossibly bouncy tresses anymore, unless it’s to ask Chris Hemsworth if he’d like to try the shampoo infused with fresh-squeezed diamond essence today. (He would; the one made from 24-carat bullion flakes is giving him a nasty case of goldruff.)
And so Friday’s arrival of Thor: The Dark World comes with much higher expectations than the movie two years ago. The Marvel Universe is now made entirely of money (thanks, Joss and RDJ!), and Hemsworth, as untested a beef-slab as the suits dared jam into Viking armor the first time around, is now a battle-tenderized movie star. There is a train that must be kept running until the next Avengers film arrives in 2015, and each super-conductor must take his turn shoveling cash into its hungry furnace. But, we ask, is that your problem? It is not; when Stan Lee comes by to jiggle an upturned fedora near your pockets as you wait in line outside the multiplex, you’re under no obligation to toss in any coins. Your only problem is this: Should you open your wallet this time? Well, we’re here to arm you with the information you need to make an informed ticket-buying decision.
Have you seen The Avengers?
Before you answer, a quick test: Press your extended pointer and middle fingers to your neck, just under the jawline. Do you feel anything? The gentle thrumming of a pulse? If so, congratulations, you are alive!
And if you are alive, you have seen The Avengers. Every living being has seen The Avengers at this point; its reach — $1.5 billion, third-best all-time — is only slightly less powerful than that of the sun. And even if you’d like to claim otherwise, you have come into contact with enough Avengers-branded experiences to qualify as having seen it. Lunchboxes, Happy Meals, Dr. Banner’s Gamma-Boosted Flu Shots, whatever: Just by living on Marvel Planet, you have a subconscious understanding of its plot. You know, somehow, that a bunch of super-pals in fun costumes saved a big city from extinction. You’ve had an inexplicable craving for shawarma for two years now. You sometimes wake in the middle of the night, heart pounding, and the only thought in your head is Hawkeye can get bent.
You, citizen of Earth, have been Avengerized. Sorry. We’re all in it together, at least. Try the McShawarma, it’s delicious.
We’d say SEE IT, but then every other question to follow would BECOME REDUNDANT. So: THINK ABOUT IT, and KEEP GOING. We promise WE’LL BE MORE HELPFUL. This is a PROCESS.
Have you seen the original Thor?
Good news: Not everyone on Earth saw it! It’s conceivable you missed it, that you have no idea what it’s about, that for the duration of The Avengers you kept asking yourself why Super Fabio was hanging around with Green Mute Zodiac. Chances are good you live a rich and full life without knowing Loki’s backstory. (Note: Loki is the one who looks like a handsome Marilyn Manson went to the world’s most expensive Ren Faire.) You probably also skipped Captain America, because come on, that guy got out-acted by an invisible Jessica Alba. It’s possible you’ve never even bought a comic book. You are a mystery. A beautiful mystery.
But if you did see it, and you liked it:
SEE IT. Right? Why wouldn’t you SEE IT? You LIKED IT and this is MORE OF THE SAME. This game is SO EASY.
If you didn’t see it:
SKIP IT. They didn’t convince you last time. This is MORE OF THE SAME. And also maybe NOT AS GOOD. [GASPS] CLUTCH YOUR PEARLS: a sequel that MIGHT DISAPPOINT SOMEBODY.
Are you a Chris Hemsworth fan?
This is a very interesting question, if we do say so ourselves. Because what is a Chris Hemsworth fan? This is his résumé:
The Cabin in the Woods, sort of
Snow White and the Hunstman
Being From Australia
To be a “Chris Hemsworth fan” is, essentially, to be a Thor fan. Maybe you liked Rush — we hear it was good. He seems like a nice guy, like he might be the world’s most charming Muscle Milk receptacle, assuming The Rock has evolved beyond the point where anything available at a GNC could sufficiently enswole him. Maybe that’s enough. No judgments. It’s just, you know, “fan” might be a strong word until his Ron Howard–to-cocky-superhero ratio skews a little further toward the Opie-movie direction.
SEE IT. He takes his shirt off. We realize that’s what YOU WANTED TO KNOW. He is SO JACKED you can BOUNCE A MANHOLE COVER off HIS PECS.
Would you be bothered if it seemed like Natalie Portman wasn’t trying her absolute hardest?
You love Natalie Portman. Everyone loves Natalie Portman. If you had to choose one word to describe Natalie Portman, you could do worse than “lovable.”
And yet Natalie Portman sometimes doesn’t make the best choices? This is framed as a question because you don’t want Natalie Portman mad at you, she’s like a rare and exquisite bird, and you feel like the force of your disappointment might shatter her delightfully hollow bones? Again, a question, because this is not a confrontation, this is a discussion. She went to Harvard in her spare time between movies and is much smarter than you/us, so it’s maybe a little presumptuous to question her career strategy. She’s thinking so many moves ahead you can’t even wrap your head around how doing a sex comedy with Ashton Kutcher eventually led to that second Oscar in 2019 with Donjar Fralling-Mecklenberg. Don’t IMDb him. His Sundance winner doesn’t even happen until 2016; right now he’s still building the origami boats in Nepal.
That being said, and with all due respect, maybe Natalie Portman didn’t try extra-hard in either of the Thor movies? Like, you think you see her drift off in the middle of scenes where she’s explaining how the thingamajig she’s holding can track activity in the other eight realms, like she’s remembering her Black Swan Oscar acceptance speech? More likely it’s that her utter mastery of the bullshit science-box in her hand allows her to multitask her brain back into swan-time, but even if she were not giving full effort — and we’re not saying this is at all the case! Preserve the bones! — you’d be inclined to forgive her. Maybe her agent didn’t realize he was signing her up for 15 Marvel movies. He only graduated from William Morris Endeavor Mailroom Academy. You can’t hold him to her standards — that would be crazy.
SKIP IT. Let Natalie be your PERFECT WHITE SWAN FOREVER. This situation is WAY TOO FRAUGHT.
Do you like movies with an unnecessary 3-D conversion?
We should be up front here: 3-D is a scam, a surcharge for the gullible, visual snake oil. Always skip the 3-D. In the exceedingly rare cases where a movie would be better enjoyed in 3-D, trust us, people will not shut up about it. (See: Gravity. Really, see Gravity in 3-D, it’s breathtaking. And see nothing else in 3-D, ever.)
If you are ever tempted to pay for the 3-D ticket, walk over to the nearest wall and caress that wall for the movie’s entire running time. Press your cheek against it. Feel it against your skin. Luxuriate in its all-encompassing two-dimensionality. Savor the flatness. Know with bone-deep certainty that it could not be improved upon by lobby garbage flying out of it and into your face.
Then buy your cheaper ticket. Donate the savings to a charity that would infuriate James Cameron. Maybe one seeking to regulate the personal usage of mini-submarines. He wouldn’t like that very much.
SEE IT in 2-D. We think we were PRETTY CLEAR with all that wall stuff.
Do you have a sibling with whom you have a complicated relationship?
Thor and Loki have some real Cain-and-Abel stuff going on. Even if there’s friction in your family, it’s probably not over succession plans for the throne of Asgard. Maybe this movie will put everything in perspective, letting you see that even if it sometimes feels like your Allfather loves your brother more, he’s got enough love in his heart for you both.
Nope: SKIP IT. You don’t need TO TAKE YOUR DRAMA to the theater. Besides, the THRONE SHOULD BE YOURS.
Are you the kind of person who’s going to get bent out of shape that the other Avengers don’t show up to help deal with imminent destruction of the entire universe?
There’s a certain buy-in you have to make with all of the non-Avengers Marvel movies. That buy-in: The other Avengers are all super-busy with their own lives. Iron Man’s got a company to run, the Hulk’s got an important research project he needs to see through, Hawkeye’s restringing some bows. All “Avengers Assemble!” beacons are rolling to voice mail for the foreseeable future, even if that very future is imperiled by a gang of Dark Elves (this movie contains Dark Elves, which are like Regular Elves, but with bleached-white skin and Amadeus wigs) who are angry about some long-ago Asgardian elficide.
So until then: Everyone handles their own damn existential threats. That’s just the way it’s gotta be.
SKIP IT. It is TOTALLY INSANE that the OTHER AVENGERS don’t SHOW UP to HELP DEAL with the IMMINENT DESTRUCTION of the ENTIRE UNIVERSE.
Do you like portals?
Oh boy, are there some portals for you. Think of a movie that had a bunch of interdimensional portals in it, and then, like, multiply that by a big number. This movie has so many portals! How else are you going to travel between the Nine Realms? You think you’re going to bribe Heimdall to beam you around willy-nilly to whatever realm you feel like visiting? He’s got the Rainbow Bridge to guard. He’s a little tied up with that. He’s going to scowl at you and recommend you throw your own sorry ass through a portal. They’re everywhere. And we don’t want to spoil anything, but we bet it would be cool if a couple of dudes starting punching each other through them. Theoretically.
SEE IT. Then go jump into a SHIMMERING TELEPORTATION-SPHINCTER, lazybones.
How do you feel about superheroes getting punched and/or thrown through buildings during a climactic battle in a major metropolitan area? You like that?
Let’s sweeten the pot: What if these buildings are filled with people who are so busy they don’t even look up from their work as, say, a Thor-shaped object crashes through one window and out another? They’re all, “Gotta get this PowerPoint done before the big meeting this afternoon, no time for distractions!” And then: “Hey, did it suddenly get drafty in here?”
SEE IT. It is literally AGAINST THE LAW for a superhero movie to not feature a scene like this, and you wouldn’t want to GET ANYONE IN TROUBLE with THE BLOCKBUSTER COPS.
Do you want to see another Marvel movie where people are filled with a fire-like energy field that threatens to burst through their skin?
In the last Iron Man 3, it was called Extremis. In Thor 2, it’s called Aether. No, they’re (probably?) not the same thing, but we can promise you this: It’s going to get inside some people and then make their skin glow.
SEE IT. If you’re into the INSCRUTABLE MAGMA-SNOT OF POWER, you are in for a REAL THRILL RIDE.
Was your favorite part of the most recent Spider-Man the bit where Denis Leary kept saying “branzino” over and over again, until the word “branzino” eventually lost all meaning?
On the off chance this is a spoiler, skip ahead right now.
But: You’re never going to order sea bass again.
SEE IT. Your appetite for fish-based repartee is INSATIABLE.
Are you into that thing where somebody in a movie unsheathes an edged weapon and it makes that really cool singing-metal sound?
[SFX: SINGING METAL AS THE BATTLE-AX IS UNSHEATHED.]
SEE IT. The foley artist deserves FIVE FOLEY OSCARS for his amazing work in the unsheathed-edged-weapon space.
Can you pronounce Mjolnir?
Yeah, you can.
SEE IT. Then roll it around on your tongue. MYOL-neer. It has EXQUISITE MOUTHFEEL for a MAGIC HAMMER.
MYOL-neer. It’s NOT THAT HARD.
But KEEP PRACTICING.
Oh, before we forget, should we see this movie?
Totes your decision. Whatever.
We’re NOT THE BOSS OF YOU.