2013’s Thor: The Dark World is often considered to be one of the worst installments in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the film that almost killed the Thor franchise. Yet, it has actually impacted the wider MCU in several brilliant ways and even contributed a great deal to the God of Thunder’s saga, elevating it further.
From adding to intriguing narratives to setting up plots in both Ragnarok and the upcoming Love And Thunder, alongside paying off the original Thor film, The Dark World ultimately has done far more than people realize. A rewatch of the piece would perhaps reveal some of these underrated elements. Ultimately the MCU would be very different without the release.
The Infinity Stones are of course critical for the larger saga in the MCU. While Phase 1 set up a few of these cosmic objects, it was Phase 2 and 3 that had to do the majority of the heavy lifting. The Dark World contributed the Aether to proceedings, which turned out to be the Reality Stone.
It’s one of the most powerful Infinity Stones in existence and a significant one that Thanos set his sights on. The film even concludes with the introduction of the Collector, who takes the Stone into his possession, leading toward the events of Avengers: Infinity War. Thor: The Dark World made that important arc possible.
Jane Foster was really a supporting character in Thor designed to introduce the God of Thunder to Midgard while providing a little bit of scientific exposition. The romance narrative was a useful subplot, but Jane’s addition served the larger story. That was the case for The Dark World too.
Jane was positioned as the damsel in distress, the Aether bonding to her. It was her first integration into Asgard, but that can have a much larger impact down the line. Not only does she play a role in Avengers: Endgame because of her Aether situation, but this may actually be part of her origin story to becoming the Mighty Thor.
Each appearance of Thor in the MCU was usually accompanied by Loki. Their relationship has continued to evolve, but The Dark World did a lot of heavy lifting in truly building their bond. Loki’s fake death hit home for Thor in an unexpected way, changing their dynamic forever.
When Loki does eventually die, audiences understand how Thor would react, having seen it once before. The duo is forced to work together in The Dark World as well, which is a much-needed arc so that viewers can understand that despite having been enemies, they are still brothers first and foremost.
Frigga didn’t seem like an important character in the original Thor. Yet, she became integral to The Dark World, with her death completely changing the tone of the film. It upped the stakes and her relationship with Loki also helped to flesh out the trickster further as well.
Her return in Avengers: Endgame and the inspiring talk she had with Thor would never have been possible without the setup in The Dark World. Two characters were completely elevated and expanded on further, thanks to Frigga’s own unexpected arc.
The Norse element of Thor has somewhat been lost recently, with a focus on the comic book cosmic elements and humor-driven space adventures. Love And Thunder looks to be returning to those godly roots, but it was arguably The Dark World that captured that element the best.
With mystical threats and Norse aesthetics, from the weapons to the armor, this very much felt like the mythology of the Vikings was being brought to life on the screen. It was a step up from the visuals of the original Thor, which spent so much time on Midgard and that may be revisited with the upcoming sequel.
Not only were the Norse elements of Thor very much present, but the wider mythical components of the Marvel Universe were also brought forward. The Dark Elves are a perfect example of that. It was the sort of foe that was a risk to portray, but The Dark World pulled it off.
There were some issues with the execution of Malekith and his own arc, but the very concept of the Dark Elves opened the door for further mythical characters in the future. Would Eitri be included for instance, without the likes of Malekith previously? A supposedly terrible sequel can still add a great deal to the lore.
Darcy Lewis has firmly established herself in the MCU thanks to her appearance in Thor and WandaVision. But the character truly became iconic in The Dark World, where she was allowed to move on her own subplot independently, demonstrating that there were plenty of potential directions to take the character.
Fans were thrilled to hear of Darcy’s return because of her additional appearance in The Dark World. The Thor sequel leads directly into WandaVision in establishing Darcy as an expert in the supernatural and mythical. That’s a great service for the future of the universe, which may call on Darcy again.
Thor’s worthiness is a constant conflict throughout the saga. The original installment questioned whether Thor should even own Mjölnir. Ragnarok looked at what Thor is without his hammer and the prospect he’ll never own it again. Infinity War and Endgame saw what Thor could become independent of it and whether he was worthy to wield it one last time.
It’s a theme that will play into Love And Thunder with the return of the hammer warrior Jane Foster. But The Dark World didn’t question Thor’s worthiness. It simply established that at that time, Mjölnir was the status quo for the God. That’s so important as a contrast to the consistent debate as to whether Thor should own the hammer. In this case, storytelling is all about balance.
It wasn’t just the supporting characters of Midgard who were given further depth. The film also allowed audiences to get a better sense of Asgard, spending more screentime at Thor’s home and giving some moments of levity to characters like Heimdall, Sif, and the Warriors Three.
That was integral to the setup for the shocking set of murders in Ragnarok and later in Avengers: Infinity War. It built the notion that these individuals are so important for Thor’s life and that his impressive feats of power are partially due to this support network backing him up. By building on this beat, the collapse of that network became even more stunning.
Loki’s key arc took place in The Dark World. The loss of his mother and hints of redemption would eventually be paid off in both the Avengers series and later in the Loki spin-off. This was Loki’s movie despite it being a Thor film and he excelled in the role he was given.
If there’s one thing to take away from Thor: The Dark World it’s that Loki’s journey moving forward is entirely based on the shift in the character that audiences first saw here. His grief, rage, and need for belonging continued to influence his eventual decision-making.
NEXT: 10 Most Influential Thor Artists