The Women of ‘Thor: The Dark World’

Superhero movies often get better in their sequels because the repetitive and time-consuming business of an origin story has already been taken care of. Some of the greatest beneficiaries of this greater narrative freedom are the secondary characters, a group which, because these are comic book movies, generally encompasses every female character.

And yes, the women are for the most part given More To Do in Thor 2. But is it any more satisfying for the feminist viewer? Read more to find out. Spoiler alert #1: Not Really. Spoiler alert #2: There are spoilers for the film in this review.

[caption id="attachment_5531" align="aligncenter" width="500"]Jane Foster could feel it. She was perfect. Jane Foster could feel it. She was perfect.[/caption]

 

Jane Foster Goes All Black Swan on Us

I know next to nothing about the character in the comics, but I really like Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster. I love how passionate she is about her work (possibly because I married a scientist). And Natalie Portman, with real life academic bona fides, brings invaluable credulity to her role as a brilliant astrophysicist. She also pulls off the character’s social awkwardness convincingly and endearingly, despite “good at science, bad at people” being something of an overdone trope. And my favorite thing about Jane Foster is how embarrassed she is by her romance novel-esque love affair with a godlike superhero from another realm. But while her character was nicely three-dimensional in the first Thor, she wasn’t given much in the way of plot.

So in the sequel, Jane gets plot, but it’s only by coincidentally being possessed by the MacGuffin (some kind of universe-destroying energy called the Aether). This results in her having some self-defending superpowers which are barely called into play (less action than Pepper Potts got with her temporary superpowers in Iron Man Three), and a handful of spooky moments where her eyes turn dark and she grows feathers out of her back. We don’t actually get to know how Jane FEELS about this potentially fatal possession, though. It’s clearly just a plot device to get Jane to Asgard, and a waste of an opportunity for real character development.

Also, that “for New York” face slap she gave Loki in the trailer? Much less effective in the actual film because it comes well after a DOUBLE face slap for Thor for not calling her when he was on Earth to save New York. If I think about that any longer I will actually have a stroke, so let’s move on to…

 

[caption id="attachment_5532" align="aligncenter" width="500"]Rene Russo as Frigga Rene Russo as Frigga[/caption]

 

Frigga? More Like Fridge-a

Even though I watched the original (or two-thirds of the original before I fell asleep, no slight on the film, just a side effect of a busy week) on Friday night, I can’t remember what Frigga, mother to Thor and Loki and Queen of Asgard, did in the first movie other than provide the audience with a pleasant moment of, “Hey, Rene Russo!” and offer the camera concerned looks.

It’s not much better for our Queen in Thor 2. She gets one good tactical move and around thirty seconds of “see, strong women!” swordplay before getting killed off by the main baddie, all the better to fuel Thor’s  broodiness. Loki clearly had a stronger bond with Frigga, but the only way we see her death affect him is when he rages out in his prison cell. Which, you know, he probably does when he has a stubborn tangle in his hair, so it’s not all that compelling. With the actually dramatically interesting parts of Frigga’s death left unexplored, it feels all the more egregious a case of the character being fridged.

 

[caption id="attachment_5533" align="aligncenter" width="500"]Sif Jaimie Alexander as Sif[/caption]

 

Sif, also present.

Sif actually gets LESS to do in this movie, and a couple of suggestive edits imply she’s in one corner of a love triangle with Thor and Jane, which I could SERIOUSLY do without (although my Thor expert Ben tells me that in some runs of the comics, Sif loves Thor “big time”). But if they MUST go down that path, at least let us have some meaningful dialogue between her and Jane during their escape from Asgard.

I also get sad when Sif is on screen because she makes me want a Wonder Woman movie even more, but that isn’t Marvel or Jaimie Alexander’s fault, so let’s move on.

 

[caption id="attachment_5534" align="aligncenter" width="500"]Kat Dennings as Darcy Kat Dennings as Darcy[/caption]

 

And Kat Dennings as “Darcy”

Kat Denning’s Darcy is a Miracle Whip character: you either love her or hate her. She worked better for me in the first film, partially because the atrocious sitcom 2 Broke Girls pretty much has the same effect on Kat Denning’s signature shtick as sunlight does on Miracle Whip. Nevertheless, Darcy made me laugh, she helped the film pass the Bechdel Test by leaps and bounds, and, best of all, she reacted to the absurd goings-on the way a normal person would. I wanted to stand up and cheer when she called the police after Jane went missing from a creepy abandoned building, because that is what normal people would do, even when it seems pretty clear she’s missing because she’s in another realm, because there’s no 999 for that.

Even though I realize Darcy isn’t for everyone, I do wish there were more characters like her in the Marvel universe. By which I mean interesting, well-developed human civilian characters. So keep the Darcys coming, Marvel, and try to make some of them people of color, wouldya?

 

[caption id="attachment_5535" align="aligncenter" width="500"]Thor 2's take on women: partly cloudy, some showers Thor 2‘s take on women: partly cloudy, some showers[/caption]

 

In conclusion? Thor 2 isn’t TERRIBLE to its women, even though it isn’t exactly great. Moreover, the treatment of women in the movie is good enough that it doesn’t detract much from the rest of the film, which is for my money very enjoyable and a substantial improvement on the (already pretty good) first installment.  It’s definitely worth seeing–at least so I have more people to talk to about it.