Alan Taylor’s Thor: The Dark World is now the eighth movie to come out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and while the filmmakers behind the franchise have done a great job of making sure that each of the titles stand as independent stories, there is still plenty of backstory, continuity and mythology that is helpful to know before walking into the movie theater. Rather than let the series newcomers and non-comic book fans get lost in the dark, however, we’re here to help.
Just as I do whenever a new superhero movie comes out, I’ve constructed a list of people, places and things that audiences should know a bit about and be on the lookout for while watching the newest Marvel Studios movie. Read on and enjoy!
WARNING: This article contains some minor spoilers about Thor: The Dark World at the very end. While the first eight entries are safe, the last two may affect the surprise element of certain aspects of the film. We'll give you another warning before you get to those!
ThorWho Is He? Thor is best known from Norse legend as The God of Thunder. He hails from the mystical land of Asgard where he is next in line to the throne. In addition to his incredible strength and speed, Thor’s power is given to him by Mjolnir, a powerful hammer that the hero can use to conjure lightning and fly. He also happens to be the brother of Loki and they take sibling rivalry to a whole new level.
How Does He Fit? Where do we start explaining Thor’s place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He was banished to Earth in his first solo movie so that he could learn a bit of humility (which he did), and then he had to save our entire planet from his power-hungry, scheming brother in The Avengers. The character has had to do a lot of growing up in the last few years, but he has met the challenge. At the beginning of Thor: The Dark World he is a confident leader and warrior, has the love of Jane Foster, and is still expected to be the next king of Asgard. What could possibly go wrong?
LokiWho Is He? Like Thor, Loki is an Asgardian of legend, but has a much darker, more complicated background. Born as a son to the Frost Giant King Laufey, he was kidnapped as a prize of war by King Odin of Asgard and raised as one of Odin’s sons – never knowing the truth about his father. Upon learning of his lineage, Loki was driven mad with rage. He became not only obsessed with the idea of power, but also jealous of everything his brother, Thor, had been given and began a campaign to destroy it all.
How Does He Fit? As seen in The Avengers, Loki’s plans to try and take over our world failed thanks to the titular heroes, and at the end of the film he was put in handcuffs (and a muzzle) and brought back to Asgard where he would face judgment for his many crimes. At the beginning of Thor: The Dark World we actually get to see these proceedings, ruled over by Odin. Naturally, things don’t go particularly well for the green-clad villain and he is thrown in prison for eternity. But can a prison cell really contain the God of Mischief for that long?
OdinWho Is He? Best known as the natural father of Thor and the adoptive father of Loki, Odin holds rank as the king of Asgard – one of the most powerful positions in the entire universe. His bloodline stretches back centuries upon centuries and he has a great history as a brave warrior and leader. As a father he is very strict and has very high expectations for his two sons – and has gotten some mixed results…
How Does He Fit? In the Marvel Cinematic Universe Odin is an aging god who is looking to pass on his throne – namely to his son Thor. His attempt to do so in Kenneth Branagh’s Thor wound up with him actually banishing his heroic son to Earth and taking away the God of Thunder’s power, but in the time since then their relationship has been healed and Odin believes that his boy is ready for the throne. Unfortunately, this time around one of the main things standing in the way is love – but we’ll talk more about that in a minute.
FriggaWho Is She? Another key member of the Asgardian royal family, Frigga is the wife of Odin, the step mother of Thor, the adoptive mother of Loki, and the queen of Asgard. She is very caring, helping to balance out the strict Odin, but she is also strong-willed and tough, not afraid to stand up to any opponent.
How Does She Fit? Expanding on what was a pretty small role in Kenneth Branagh’s film, Thor: The Dark World lets us see more of Frigga’s character – particularly through her bond with Loki. While the God of Mischief absolutely despises Odin, he does have a soft spot in his heart for his mom. Naturally, she’s experiencing quite a bit of grief knowing that her son will rot away forever in a prison cell.
Jane FosterWho Is She? In the original comics, Jane Foster was a nurse, but in the Marvel Cinematic Universe her job description has been changed to astrophysicist – and she’s one of the best at what she does. Her brilliant work studying wormholes is what ends up leading her to New Mexico, which is where she first got to meet Thor and start a relationship.
How Does She Fit? It was Jane Foster’s pretty face that the God of Thunder first saw after being banished to Earth and the two characters fell deeply in love by the end of Thor… but then it was all radio silence. Because Thor had to destroy the Bifrost Bridge in order to stop Loki in the first movie, he had no way of getting back to Earth so that he could reunite with her. As a result, at the start of Thor: The Dark World it’s been two full years since the hero and the scientist last saw each other, which leads to some mixed feelings.
Erik SelvigWho Is He? First introduced in Thor, Erik Selvig is a colleague of Jane Foster’s who is also constantly looking to the stars for answers about our universe. He is a brilliant man who has added a tremendous amount to the world of wormhole research, but because of his heritage also has some insight about Norse mythology and the legends that surround the great hero Thor.
How Does He Fit? When we last saw Erik he was a bit of a mess. During his invasion of Earth, Loki used the power of the Tesseract to take control of Erik’s mind, and the villain used the scientist to build the machinery he needed. Thanks to a blow to the skull Erik was able to get the God of Mischief out of his head, but as you’ll see in Thor: The Dark World he hasn’t completely healed from the incident – which isn’t great considering that Jane winds up needing his help.
Malekith and The Dark ElvesWho Are They? Malekith the Accursed, his right hand man Algrim The Strong and the Dark Elves were first introduced in Marvel Comics back in 1984, and, much like many characters in the Thor part of the Marvel Universe they are a mix of both fiction and elements of Norse mythology. Hailing from the realm known as Svartalfheim, they are a militaristic people with very powerful and ancient technology that dwarfs our own today.
How Do They Fit? As explained in Thor: The Dark World’s prologue, the beef between Malekith and The Dark Elves and the Asgardians goes back centuries and centuries – dating back to even before Odin was a king. During an event known as The Convergence, where the nine realms line up in perfect order, Malekith plans on unleashing the power of a dark element known as the Aether, hoping to plunge the universe into darkness. Odin’s ancestors were able to stop Malekith’s plans the first time around, but he’s a pretty determined son of a bitch.
Tree of Yggdrasil and the Nine RealmsWhat Are They? In both Norse mythology and Marvel comics there nine realms that make up our universe. These worlds are as follows:
How Do They Fit? As mentioned in the section above, in order for the Aether to unleash its own special brand of evil on the universe the nine realms have to fall into alignment – which is a pretty special event that occurs in Thor: The Dark World. As you can imagine, this means that we get to glimpse into more worlds than we’ve previously seen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but to avoid giving too much away that’s where I’ll stop on that subject.
SPOILERS ARE COMING ON THE NEXT PAGE!
LAST SPOILER WARNING
The CollectorWho Is It? The Collector, who also goes by the name Taneleer Tivan, was first introduced in Avengers #28 back in 1966 and was created by Stan Lee and Don Heck. One of the Elders of the Universe – meaning his is the last survivor of an otherwise extinct race – he is a being with incredible powers and abilities who has lived for millions and millions of years. Able to prophesize about the future, he sees a massive disturbance rising in the universe and thus begins collecting artifacts and life-forms in an attempt to preserve them.
How Does He Fit? The Collector is a key part of Thor: The Dark World’s post-credits sequence, but I won’t go into precise detail about what happens just yet. Stay tuned for my feature tomorrow titled "What's Going On In The End Credits Of Thor: The Dark World?"
The Infinity StonesWhat Are They ? Sometimes referred to "The Infinity Gems" or the "Soul Gems," The Infinity Stones are a collection of six immensely powerful artifacts that represent Soul, Time, Space, Mind, Reality and Power. Each of the stones is disturbingly powerful on its own, but it’s when they are brought together within what’s known as The Infinity Gauntlet that they can start doing some real cataclysmic damage.
How Do They Fit? Again, I won’t give away any specifics in regard to the context that The Infinity Stones are brought up in Thor: The Dark World, but you should get excited because it’s a sign of some big things to come.