I should probably preface this post with the following admission: I have not read all the comics. My opinion here is drawn solely from the movie universe. So, for the fanboy (or girl) who wants to defend Thor via the comics…you’re barking up the wrong Bifrost, honey. Also, all screenshots are linked to the places from which I got them.
The Dark World opens on fairly epic proportions. We’re introduced to the Dark Elves and the history of the Aether, setting up the major conflict of the movie. Then, the movie begins to narrow.
The next scene is Loki’s judgement, where we see the family dynamic after the events of The Avengers. Frigga is trying to save her son or at least salvage him, Odin is contemptuous and almost dismissive, and Thor is not there. He’s off cleaning up Loki’s mess from Thor, when Loki created a situation that forced Thor to destroy the Bifrost, thus plunging the Nine Realms into chaos. Thor here is portrayed as the good son, fulfilling his duty, contrasted with the bad son, who oversteps the roles laid out for him by grabbing for power.
We also learn that Asgardians can live up to 5,000 years and we know that Loki and Thor are a little over 1,000 years old.
The movie narrows further and we see Thor restoring order before returning to Asgard. In a quiet moment with his father, Odin (in a characteristic moment of hypocrisy) mirrors Loki’s contempt of humanity, which he earlier condemned. He says humans are “fleeting” and “nothing”. He gently counsels Thor to “look at what is before” him. The camera flashes on Sif, who’s happily beating the crap out of soldiers during a sparring match. Later, Thor gently rebuffs Sif’s advances before going to the Observatory to speak to Heimdell…and check on Jane. The major emotional conflict of the story is summed up in Sif’s dialogue:
It has not gone unnoticed that you disappear each night. There are Nine Realms. The future king of Asgard must focus on more than one.
Throughout the film, we see a tension between what one should do and what one feels. Loki should be remorseful for his actions but he only feels bitter and betrayed. Frigga should (according to everyone else) denounce her son but she still loves him. Jane should be getting on with her life since Thor isn’t around anymore but she’s still feeling drawn to him. Thor should be preparing to take over the throne but he longs for Jane.
A Fleeting Moment
Frigga tells Loki that he is so “perceptive of everyone” but himself. This is never more obvious when he needles Thor with the truth:
Say goodbye… This day, the next, a hundred years, it’s nothing. It’s a heartbeat. You’ll never be ready. The only woman whose love you prized will be snatched from you.
Loki is trying to suggest that Thor loves Jane more than his own mother but by doing so, he presents Thor with the hard facts: humans are a footnote in the lifespan of Asgardians. When she’s old and wrinkly, Thor will still be in the prime of his life. Compared to his millennium-arching life, she is a fleeting moment.
The Only Heir
There is no one else to take the throne. Ironically enough, if Loki had just been a good regent and didn’t try to kill his brother way back in the first movie, the end of The Dark World would place him as the sole heir to the throne. But there are no other heirs. Even if Frigga were still alive, she’s too old to bear another child and Odin is too old to wait for a child to come of age.
Thor has been raised to be a king. His character arc has (supposedly) refined him. He’s gone from a selfish, warmongering child to (we’re supposed to believe) an honorable man who places the needs of others above his own desires. After all, wasn’t he restoring order to the Nine Realms when he really wanted to be in the Observatory, making cow eyes while Heimdell tells him what Jane has been doing?
A Better Choice
Sure, he doesn’t love Sif, but she’s a much better choice as a mate than Jane. Not only because she’ll live as long as Thor but also because of all that they have been through together. They know each other and respect each other. Besides, since when does love have anything to do with royal weddings in an absolute monarchy? Heirs matter. The continuation of the line matters.
But Thor is blinded by his own desire. He wants Jane. He’s used to getting what he wants. In all of the movies, since when has Thor listened when someone said “no”? Most of the time, his rebellion is rewarded because he was doing “the right thing”. So used to this, is it really surprising that he turns a deaf ear on everyone who keeps telling him his love for Jane will only end in tragedy?
Perhaps Marvel is winding up to make Jane into an Asgardian but would she really make a good queen? Most of the time, she’s only a plot device to advance Thor’s characterization.
Thor and His Recipe for Disaster
This is where the idiot part comes into play because Thor didn’t count on something nearly as well as he claimed: Loki’s opportunistic nature and his subtlety.
Loki, during his quest with Thor, astutely observed Thor’s obsession and no doubt concluded what Thor would do if they succeeded: renounce the throne so he could be with Jane and “guard” Earth. Loki knows his brother and he knows that not all of the selfishness is flushed out of this giant man-child’s system. He knows there are no other heirs and he knows that Odin won’t let him out of prison to take the throne. He also knows that unless it explodes, catches on fire, or screams from the mountaintops, Thor isn’t going to suspect betrayal.
So, he fakes his death, returns to Asgard, most likely kills Odin, and takes the throne under the guise of the Allfather. At the beginning of the movie, Odin rounds up his remarks on Loki’s mayhem by saying “all because Loki wants a throne”. Well, at the end of the movie, we could round it up by saying “all because Thor wants Jane”.
Add it Up
Thor wants a human who will last maybe a quarter his lifespan (I’m not good with math) but he has a responsibility to his father and to the realm. There is no one else. He has a role he must take for the good of everyone, Jane included since Earth seems to be continually caught up in the conflicts that concern Asgard.
What is he expecting? His father to live another 80 years while Thor frolics on Earth? Are you serious? He eschews responsibility for his own pleasure and I’m supposed to be rooting for that?
I’m a romantic at heart but even I can only take so much of the “love above all” trope that seems to be so pervasive in today’s movies. Yes, romantic love is important. It would suck being in a loveless marriage. But Thor’s responsibility is bigger than romantic love. And if he had not renounced the throne, he would have eventually caught on to Loki’s subterfuge (I mean, Thor can be dense only for so long).
But now Loki is on the throne and he will no doubt reveal himself eventually because, you know, hiding just won’t do for an egomaniac. Thor, in his selfishness, will be on Earth and won’t notice until it’s practically too late, which may very well be the set up for the third movie. And who knows what level of damage Loki will cause…all because Thor wanted Jane.