Well y’all, it’s finally here. After all the hype, promotions, and Tom Hiddleston’s apparent symbiosis with his Loki costume, Thor: The Dark World (or more honestly titled Loki 2) will be out in theaters this week. After the surprising success of the original 2011 film and the unprecedented phenomenon that was The Avengers, the blonde Shakespearean Samson has exploded into the mainstream with a daunting amount of force, especially considering the inherent silliness of the character. For many of the Thunder God’s fans, the films became their introduction to the character and the first time he had ever been given such prolonged exposure on a grand scale. So, I thought it’d be cool to throw out some animated recommendations you could add to your Netflix queue; movies that can satiate your Dark World hunger with some glorious Mjolnir-tossing action.
ULTIMATE AVENGERS (2006)
Before Joss Whedon decapitated box office records everywhere in 2012, Marvel released the first of a line of direct-to-DVD animated films meant to expand their comic book universe into greater accessibility, 2006’s Ultimate Avengers. Directed by accomplished animator Curt Geda (Batman Beyond, Superman: The Animated Series, etc.), the film tells an action-packed story that is remarkably similar to The Avengers in certain aspects, including the focus on Captain America’s back story and the inclusion of the Chitauri as antagonists. Where this film primarily differs is its inclusion of Avengers team members Ant-Man and Wasp as well as its awesome usage of the Hulk himself as a final antagonist for the team to take down.
While the lovably cock-sure Thunder God is not the focus in this film, he is certainly a gratifying part of this highly entertaining and solidly animated action flick. Brought to life by voice actor David Boat (who would go on to reprise the role in Marvel’s hilarious Super Hero Squad Show), Thor is a welcome source of levity to balance off the somewhat angst-ridden Captain America in this film, and his final fight with the Hulk is an absolute joy to watch. Sure the story doesn’t always come together in spots, but it’s a well-acted, well-animated, and very fun animated flick for any Marvel fan to check out.
HULK VS. (2009)
After decades of young fanboys endlessly debating about “who would beat who” in every hypothetical scenario they could dream up, Marvel Animation decided to gift us with the giant love-letter to smashing and epicness that is 2009’s Hulk Vs. A film split into two forty-five minute sections, Hulk Vs. pits the not-so-jolly green giant against two of the most powerful and beloved heroes in the Marvel Universe: Thor and Wolverine. Now while I certainly enjoy the latter segment due to its more mature violence and gleefully over-the-top action sequences, the Thor segment is very noteworthy for its greater focus on character amidst all the crazy violence.
Utilizing Loki (voiced by the excellent Graham McTavish of Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes) as the means to separate Bruce Banner from the Hulk and turn the latter into an unstoppable rage monster, the movie points the Hulk towards Asgard, against Thor, with the former razing everything in his path and the latter dutifully fighting to subdue him. As you can imagine, the carnage is glorious but the film still manages to explore the sacrifices plaguing a now-freed Bruce Banner and even gives some of Thor’s supporting cast (Sif, Odin, etc.) some cool screen time. Mixing beautiful animation, great action sequences, and an awesome voice cast, this movie is a must-watch for any fan of comic-book fisticuffs involving the Norse God of Thunder.
THOR: TALES OF ASGARD (2011)
On the other end of the chronological spectrum is 2011’s Thor: Tales of Asgard, which delves back into the past and tells of an adventure from Loki and Thor’s younger days of camaraderie. As a spoiled, arrogant teenager, Thor attempts to prove himself by taking his crafty but currently benevolent brother Loki on a quest for an ancient relic, the Sword of Surtur. Eventually finding the weapon, the brothers accidentally start a war between Asgard and the other realms, and its a battle that can only be broken through determination, cunning, and Thor finally learning the humility he needs to become the hero we know him as today.
While the character designs are a bit bland for my taste, I really appreciated the evolving character dynamic of Thor and Loki, with the former learning to be a hero and the latter’s innocence fading in response to his first taste of rebellion. It’s rare nowadays that we’re given the chance to see a happier time in their relationship, and I absolutely loved the banter between them as a result. Sure the villain is a touch weak and the sword itself is kind of a Macguffin by the end, but the whole thing is a hell of a lot of fun with some cool character relationships and enough action to make it worthy of adding to your Instant queue.
Give these films a watch before Thor: The Dark World and you won’t be disappointed. Or just watch the trailer again for the hundred thousandth time. It’s okay. I’m on one hundred and nine thousand myself.