Movies to Books: Thor: The Dark World

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Characters can make or break a story. Unfortunately for Thor: The Dark World, the only memorable character was Loki. The actual protagonists, Thor and Jane (and Jane's bumbling sidekicks), fell flat. They were forgettable, even while watching the movie. Jane would pop up from time to time, and I'd be like, "Oh yeah... she's in this movie." This how-to talks about why the protagonists were so forgettable and why Loki was awesome.

1. Jane just hovered throughout much of the movie. Asgard got attacked, and she hid behind a pillar while Thor's mother kicked butt with a dagger (Yay Thor's mother! Anyone else grin widely at this scene?). Jane got that red goopy stuff inside her, so she got to play damsel in distress while Thor tried to protect her from the evil elf who wanted the red goopy stuff. The whole dynamic was sincerely disappointing.

Even during the climax, all Jane did was fiddle with a remote control and send the baddies between realms while Thor did the big hitting. I mean, at least the writers gave Jane something to do, as little as it was, but it was still far from significant. She was seriously just there to look pretty and please the fandom shippers.

2. Jane doesn't stand alone as a character. All her on-screen worth is due to Thor.

Jane spent years pining over Thor and looking for him. If he could return to earth whenever he wanted (after The Avengers), you think she'd get the hint that she should, I don't know, move on with her life. She sort of tried with that blind date in the opening scene of the movie, but even then, all she could think about was Thor. It just came across as proving how weak and lost and insignificant she was without Thor.

Jane and her life are so bland and boring without Thor. She has all this fantastic physics knowledge, and instead of putting it to good use solving earth problems, she wastes her time searching for Thor, a man she'd known for a single weekend. (count the days, folks, it was like... 3 or 4).

When she does meet Thor for the first time in years, she slaps him for not coming back to her immediately after he left. Hello, Jane, you knew him for A WEEKEND. If your friend met a guy and had a weekend-long romance with him before he left, and your friend obsessively searched for him for YEARS after the fact, wouldn't you slap them repeatedly until you knocked some sense into them?

Now, I don't want to judge, but wasting like 3 years of your life looking for the god of thunder you knew for a weekend so you can continue your romantic escapades is really shallow and shows weakness of character. I wouldn't be so bitter toward it if Thor was hurt or dying or legitimately needed Jane's help with something, and that's why she was obsessively looking for him. That would've been cool! It would've shown that Jane really does stand alone as a character and contribute to their relationship beyond just being the pretty smart awkward chick.

3. Jane and Thor were mindnumblingly predictable. Jane got the funky red goop in her, so Thor's going to save her while defeating the evil dark elf guy. All Jane wants to do is find Thor. Yawn.

But then LOKI! Oh, my god, Loki! He was the Joker of The Dark Knight. Loki's character is what made an otherwise stupid, confusing, and yawn-inducing movie exciting. Why? Because, like Heath Ledger's Joker, Tom Hiddleston's Loki was unpredictable. He always had that quiet, knowing smile. He was always in control of the situation, or at least, he made it look like he was in control, without revealing what he knew. It made us keep guessing what he'd do next. And why did we care so much? Because in the past, he's proven to do outrageously sneaky things that change the game. He's unexpected.

That surprise in his actions is what makes him so fascinating, so memorable. Same goes for Light in Death Note. And of course, Joker from The Dark Knight. All these villains were so terrific and interesting because they did things we didn't expect, and they did them with swagger and confidence and style.

One of the coolest moments in the movie was how Loki and Thor defeated the evil elf dude--they did it by tricking him, by tricking the AUDIENCE. It was a big O__O moment. I think I actually gasped when I saw what those two had done because they'd been leading us to believe something else was going on.

4. Any attempts at humor with Thor and Jane fell flat. I didn't even chuckle at some of the scenes that were obviously meant to be comic relief. Like when Thor rode the subway, I rolled my eyes. The writers were trying way too hard to inject some light-heartedness into the story--and failed miserably.

But then we get to Loki's scenes, and I'm in HYSTERICS. When the prison break-out is happening around him, he's just sitting there reading a book. When Thor crashes the alien ship into the statue of the last king of Asgard, Loki comments, "Well done, you've just decapitated your grandfather." xD I was dying.

Loki is just so effortlessly witty and charismatic. Of course, we can't only credit the writers for this; Tom Hiddleston gave life to the words on the script and really made the character shine.

Unfortunately, we can't have Tom Hiddleston act out our characters in our novels, so we're forced to give the words on the page the same magic Tom Hiddleston can do with acting.

4. Thor and Jane were exactly the same people at the start and end of the movie. Absolutely nothing changed. They didn't grow as characters. They didn't become better or worse. They were utterly stoic. Thor did ultimately decline the offer of becoming king of Asgard, but there was nothing that happened in the movie that showed why he had such a change of heart. So that scene made me raise an eyebrow and felt overly self-righteous for no reason at all. In the first movie, Thor had been all about becoming king, and now all of a sudden, without any rhyme or reason, he doesn't want the responsibility. (and it might be interpreted that he wanted to go live with Jane. Again, no, writers. Don't be ridiculous.)

Now look at Loki. He heard his mother died, and in a silent fit of rage, he smashed up his cell. Then you see him a few scenes later looking like a wreck, with his hair wild, sitting against the scorched wall, defeated, furniture and everything smashed around him. This moment of vulnerability was paramount in developing Loki's character, in changing something inside him. Later we get some dialogue between him and Thor about their family dynamics, and we see a hint that it hit home with Loki. This conversation didn't change or affect Thor at all.

Even TtDW director, Alan Taylor, admitted that Loki was the movie's shining star and gave him more scenes than were included in the original script: "We’re adding scenes, creating scenes, writing scenes for the first time. [...] We realized how well Loki was working in the movie, and we wanted to do more with him. So it was that kind of thing. It was like, ‘Oh, we could do this, we could jam this in here because he’s such a wonderful guy to watch do his stuff.’"

You know there's an issue when a supporting character has more love than the protagonists. Try your hardest not to let this happen to your novels. Make ALL the characters memorable, especially the protagonists.

So to recap, to make interesting and memorable characters you must:

1. make characters have active and critical roles in the main plot. They shouldn't just be there for romance.
2. make each character stand alone. Their worth or interest level shouldn't be dictated by the presence of another character being in that scene with them.
3. make the characters unpredictable. A cool way to get around this is to ask your readers what they think will happen next. Then make something else happen (within the constraints of the established world and characterization. Don't make a normally aggressive character shrink back and cry, out of the blue.)
4. give the characters a sense of humor! Not every character has to be a comedian, but even a couple well-placed, witty lines can completely change how a person views a story. Also, any singly character should NOT just be there for comic relief and have no other role in the plot(e.g. Darcy).
5. please develop your characters. Make them change somehow.

So what did you guys think of Thor: The Dark World? A hit or a miss? Did you find Loki memorable? Were Thor and Jane utterly forgetable and boring? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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