Thor: The Dark World

Inciting Event: While reluctantly out on her first date post-Thor (she thinks), Jane Foster is alerted by her assistant Darcy that her equipment is showing anomalous readings. Although Odin’s narration in the prologue alerted us to the impending conflict with the Aether and the Dark Elves, this is the first time the story brushes the main conflict. So far so good, but it would have been better if it had also allowed the protagonist—Thor—to brush that conflict here as well.

First Plot Point: Jane steps through a “hole” between planets, ends up in the Aether’s millennial hiding place, and is “infected” by it when it inhabits her body and uses her as a host. Again, Jane is the primary actor here. But the conflict also touches Thor when Heimdall alerts him that he can no longer see Jane. In essence, we have both Jane and Thor leaving their respective Normal Words here, if only briefly: Jane leaves Earth for five hours, long enough to encounter the Aether, and Thor leaves Asgard long enough to find Jane and take her with him back to Asgard.

First Pinch Point: One of the Dark Elves, sent to infiltrate the prisons of Asgard, turns himself into an unkillable Kursed and engineers a jailbreak. In a book, this would undoubtedly be a scene all its own, but due to the much shorter running time of a movie, this scene effectively moves right into the Midpoint and is, indeed, basically just the fore bookend to the same scene.

Midpoint: The Dark Elf lord Malakeith infiltrates Odin’s palace and goes in search of Jane and the Aether. Thor’s mother Frigga uses an illusion to protect Jane. When Frigga refuses to give Malakeith the Aether, he kills her. Thor wounds him and chases him out of the palace before he can find the Aether.

Although there’s no great Moment of Truth here, this is the tilting point that changes the tenor of the whole movie. Up to this point, Thor and Jane have been more or less passively reacting to the Aether’s threat to Jane’s life. Now, they must go on the offensive in attempt to save not just her but all of Asgard—and, incidentally, the rest of the universe.

Second Pinch Point: In secret defiance of his father’s wishes, Thor makes a pact with his disgraced brother Loki to sneak Jane offworld and lure out Malakeith—so he can kill both the Dark Elf and the Aether. This moment turns the plot, but it really doesn’t do much to emphasize the antagonistic force, beyond the general aura of danger surrounding the plan—and especially the alliance with Loki.

Third Plot Point: This is an interesting Third Plot Point. On the surface, it appears that the low moment comes when Loki apparently betrays Thor, cuts off his hand, and turns Jane over to Malakeith. This moment certainly turns the plot and hits the correct emotional note for the audience. But it can’t be the Third Plot Point. Why? Because it isn’t real—and the protagonist knows it isn’t real. Thor doesn’t actually experience a personal low moment here because he knows what’s happening is all an illusion designed to entrap Malakeith.

As a result, the story still has to create a genuine low moment. It does that when Malakeith takes the Aether despite Thor’s best attempts to stop him—and then Loki (apparently) dies. Once again, Loki’s death isn’t actually real. It turns out it’s just another illusion he created to fool his brother. So why does this one count as a low moment? Because this time the audience isn’t the only one buying it. Thor believes his brother has died—and suffers just as though he really had.

Climax: As planets from all nine realms converge above Earth, Malekeith lands in Greenwich village and unleashes the Aether that will tear apart the universe. Thor, Jane, and Co. rush to stop him.

Climactic Moment: Thor and Jane realize they can’t destroy the Aether—so they destroy Malakeith instead.

Resolution: Thor returns home to ask his father to spare him the burden of the throne. Odin appears to agree, and Thor leaves to be with the Jane. Behind his back, it turns out Odin was only an illusion and that Thor was really speaking to Loki.

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