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With its recent release of this year’s highly successful Doctor Strange, Marvel Studios continues to keep their house intact, imploring various genres and subgenres of storytelling and mesmerizing visuals into their massive mythos to deeply impact the world of cinema, and the hearts of avid comic book fans and cinephiles alike. Their potentially biggest hit so far has been the critically-acclaimed Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), a science fiction slot machine Marvel Studios bet heavily on and, against all odds, won it all. Taking a look back at their series of “Phase 2” entries, the post-Avengers Marvel Cinematic Universe did take a step into the sci-fi direction, surprisingly enough, with Thor: The Dark World, Alan Moore’s sequel to the 2011 Kenneth Branagh hit that contained almost no explicit sci-fi material. Let’s take a look at a handful of heavy nods Moore placed in his superhero sequel to none other than the largest geekdom franchise this side of the galaxy: Star Wars.
1) Dark Elves/Storm Troopers
The first few characters introduced in Thor 2 come in the form of innumerous, faceless troopers serving under the villainous dark elf Malekith. These dark elves, each identical to next and armed primarily with a laser-based rifles, are also similarly colored and equally as expendable as the hopeless Stormtroopers of the Star Wars universe.
A mere coincidence perhaps that these two militias of masked–potentially mindless–soldiers seem similar at first glance. After all, the same could be said about the suddenly-faceless, emotionally cold redesigns of the PanAm Peacekeepers reintroduced in the Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2014). The list, however, only grows from here.
Take a second to revel in the pale majesty of the seemingly immortal dark elf Malekith. Almost stuck to one useless emotion and evil for the sake of, this Infinity Stone-searching leader of the mythical dark elves at first seems to conjure no immediate resemblance to Darth Sidious, the primary antagonist of the original Star Wars trilogy.
Take into consideration their positions of power, however, and the treasures they seek. Malekith and Sidious play the long game; the former for the Aether/Reality Stone after battling three generations of Asgardian royalty (King Bor, his son Odin, and his own son, The Mighty Thor), the latter for ultimate power in all the universe, by wiping out the Jedi Council of Coruscant, taking on an apprentice who would knowingly outpower him but could simultaneously be manipulated, and having two planet-destroying Death Star battle stations constructed some thirty years later.
These boys (old men?) are pasty, patient, and obsessed with power.
3) Lt. Algrim is Kurse/Anakin Skywalker is Darth Vader
What evil lord seeking unlimited power would be successful without his right-hand man? Beyond all the expendable dark elf troopers at Malekith’s utter disposal, he also had Lieutenant Algrim, a proven aide to his side and blindly loyal to his master’s cause, eventually becoming the powerful entity known as Kurse, of his own will, to further Malekith’s plans for power and revenge.
Darth Sidious had the same ace up his own sleeve. He needed more than his similarly recycled Stormtroopers to carry the Empire he built. By the third Star Wars episode, Revenge of the Sith (2005), the “chosen one”–Jedi Anakin Skywalker–was virtually wrapped around the finger of the seemingly kind, cautiously understanding, and dangerously powerful Senator Palpatine, the all-too humane facade Darth Sidious hid behind for years, and more years, and even more years. Young Anakin was already going by his new Sith name Darth Vader, before even being transformed and fitted into the iconic helmet, mask and battle armor we know him for (not to mention leveling up to being voiced by James Earl Jones), blinded by the dark side’s promises of infinite power beyond that of the light side, and standing by Sidious’ new galactic regime. Interesting comparison between these two.
4) Asgardian soldiers/Jedi Knights
Here’s a more interesting nod to the Star Wars universe, one that cries of a galactic redesign of the Asgardian armies of Odin to match the soulless Dark Elves, in all their pseudo-Stormtrooper glory. Unike the first film, Asgardian swords now sparkle and glow in usage as if emitting a blade of contained beam weaponry. It is very difficult then, with everything covered so far, to not compare these blades of light to the traditional weapon of a Jedi Knight–the lightsaber.
It is especially compelling to consider Attack of the Clones (2002) as a point of reference for these new Asgardian soldier redesigns, in which the final battle scene of the second Star Wars episode showcases what seems to be an innumerous amount of trained Jedi, lightsabers activated, engaging in a chaotic melee with an innumerous amount of battle droids. The opening scene of Thor 2 bears strong resemblance to this scene, as troughs of Asgardian warriors wielding light-blades slay Dark Elves with their red-beam emitting rifles.
5) Usage of starships
Considerably the weakest of the nods, it still speaks in no less than dissertations the connections the film is attempting to make to Star Wars, especially considering the first Thor film of 2011 contained close to no noticeable elements of science fiction, let alone massive starships. I had personally assumed the numerous and sudden sci-fi elements were intentionally presented to create a bridge of anticipation between this film and Marvel Studios’ then upcoming science-fiction action film, Guardians of the Galaxy (2014). That theory was confirmed when the film concluded with a cameo from Benicio del Toro’s “The Collector”, a character who would go on to play a major role in Guardians. Consider also, however, what purpose massive starships have in the Star Wars universe.
Storing troopers, and smaller spacecraft. No less, massive ships of identical design traveling in fleets. Foundationally, one could theorize Thor 2 had created its own version of Star Destroyers! Before we stray too far off into a forum of suggestion, let us return to more tangible references.
6) Frigga’s Death/Vader’s Death
Quite possibly the most powerful reference to the Star Wars universe was the funeral of the slain queen of Asgard, Frigga. The people of Asgard, civilians and warriors alike, paid traditional respects to the wife of Odin by sending her soul off into the great beyond, her serene boat riding down an eventual waterfall set ablaze with her peaceful but lifeless body occupying it. Within the beautiful conflagration, we get a quick close-up right-side profile of Frigga. It seemed just too familiar to pass up.
When Darth Vader finally succumbed to his wounds both in battling his son Luke in Return of the Jedi (1983), and eventually rescuing him from the clutches of Emperor Palpatine/Darth Sidious by enduring his powerful Force Lighting before killing him, Luke took his father’s dead body back to the forest planet Endor for a proper Jedi send-off, setting him atop a bed of wood and setting it ablaze. Here, we also got–check this out–a quick close-up right-side profile of Vader as he burned. Come on.
7) Thor loses his right hand/Luke loses his right hand
Thor 2 depicts a scene in which an ill-fated attempt to destroy both Malekith and the Infinity Stone he seeks begins with the deceptive play that Loki has betrayed Thor and wishes to align himself with the Dark Elves. Loki angrily cuts off Thor’s right hand with his signature dagger, but it all turns out to be a ploy as Loki, a master illusionist, projects Thor’s hand back and the two continue forth with their plan, killing Algrim/Kurse in the process, but allowing Malekith to leave with the Aether/Reality Stone in his possession.
Okay, COME ON.
Every Star Wars geek knows somebody gets a limb on their right side of their body cut off in all current Star Wars episodes except The Force Awakens (2015) and The Phantom Menace (1999). The trend exists in all the episodes in between though, and even if you only remember the saga’s most iconic laser-amputation from The Empire Strikes Back (1981), this scene might make you experience some cinematic deja vu!
8) “Go….my son.”
This is ridiculous.
I literally remember sitting in the theater, watching Thor 2 for the first time, thinking to myself how funny it would be if Odin quoted one of Darth Vader’s final lines to his son Luke in Return of the Jedi, saying “Go….my son”, as a final farewell.
And I kid you not, it happened. Odin said it. Not only did he say the words to his own son Thor, but he specifically said them with that dramatic pause between “Go” and “my son” that Vader used, requesting Luke to save his own life and escape the crumbling second Death Star they were both inside. Both films ended shortly thereafter.
Did I miss anything? Is this list completely absurd, or were the references so obvious that they didn’t even need an article on them? If that’s the case, why are you reading this? Did Thor: The Dark Work director Alan Moore just love Star Wars this much, or was he specifically assigned to work science fiction elements into this sequel to get people pumped up for the then-upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy? Join the conversation by answering or asking any and all questions below!