We may not be getting a "serious" Iron Man 3, but you can rest assured: Thor: The Dark World will be a darker and more aggressive Marvel sequel. That can in part be attributed to director Alan Taylor (Game of Thrones), who is indeed taking the same tangible approach to fantasy world construction with the Nine Realms of Norse mythology as he did with Westeros and Essos.
The God of Thunder himself (a.k.a. Chris Hemsworth) has voiced his support for Taylor's method of making mythical worlds feel organic in the past. He continued to do so in a recent interview, where he reflected on his success over the past year - which includes two new blockbusters under his belt, in The Avengers and Snow White and the Huntsman.
Director Kenneth Branagh successfully elevated the relationship between Thor, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and Odin (Anthony Hopkins) into Shakespearean tragedy in the first film, which accounts for why a number of people (this writer among them) are quite fond of what is (arguably) one of the weaker Marvel Cinematic Universe installments overall. However, that movie's versions of Asgard and Jotunheim (the Frost Giant world) amount to impressive CGI backdrops that feel hollow and removed from the characters (like theater, more than cinema).
That should not hold true for The Dark World, as evidenced by amateur set photos from the tactile shooting locations; not to mention, the observably beaten and dull armor worn by Malekith the Accursed (Christopher Eccleston) and the Dark Elves also reflect that same grounded aesthetic.
[caption id="attachment_231314" align="aligncenter" width="570"] The raw Malekith costume in 'Thor: The Dark World'[/caption]
"We've known since Thor 1 that we were gonna do a Thor 2, so we've been talking about possibilities, and then once The Avengers worked, there were things where we'd go, "Cool, we can continue this and this is where we go from them with the story." It's been a long time. But you always need this period, the rehearsal prep, and we've got some good stuff down. I just saw some of the sets in the last few days and it looks incredible. There's a lot more of an organic kind of feel to Asgard now. And that Viking element of the Asgardian people, of Thor's history, is much more present."
That "Viking element" is something that Hemworth started hyping before filming on The Dark World began, and he's been keen to emphasize the importance of that visceral quality in most interviews since then:
"It's less science fiction. I mean, if you look at Game Of Thrones, what I love about it is that it has that mythical element but you're always grounded in such an organic world. I think that's the goal scored second time round."
Here is the official synopsis for Thor: The Dark World:
In the aftermath of Marvel’s “Thor” and “Marvel’s The Avengers,” Thor fights to restore order across the cosmos…but an ancient race led by the vengeful Malekith returns to plunge the universe back into darkness. Faced with an enemy that even Odin and Asgard cannot withstand, Thor must embark on his most perilous and personal journey yet, one that will reunite him with Jane Foster and force him to sacrifice everything to save us all.
Admittedly, Thor does not have much of an arc in The Avengers, so having The Dark World pick up in the aftermath of that film doesn't mean as much purely from a character perspective. By comparison, his fellow Avengers Tony Stark and Steve Rogers' personal journeys have been partially mapped out for them, even before the events of their respective new solo adventures (Iron Man 3 and Captain America: The Winter Soldier).
Hemsworth addressed that issue during his Empire talk:
"In a way, it becomes more difficult at this point. Thor 1 was the origin story and he starts off as a brash child and ends as the hero; the danger then is, where does he go from here? If he doesn't change, he's gonna become boring. How do you break him down again to rebuild him and have some sort of arc, some sort of journey? Avengers was different, it was the arc of the team. So now, on [Thor 2], we've been really throwing around, "Okay, so what's Thor's big conflict here?" Because it can't just be that bad tempter again, or that he's too cocky. We've done that. And now, where does the humour lie? Because it can't be the fish-out-of-water, Crocodile Dundee kind of thing that we had in the first one. He's been to Earth now. There may be elements of that..."
On a more business-related note, the actor was also candid about how the $1.5 billion success of The Avengers has (permanently?) affected his perception of what constitutes a "hit" for him now:
"You almost forget that this just doesn't happen that often. I was talking to Matt Damon and he goes to me, "So ['Snow White and the Huntsman'] did pretty good?" and I said, "Yeah, I think it'll probably hit $400 million, but it's not Avengers numbers." And he goes, "Man!" and he shook his head. "You're [frick]ing ruined - 400's huge!" It's like my brain thinks, "That's the norm now, that's the benchmark." Which, Jesus, I don't think anything will ever come close...Probably Avengers 2. But it will be pretty hard to hit that again. It's almost as if I've been ruined for the rest of my career regarding box office expectations."
Lastly, Hemsworth addressed the current state of the Snow White and the Huntsman sequel/spinoff, which Kristen Stewart is reported to be returning for after all (assuming it does indeed come together):
"No one had heard anything official. I haven't actually spoken to anyone from Universal about it. I guess it all depends on whether people want to see another one! I love the character. It changed a lot, and there were a lot of things we lost in the final cut. There was a bit more backstory that didn't fit in and a bit more of a relationship between them. There was just more to the character I wish we'd hung on to."
Give Hemsworth credit: he did a good job of voicing his honest feelings about the final cut of Snow White and the Huntsman without inadvertently denouncing the film in the process (something that happened when Hugo Weaving spoke about Transformers last month, causing a bit of a stir).
The consensus on a Snow White sequel is mixed, all the more so because many people felt that Rupert Sander's direction was the best thing that visually-stunning fairy tale re-imagining had going for it (read our review, for more on that) - and since he will not be coming back for the followup, anticipation is somewhat muted (for the time being).
Iron Man 3 hits theaters on May 3rd, 2013. It will be followed by Thor: The Dark World on November 8th, 2013, Captain America: The Winter Soldier on April 4th, 2014, Guardians of the Galaxy on August 1st, 2014, The Avengers 2 on May 1, 2015 and Ant-Man on November 6th, 2015.