The Thor franchise has always been the Ron Weasley of the MCU and it didn’t help Thor: The Dark World that its director wasn’t Marvel Studios’ first choice. Marvel originally hired Patty Jenkins (Monster) to direct the sequel, news which was received well by film fans and Thor star Natalie Portman, who after winning her Best Actress Oscar for Black Swan publicly stated she wanted to work with more female directors. Unfortunately, Jenkins dropped out of The Dark World due to the one-size-fits-all excuse of “creative differences.” In the end Marvel’s loss was our Wonder Woman gain, but the recently revelations of Jenkins’ idea vision for The Dark World being a Romeo-and-Juliet-esque space opera is a tantalizing “what-could-have been” (personally I don’t think Hemsworth and Portman would have been able to generate the chemistry to pull it off).
So Marvel was scrambling to find a director after their first choice left and decided to hire Alan Taylor, who was a logical choice all things considered. At this juncture Marvel was going out on a limb in hiring television directors as they did for Captain America: The Winter Soldier with Anthony and Joe Russo (Arrested Development, Community). Taylor was an especially good match as he was a veteran television director, having worked on prestigious shows such as The Sopranos, Deadwood and Mad Men. His biggest selling point with Marvel was having directed multiple episodes of Game of Thrones, the granddaddy of all medieval, gritty fantasy shows, of which Marvel wanted to instill its aesthetic into the Thor franchise.
Unfortunately, Taylor did not have a good time making The Dark World. He has called the shoot “particularly wrenching” and the post-production process was a suits vs. creatives nightmare. The script also wasn’t the best (Hemsworth and Hiddleston improvised most of their best lines and scenes) and the generic MacGuffin/pain-by-numbers intergalactic baddie story didn’t help either. It appears Marvel knew it wanted to hits certain narrative points (ie. yet another Infinity Stone set up), but didn’t’ have concrete ideas about how to fill in the story so to speak. However, despite the sturm and drang, the film also benefited from the Avengers halo effect, making $206 million domestically and $644 worldwide upon its release in November 2013.
Dark World is for sure a lesser entry in the MCU and is one of its lowest rated films, but I have a soft spot for how genuinely funny it is. I mean come on, we have intergalactic Mjolnir pinball, Jane Foster flipping out over a child’s ball, Loki the Backseat Driver, Thor taking the Charing Cross Tube, London coat racks being worthy of Mjolnir, and Dr. Eric Selvig losing his marbles and streaking through Stonehenge. I’m pretty sure I laughed more during The Dark World than in any comedy I saw in 2013. I also appreciated how Asgard’s new GOT-esque aesthetic made it felt like a tangible, lived-in place rather than a distant, untethered magical space plane of existence with a gigantic steel church organ for a castle. If making Asgard feel like a real place, sowing the seeds for the galactic locales of Guardians of the Galaxy, is the only good thing about The Dark World, then so be it. At least the silver lining is Marvel finally wised up to the fact its humor is the life-blood of the Thor franchise; Taika Waititi’s Thor: Ragnarok looks like a delight!
Despite its difficulties, Taylor was shrewd enough to parlay his Marvel experience into snagging the gig of directing Paramount’s soft reboot of the Terminator franchise, Terminator Genisys (what in INCREDIBLY stupid name). It featured a pretty strong cast with Jason Clarke (Zero Dark Thirty), Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones), J.K. Simmons (Whiplash) and good old Arnie Schwarzenegger returning to play the T-3000 (how many dump trucks of money do you think Paramount gave him to come back?) Unfortunately, Genisys was soundly rejected by audiences and critics; it made only $89 million domestically on a $155 million budget. While there was hope of continuing the franchise due to the strength of its $440 million worldwide box office, having made $113 million in China alone, Genisys became yet another flaming carcass thrown into the growing mountain of failed franchise reboots and remake corpses. Since Genisys, Taylor has only directed the pilot episode of WGN’s Roadside Picnic, which did not get picked up to series.
Verdict: 3/10. Working for Marvel did nothing for Taylor even if it did land him a primo franchise gig after a personally painful The Dark World shoot. The only project he has on the docket is an upcoming episode of Game of Thrones. Maybe working on GOT again will help him get his mojo back?