The Version of Thor: The Dark World We Never Saw

The “Taylor Cut” of Thor: The Dark World is a real thing, according to director Alan Taylor, who originally had different designs for the Marvel movie.

Thor: The Dark World poster.
Photo: Marvel Studios

While Thor: The Dark World would not be accurately labeled as a dud, the 2013 sequel to 2011’s crucial early Marvel Cinematic Universe offering isn’t exactly widely regarded as a high point in the annals of the lucrative franchise. Sure, its $644 million global gross surpassed its predecessor’s $449 million, but the film itself is generally seen as a morose movie experiment hampered by an awkwardly-paced plot, and its dominant setting of Asgard and the celestial realms bored the popcorn crowd. Yet, the film was apparently the byproduct of lofty concepts that were subsequently butchered by Marvel, claims director Alan Taylor, who has revealed intriguing details on his unfettered version of the film.

At the time, the selection of Alan Taylor as director for Thor: The Dark World was an auspicious sign. While film was never his primary medium, he had worked on some of the hottest dramatic television properties in recent years in HBO’s The Sopranos and AMC’s Mad Men, and, most notably, was a key director for the hottest show of the era, HBO’s Game of Thrones. Indeed, the American helmer, Taylor, was an intriguing fit, especially after the majestic movie template was set in the previous film by legendary Shakespearean stalwart Kenneth Branagh.

Taylor—working off a script by Christopher Yost, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely—was tasked with evolving the Norse-inspired Marvel Comics mythos while injecting his own brand of introspective drama. Unfortunately, in a familiar-sounding tale, the final product—lucrative as it may have been—fell short of what he had in mind. Now, in a THR interview, the director drops the term, “Taylor Cut,” revealing his real vision.

“The version I had started off with had more childlike wonder; there was this imagery of children, which started the whole thing,” Taylor said. “There was a slightly more magical quality. There was weird stuff going on back on Earth because of the convergence that allowed for some of these magical realism things. And there were major plot differences that were inverted in the cutting room and with additional photography — people [such as Loki] who had died were not dead, people who had broken up were back together again. I think I would like my version.”

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While it’s difficult to gauge the extent of the differences the Taylor Cut would bring based on what is vaguely described, it does seem that the director had originally planned to lean into the mythology’s more magical side.

Contextually, the plot of the film we did get centered on the fractured relationship between Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) against the backdrop of an insidious plot by Dark Elf Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) to destroy Asgard (and, by proxy, Earth), that will require the help of an incarcerated, post-Avengers (non-variant) Loki (Tom Hiddleston) to repel. The film’s setting is mainly set amongst the majesty of Asgard, although it occasionally grounds itself back on Earth with a side story in which returnees Dr. Eric Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard) and Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings) attempt to deal with the implications of Malekith’s plot centered on portals over in London.

However, barring a few funny moments, notably with Jane’s awkward Asgardian “meet the parents” scenes, the sequel demonstrably lacked its predecessor’s heart and humor, and instead played out a perfunctory battle against a generic threat. In essence, it was a somewhat-entertaining but ultimately forgettable offering.

Taylor didn’t exactly name names when it came to who fumbled the execution for The Dark World, but he does seem to attribute it to a loss of control by external studio forces. Indeed, he implies this notion when bestowing praise to Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn and his directorial successor on the Thor franchise, Taika Waititi, stating, “I really admire the skill set of somebody who can go in with a very personal vision—like Taika Waititi or James Gunn—and manage to combine it with the big corporate demands. I think my skill set may be different.”

However, perhaps in a moment of self-doubt, Taylor also suggests that another writer/director might have been able to salvage the film. Pertinently, Taylor had unwittingly jumped into a quagmire when he took the film, since it was already tainted by the disappointing exit of Monster (and eventual Wonder Woman) director Patty Jenkins, who had long been sized up by prognosticators for a comic book movie. Yet, Jenkins herself was quoted in a 2020 interview stating, “I did not believe that I could make a good movie out of the script that they were planning on doing. It would have looked like it was my fault.”

While Taylor should not be ashamed of Thor: The Dark World’s aggregate presentation, he also confesses that it was one of two movie projects—successive ones, no less—that really left him doubting his own abilities. The other, of course, was his next big franchise attempt, 2015’s Terminator Genisys, which, from the standpoint of self-esteem, put him at rock bottom. “I had lost the will to make movies,” he laments. “I lost the will to live as a director. I’m not blaming any person for that. The process was not good for me. So, I came out of it having to rediscover the joy of filmmaking.”

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In another initially auspicious scenario, Taylor corralled his Game of Thrones star, Emilia Clarke, making the Mother of Dragons into the Mother of the Future, Sarah Connor, whose traditional timeline was altered in her very childhood by the arrival of yet another T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger), who served as a de facto father and prepared her for the upcoming apocalypse. But the arrival of the first film’s Terminator in 1984 left her traditional time-traveling protector, Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney), somewhat redundant against an evolved array of time-traveling threats.

That film—which would be widely panned—could not even contrast its bad reviews with the status of box office hit, although international audiences helped push its anemic $89 million domestic take to a global gross of $440 million. Yet, as if that wasn’t enough, Taylor’s Terminator take would be quickly retconned yet again just four years later with 2019’s Terminator: Dark Fate, which definitively flopped.  

Thankfully, Taylor is well out of that rut, and is coming back to the feature table in a familiar fuggedaboutit milieu, The Sopranos, for HBO’s upcoming prequel movie, The Many Saints of Newark, which is currently scheduled for a day-and-date release at theaters and HBO Max on October 1. And as for the “Taylor Cut” that he so provocatively put forward, we probably shouldn’t expect Marvel to acquiesce on that notion anytime soon, intriguing as it may sound. On another note, the Waititi-directed fourth film, Thor: Love and Thunder is scheduled for May 6.