As reported late yesterday, Christopher Eccleston will play Malekith The Accursed, the big bad in Game of Thrones director Alan Taylor’s first forary into the Marvel universe, Thor: The Dark World. Though he’s been eclipsed by David Tennant and Matt Smith, Eccleston’s melancholy turn as the Doctor was terrific, with a sense of brooding, cosmic scale that should fit supervillainy nicely. Both the character, a shape-shifting dark elf, and one of the most important arcs he’s associated with, an attempted coup by secrecy of the throne of Asgard, seem like an excellent fit for the world Marvel’s building, and to leverage Taylor’s Game of Thrones experience.
In that arc that sounds most promising, Malekith has Loki switch places with him in prison, something that might be easy to accomplish if Loki’s going to get thrown in Asgard Jail after Thor brings him home after the events of The Avengers. He then disguises himself as Balder, an ally of the Warriors Three (Thor’s main men), who wasn’t a character in Thor, who is apparently about to be crowned king of Asgard. It’s the kind of thing that could make for terrific nasty court politics and dramatic and unexpected showdowns in those settings. Taylor’s proved himself a nice hand in those sorts of emotional situations—he directed “Baelor,” the tremendous first-season episode of Game of Thrones in which King Joffrey orders the former hand of the King Ned Stark executed in front of his daughters, and “Fire and Blood,” in which Dany reveals herself with her dragons. The man knows how to stage an announcement of a new and dramatically different identity or worldview.
And a disguise story could also be a setup for a larger Avengers arc. One of the best-executed parts of Joss Whedon’s The Avengers was Hawkeye’s brianwashing by Loki, and the sense of betrayal his teammates experienced, the loss Black Widow felt, and his shame when he came back to himself. Similarly, if the Skrulls are going to play a role in future Avengers storylines, it would be a shame not to make use of their shape-shifting abilities in addition to those nifty ridged chins, a plot device that could gel nicely with that sense of uncertainty, loss, and hollowing-out that was present in Hawkeye’s storyline. And a Malekith conflict that also involved swapping and surrendering identities would be in keeping with those themes.
Much of the conflict in The Avengers—and the reason the finale was so satisfying—was driven by the characters attempts to come to truly know each other. Captain America wants to know if Tony Stark is sincere or a callow playboy. Tony wants to know if Cap’s a relic, and if Bruce Banner has gotten comfortable with his inner rage. Nick Fury has a role and an agenda he successfully conceals for the entire film while his men and women are busy figuring Loki out. When they all trusted each other, knew each other’s capabilities, and could work together instinctively, only then could they stop the invasion, working together at the top of their capabilities.