a THOR retrospective musing
GROUNDING A GOD
- Bringing in one of the most powerful characters in Marvel comics (and in Norse mythology) could have been a dangerous move. Isn’t he too powerful for everyone else? What chance do the villains have against him? What better way to solve this than stripping his power within the first hour of the movie. In a way, Thor is essentially the surface Superman of the Marvel Universe. While the former (the Thor-mer?) is more self-obsessed than the latter, they were both sent to Earth, albeit under different circumstances. Thor must learn to let go of his selfishness and find the true god, the true person, the king living inside of him after he is stripped of his power. This is where we find him at the beginning of the movie, as Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and her science cronies Erik Selvig and Darcy Lewis (played by Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings, respectively) stumble upon him in a desert in New Mexico.
- Before Thor is exiled to Earth, we see him extremely cocky and bullishly throwing down with Frost Giants (or White Walkers?). The whole world of Asgard is so well established because of director Kenneth Branagh’s team and their collective vision of the mythic heaven. Branagh brings his Shakespearean acting and directing background to the Marvel Cinematic Universe to great effect, letting the audience connect to this literal outlandish place by way of the Bard.
- It’s revealed that Thor’s brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is actually a Frost Giant but taken in after the highfather Odin conquered their race.
- Another homage to English literature is cited as Thor attempts to lift the hammer, much like King Arthur. Thor turns out to be not worthy of Mjolnir anymore, but as he spends more time with Jane, Erik and Darcy, he learns how to truly be worthy of the legendary hammer, summoning it towards the end of the film. He and Jane fall in love, too, so that’s good that two beautiful people do that.
- Thor arrives back in Asgard, with the Warriors Three in tow, to take back the realm from Loki, who has framed and killed the Frost Giant leader. Thor willingly destroys the Bifrost bridge to stop Loki’s plan, severing his only path to Earth and Jane. Loki chooses to fall into nothingness when Odin still won’t approve of him.
- This movie is surprisingly effective at drawing emotion, mainly because of its Shakespearean parallels, but also due to Tom Hiddleston’s acting. Loki’s whole arc is tragic, a boy just wanting his father’s approval, doing anything to get it. As the Trickster God, he is still unable to meaningfully convince his foster father to truly love him. His acceptance of that at the end and his brother’s shocked reaction are heartbreaking.
- Thor chooses to not accept the throne, knowing that he is not ready for it. (But will be in two movies!) The last moment of Thor and Jane knowing throughout the cosmos that somehow they will find their way back to each other is touching. If they didn’t kiss at all, their bond would have seemed more believable, but the movie builds up their relationship just enough to make it work for me.
- Thor is introduced here, as another arrogant, cocky white man, showing the MCU has yet to take a risk with a diverse solo lead. Chris Hemsworth plays him so well, though, with his comedic timing starting to flower. It’s pretty ridiculous how damn ripped he is.
- Natalie Portman does a serviceable job as the incredibly smart love interest for Thor, Jane Foster, who is now Thor in the comics. (She’s thankfully better than her time in the Star Wars prequels.) She was hired right after her Oscar win for her dark turn in BLACK SWAN.
- Tom Hiddleston steals the show with his nuanced performance as Loki. Coming from a Shakespearean background, Hiddleston is the perfect complement for Branagh as a director.
- As the gatekeeper Heimdall, Idris Elba does thankless work being stoic and important to the story. He was known for his role on the TV series, The Wire, but continued to work and has risen his star even further after this movie was released. Along with Hiddleston, Elba seems like a retroactive amazing hire for the MCU.
- Legendary actor Anthony Hopkins steps into the role of Odin, father of Thor and Loki. His natural gravitas and stature within the annals of acting lend to his strong performance. Judging by his choices in this later phase of his career, I’m curious if this was just a play for a paycheck…
- Branagh’s hire as director showed that the MCU was really trying to have the right person direct their movies. His whole aesthetic that he and his team chose is beautiful to look at and fleshed out.
- Tom Hiddleston originally auditioned for the role of Thor, but was ultimately cast as Loki, a much better fit for him.
- The money shot (a long take, usually during a battle, that’s fist-pump worthy) here is during the battle at Jotunheim.
- This is the first time the main villain doesn’t have a variation of the hero’s powers, thankfully.
- Stellan Skarsgard (also known in some circles as Stellar Skateboard) appears as Erik Selvig, the mentor of Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster. This is his first appearance and becomes a recurring character in the MCU.
- SHIELD agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) returns here, just after being relocated from watching over Tony Stark in IRON MAN 2. He also brings along/introduces Hawkeye/Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) to the party.
In-Universe (Earth) Timeline:
IRON MAN - Spring 2008
THE INCREDIBLE HULK - Summer 2008
IRON MAN 2 - Fall 2008
THOR - Fall 2008
- The first of three THOR movies (so far), it was the first completely new lead character on screen in the MCU since Iron Man debuted. This is now regarded as either the best or second best Thor-centric movie.