Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins, Stellan Skarsgård, Kat Dennings, Clark Gregg, Colm Feore, Idris Elba, Ray Stevenson, Tadanobu Asano, Josh Dallas, Jaimie Alexander
Writers: Ashley Miller, Zack Stentz, Don Payne (screenplay), J. Michael Straczynski and Mark Protosevich (story)
Director: Sir Kenneth Branagh
We had two Iron Man movies. The Incredible Hulk came and went with a relative whimper. Were any of us prepared for the incredible amounts of fun The God of Thunder was going to bring to the big screen in 2011?
Well, that’s what Thor did. I remember walking out of the theater thinking it had been the best superhero movie to date. I still think it’s up there as one of the finest; I prefer it to Ragnarok (COME AT ME, FANBOYS!). Re-watching Thor for this Road to Endgame series largely reinforced those ideas.
The story is downright Shakespearean, and I don’t think that’s an accident with Sir Kenneth Branagh himself at helm as the director. One glimpse at his resumé should tell you he’s got Shakespearean laurels out the ears.
But back to the story: it’s a story about family, betrayal, learning humility, seeing the love in front of you, and all that good stuff with a tremendous dose of humor sprinkled throughout. Sure, some of the plot points and the characters feel generic at times, but I’d argue there’s something in our human nature that needs these cornerstone aspects when being introduced to new characters and settings.
Thor (Chris Hemsworth) wants to be king. Odin (Anthony Hopkins), his father and current king, is hesitant. Loki (Tom Hiddleston) wants Thor’s day (did this happen on a Thursday?) to be ruined and have the glory all to himself. Thor is banished, embarrassed, sapped of his strength and honor. By being forced to the bottom by his own father, he has to learn to be worthy enough to wield his mighty weapon Mjölnir again. The Bard himself couldn’t be prouder of this story.
During my re-watch, I was struck by a few details. First off, the set and the costume designs are amazingly eye-pleasing. I love Thor’s Asgardian outfit with the deep red cape and the tungsten-like armor. The Frost Giants are menacing with the icy blue skin and sinister red eyes. I love the way Jotunheim looks in the scene where Thor plans to kick ass until he finds out how Frost Giants sneaked into Asgard’s weapons vault. That, however, does not compare to the space scenes where our crew visits Heimdall (Idris Elba) at the Bifröst bridge. The colors in outer space are breathtaking, and I’m ready to fight Heimdall for his job just for the view (I would lose).
Everyone does a tremendous job filling their roll; at the time this came out, I remember everyone raving about the relative newcomers Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston. What stood out to me in this re-watch was the subtle genius of Anthony Hopkins’s acting. At the beginning of the film when Odin is about to name Thor as his successor, you can see the absolute hesitation in his face. You know something is not right. Fast-forward to when Odin is banishing Thor in one of the most heartbreaking scenes in the movie, you can see the pain in his face but you can also see … relief. There is no hesitation about banishing Thor for his thick-headedness and arrogance. Hopkins does a terrific job in getting the audience to empathize with his mix of emotions.
It’s been a couple of years since I’ve watched this, but man, does the humor hold up well. My favorite part is still my favorite part: when Thor discovers the joys of coffee. I’ve thought about sacrificing a coffee mug or two in order to re-enact this scene.
We get probably our best dose of Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) in the MCU up to this point, and his character fascinates me. When Thor is breaking in to retrieve his hammer, Coulson basically lets him. When Dr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) comes to get Thor from the compound, Coulson has proof that Selvig is lying to him, but he lets him do it anyway. Coulson plays this curious and somewhat impartial observer rather than a tyrannical overlord, and it ends up working to everyone’s benefit. Who knew that being a little wait-and-see when it comes to leadership could be so beneficial?
The character I probably felt the most conflicted about was Jane Foster (Natalie Portman). Portman does a great job with what she’s given, but what she’s given comes across as borderline obsessive. She’s a brilliant scientist who wants to be taken seriously, so there’s definitely a reason for desperation there. But the other part of her character is that we get a brief snippet where we see she recently had a bad breakup, and the way she clings to Thor feels less romantic and way more rebound-y than is healthy for either of them. I wish they had allowed her to beam a little more self-confidence in this role.
Another gem that I discovered during this re-watch was during the scene when Dr. Erik Selvig and Thor have a heart-to-heart chat in a bar after Thor learns he is unworthy of wielding Mjölnir. In the background we hear the Foo Fighter song “Walk” playing in the background. Is there a more appropriate song (which is played again during the credits) to play about a character who has to re-learn how to act in order to be found worthy? Is there a greater band than the Foo Fighters?
If there’s one aspect to this movie that works against it, I would say it’s the length. By the time Thor defeats the Destroyer and has to take down Loki’s schemes in Asgard, I felt slightly detached from the film. However, when Loki lets go of his adoptive family and goes down the path we know he’ll take in The Avengers, that ol’ Shakespearean spirit rises up again.
Thor stands out as one of the finer MCU films, and I feel just like any other Shakespearean story, it will stand the test of time.