in Retrospecticus, Review

Thor (2011)

Original Review: n/a

Thor was the last MCU movie shot on film, and you can tell. I mean, yes, the jokes about how Kenneth Branagh seems to think comic books = Dutch angles are funny, but this is a great-looking film. The opening scene, in which Anthony Hopkins’ Odin recounts Midgard and Asgard’s war with Jotunheim, is basically the super hero version of the opening of Peter Jackson’s The Fellowship of the Ring. It is some stunning, epic stuff! Which is probably why I get the impression some folks didn’t realize that Thor is a comedy.

Thor was never reviewed on the blog, but I remember that all of us had a good time with this Norse silliness. The comedy in Thor is different from the Iron Man films, which mostly rely on Tony’s cleverness to undercut serious situations. Thor is over-the-top pompous, a pastiche of tough guy stereotypes living in an insanely melodramatic Shakespearean drama. Then he gets sent to our world and keeps getting hit by cars and tased (I love that Thor, god of thunder, getting tased is a recurring gag through all his MCU appearances). He’s not making quips, the jokes are on him. The fish-out-of-water stuff is not subtle, and if you’re anything like me, the tonal shifts between Hopkins yelling about kingliness and Kat Dennings whining about her iPod will still have you laughing.

I don’t know, maybe I’m just making a bigger deal about Thor being ranked fairly lowly on many MCU lists than I need to. Who knows how high it will end up being on mine? I think the problem really is that so much of what is set up in Thor won’t matter going forward. Thor has a massive supporting cast, but many of them – Jane, Selvig, Darcy, the Warriors Three, Lady Siff – end up not even seeming that important in the Thor sequels, and certainly not in the greater MCU. Similarly, the world building stuff about the nine realms and magic and science being one in the same all ends up being ignored for the most part, in the end all that matters is that Asgard is another place somewhere out there in space. Even the big consequences at the end, Loki being lost and the Bifrost’s destruction, are circumvented off-screen in The Avengers.

Back in 2011, I thought it was perplexing that Marvel chose to set up Thor before Captain America, but in retrospect that was probably because they wanted in equal parts to give audiences a chance to accept aliens and to not do back-to-back movies with Loki as the villain. I guess that’s why the “science is magic” stuff matters, it is a pretty big change to go all fantasy after three movies about over-the-top technology and military mayhem. The Loki repeat isn’t a problem either because Thor has two other villains, evil robot The Destroyer and Frost Giant King Laufey, all caught up in the god of mischief’s machinations. Strategically, this was a really smart movie for Marvel to make. I’m just frustrated it’s taken people so long to realize how great Chris Hemsworth is in this role. Maybe it was the hair?

As far as canon stuff, there’s a lot of Coulson in this one, since SHIELD tries to take possession of Mjolnir after it falls to Earth. This gives us Jeremy Renner’s first appearance as Hawkguy, which is brief and unsatisfying… get used to that. Speaking of Mjolnir, I think all the history of Asgard stuff from Ragnarok still makes sense here, especially since it’s presented as Odin telling it to his sons, but I don’t get why Thor becomes just a man when he loses his hammer. He’s not the god of hammers, that was the whole thing. Oh, but I do appreciate Thor pretending to be Dr. Donald Blake without doing the whole possession thing from the comics, that shit is weird.

MCU Power Rankings: I like it a lot, so it easily clears The Incredible Hulk and Iron Man 2, but I think Captain Marvel is funnier and has more exciting action throughout, so Thor stops there.