Thor (2011)

As my wife and I navigate a rewatch of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (much too slowly in my opinion), the third movie we watched* was Thor, Kenneth Branagh’s foray into the MCU. This movie has always been a bit lower on the list when it comes to the 23! in the so-called Infinity Saga, but I’ve always viewed it as a decent introduction to the character of Thor.

*We skipped the Edward Norton The Incredible Hulk because it felt kind of detached from all the others, especially with Mark Ruffalo showing up as Hulk in The Avengers.

Unlike some of the other members of the Avengers, Thor didn’t really have resonance in my childhood, either through the old Iron Man and X-men cartoons or other media. I’ve never been much of a comic book reader, so this Thor movie was the first real introduction to the character.

I was vaguely aware of the Thor from Norse mythology, though where I gathered that knowledge is hard to pinpoint. It’s not like there are blocks of instruction on non-classical mythology in school, though I feel like I happened across it somewhere, which helps to explain my surface knowledge of Egyptian mythology as well (though a lot of that might have come much later with the Assassin’s Creed Origins video game).

From the cast list, this movie has enough to interest me even beyond the title character. Anthony Hopkins gets to play Odin, Thor’s father and ruler of Asgard. Idris Elba shows up as Heimdall, the all-seeing sentry of the Bifrost, though his role expands in later MCU movies. Natalie Portman, Padme Amidala herself, shows up as scientist Jane Foster, and Kat Dennings, star of one of my favorite dumb sappy movies Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist, is on hand as her grad student Darcy.

Then there’s Thor, Chris Hemsworth, who didn’t really have much of a profile before he became Thor. That’s something that the MCU movies did really well, at least in the beginning, was taking mostly unknown actors – Robert Downey, Jr. aside – and making them huge names. And while Chris Hemsworth may not be on par with some of the other actors that play the “tentpole” Avengers, he does an adequate job of playing Thor, though this is more apparent in the later iterations of the character, specifically in Thor: Ragnarok and the final two Avengers movies.

Upon this rewatch, I realized that I had kind of forgotten the beats of the movie, even though I had sort of just rewatched it not long ago. Compared to some of the later movies in the Infinity Saga, there wasn’t really a “big bad;” whereas Iron Man faced off against Obadiah Stane and Ivan Vanko in his first two movies, Thor’s primary enemy is himself. Sure, he goes to fight frost giants, deals with Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and the giant guardian thing sent to Earth, but before Act 3 can resolve himself, Thor has to “sacrifice” himself to save his friends in order to prove himself worthy to wield “meow meow” (Mjölnir).

When Odin banished Thor to Midgar (Earth), he removed his powers, but allowed him to prove himself worthy of the powers again. At first, Thor thinks he can simply walk in and grab Mjölnir and return to Asgard and that is that. He’s humbled when he’s no better than the locals who can’t lift the hammer from its current resting spot, and sets out to help Jane Foster in her research.

It’s only when Lady Sif and the Warriors Three arrive on Earth in an attempt to return Thor to Asgard to stop Loki does he realize that, though mortal, he must help his friends. Though we don’t know if Thor knew this when he “died” defending them, the magic of Mjölnir brings him back to life and restores his powers, allowing him to defeat the guardian sent to Earth by Loki to destroy him.

Upon his return to Asgard, he realizes that Loki, his trickster brother, was responsible for almost everything that transpired. He helped ice giants sneak into Asgard, which prompted Thor’s trip to Jotunheim which led to his banishment. He also convinced Thor that Odin had died due to a broken heart at Thor’s betrayal, when instead he was simply in a temporary coma. That doesn’t stop Loki from seizing power, however, and the only way for Thor to prevent Loki’s destruction of Jotunheim and other realms is to destroy the Bifrost, leading to Loki’s apparent death and preventing Thor’s return to Jane on Earth.

Entering this rewatch, Thor was ranked #650 on my FlickChart, which now seems absurdly low. This ranks it 21st of the 23 movies of the Infinity Saga. Looking at that list now, however, I can see some movies that are ranked a little high – Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 1 stands out in particular – and I don’t really think that Thor: The Dark World is one of the worst movies that I have ever seen (currently #1123).

After re-ranking Thor after this rewatch, it moves up overall to #281, right between Hellboy and The Princess Bride. It remains 21st among the MCU movies, but that could change as some of the others get shifted around over the next couple of weeks as we work our way through. The MCU films all seem to clump up around the 150 mark, however, as I tend to enjoy a lot of these movies more than some other “better” movies.

Thor, like most of the MCU movies, is currently streaming on Disney+, which is where I watched it. While it is not my favorite MCU movie by any stretch of the imagination, it is a much more solid movie on the whole upon this, my third (at least) watch of the movie, and if you haven’t watched it in a while, it might be worth checking out again… if only to compare it to the dreadful Thor: The Dark World and the much, much better Thor: Ragnarok.

Until next time…

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