Movie Catch-Up for the Marvel Cinematic Universe
#4: Thor (2011)
Welcome to MCU for the MCU! The weekly series where I recap every movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to catch up in time before Avengers: Infinity War. You can view the previous recap on Iron Man 2 here. SPOILERS for Thor from here on out.
Welcome back! Last time we covered the 2nd Iron Man film. This time we’ll be introduced to a brand new character. The Norse God of Thunder himself. The mighty Thor! Let’s get started.
So what the heck happens in the movie?
Oh boy. Pull up your mukluks because this film goes deep. Back in the year 965 AD, the race of Frost Giants from the realm of Jotunheim invaded Earth with the intention to conquer it using a magical ice spewing box called the Casket of Ancient Winters to plunge the Earth into an Ice Age. We stood no chance, but thankfully another race, The Asgardians from the realm of Asgard, are sworn to protect the Nine Realms (which include Earth) and they came down to protect us. Odin, king of Asgard is victorious, Odin takes the Casket, Asgard signs a peace treaty with the Frost Giants and our planet is safe, but he loses an eye in the process. This glorious battle is recorded and passed down generations by ancient historians and eventually becomes what we know as Norse mythology. Now only Norse mythology is real because Kratos has already killed all the Greek Gods in God of War, which comes out April 20, 2018; only on Playstation. Thanks for the free mansion Sony!
Jump to present day, where Odin’s oldest son Thor, God of Thunder, is being officiated as crown prince of Asgard. Odin thinks Thor deserves this title despite Thor having the demeanor of a spoiled 10 year old who brags about how many nannies they have. The kind of kid who also attacks anyone who points out that not getting to see your parents is probably not something to brag about. However, right before the crowning ceremony is official, Frost Giants break in and attempt to steal back the Casket, but are swiftly destroyed by a giant metal bodyguard called…the Destroyer… Anyways, the deaths of the intruders isn’t enough for Thor and he decides to travel to Jotunheim (using Asgard’s teleporter, the Bifrost) to punish the Giants a little more, with the help of his brother Loki and a gang of 4 sidekicks.
Thor happily breaks the peace treaty by kicking giant butt, but not everyone makes it out unharmed and Odin has to stop by to take the kids back home. He’s understandably furious at the war Thor has started and feels he has no choice but to revoke his son’s prince status. He banishes Thor to Earth, remove his godly power and take away his magic hammer Mjolnir. Odin places a spell on the hammer that states only someone who is worthy may lift it and gain the power of Thor. Then he chucks the hammer down to Earth as well.
Once Thor falls to New Mexico and avoids vehicular manslaughter it is up to him to find his hammer and get his powers back. He does this with the help of physicists Jane Foster and Erik Selvig, as well as “comedic relief intern” Darcy Lewis. Things are made complicated by Phil Coulson and SHIELD forming an armed perimeter around Mjolnir. Thor is able to make it to the hammer because even without his powers he’s a buff dude. Unfortunately not buff enough to lift it. He ain’t worthy yet.
Meanwhile, back on Asgard, Loki (the God of Mischief) is taking full advantage of the missing Thor. It turns out Loki was actually the one who let the Frost Giants into Asgard to try and steal the Casket. He wanted to ruin the ceremony, since he didn’t think Thor is fit to rule and you know what? He’s absolutely right. You go Loki. At the same time Odin is growing old and weary and falls into a long “Odin sleep” to conveniently avoid the responsibility of dealing with his shit kids (we’ve all been there am I right?). So now that Loki is active king of Asgard his first order of business is going to Earth to trick Thor into thinking Odin is dead and that the Frost Giants won’t allow Thor to come home. Then he hooks up the Bifrost to just murder all of Jotunheim as a way to end the war once and for all… Loki you had me, but now you’re quite the hypocritical jerk too.Thor’s Asgardian friends are having none of this King Loki stuff and travel to New Mexico (before the Bifrost settings are changed to kill) to bring the big blonde bro back to Asgard and stop the madness. Unfortunately, Loki likes being king and sends the Destroyer to kill them all. Thankfully, after reflection of the consequences of his actions and developing a love for Jane, Thor sacrifices himself to stop the destroyer. This deems him worthy in the eyes of Mjolnir and he regains his original godhood! He travels back to Asgard for one last climactic fight with Loki, where he saves the day! The end.
Cool, but what do I need to care about?
As you’ve probably noticed, Thor brings lore. Lots of lore. But to be honest, not all of it matters too much, so I’m only going to talk about the stuff that I think really matters and the things I never mentioned in the summary. I’m also going to do it in my favourite and laziest writing technique, point form! Here we go:
Hawkeye: Did you know there was another Avenger in this movie? Hawkey is an expert marksman who only uses bows and arrows. He shows up in this movie for one scene to aim at Thor, but not shoot anything at all. Just great stuff there.
Thor’s Asgardian friends: They are Volstagg (Gimli, but taller), Fandral (Zorro, but blonde), Hogun (has a cool mace), and Lady Sif (the best one). They all show up for the sequels and Sif will get some more character development then.
Frigga: Thor and Loki’s mother. She’s great and will play a larger role in Thor 2, but that’s it.
Loki: Something I never mentioned about him is that he is actually a Frost Giant that Odin took from Jotunheim after he won the war in 965 AD. The feeling of betrayal he experiences once he finds out adds an extra level of depth to his character and has some influence on his future actions in films. He’s another major returning character and will be the main villain of the first Avengers.
Heimdall: He is the guardian and protector of the Bifrost. He has the ability to prevent/allow people to use the Bifrost to travel between realms, as well as the ability to physically sense the happenings of every soul in the Nine Realms. I never mentioned him before, but he is a very powerful character and he is important in every Thor film.
The Nine Realms: Oh boy. From time to time different characters will mention the Nine Realms. Basically, in the MCU, the Nine Realms are 9 different planets that specifically connected to each other. The realms are Asgard, Midgard (Earth’s realm), Jotunheim (Frost Giants), Muspelheim (Thor 3), Alfheim, Vanaheim (Thor 2 briefly), Niflheim (basically Hell), Svartalfheim (Thor 2), and Nidavellir (possibly in Avengers Infinity War!). The Bifrost will only allow travel between one of the Nine Realms.
Great! What did you think of the movie?
This film was Marvel’s first foray into the really weird. It’s much easier for audiences to be on board with heroes from Earth that at least started as real people. Thor had to make audiences okay with Norse mythology actually being true and having gods and magic coming to Earth. In that respect they did a really great job. Asgard is a marvel (no pun intended) of special effects, sets, and practical effects. It feels very real and it looks beautiful. It’s also amazing how accurately and closely the director, Kenneth Branagh, adapted the costumes, props and Shakespearean flair of the comics. The material should be too dense to adapt, but almost every scene on Asgard is a joy to watch as the audience gets a glimpse into the workings of another world.
Unfortunately, most of the movie does not take place on Asgard. In what was most likely an effort to keep the film more grounded and connect it to our world, most of the film takes place in New Mexico, where we’re forced to care about the life of Jane Foster and her physics friends. Jane, played by Natalie Portman, does not behave like a human being. Her only personality trait seems to be to fawn over Thor and it’s a little frustrating to watch. The rest of the Earth cast do their best to add some levity to the story and there is some fun “fish out of water” humor. Watching the humans try to explain Earth customs to Thor is fun. However, you’re still left wanting the film to cut back to Asgard to follow the much more interesting Loki story (which does redeem the movie in my eyes).
Thor as a character is okay. By the end of the movie he does become a likable character who you won’t be mad to see again, but he is greatly overshadowed, by the true star… Tom Hiddleston as Loki is the best part of Thor. Loki is whitty, mysterious, tragic, clever and imposing, all at once. Much to its benefit, the film spends a great deal of time developing Loki as character whose motivations can not only be understood, but also sympathized with. He is debatably the best villain the MCU has created to this day and saves this movie from mediocrity. Overall, thanks to an amazing villain, an engaging premise and extremely strong art direction of Asgard, Thor is still an enjoyable movie despite the aggressively average sections on Earth and a main character who is just sort of fine. This is good news too because there will be a whole lot more Loki in the MCU yet to come.
Thanks for reading! Next time we look at Captain America: The First Avenger!