In 2011, Marvel introduced a Norse god as a future member of the Avengers. Thor went in a completely different direction than previous entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and developed characters and film effects that continue to impact the MCU today.
When Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston were cast as Thor and Loki respectively, they were virtually unknowns at the time. This was a risk, but one that ultimately paid off. The movie could have fallen on its face had Hemsworth and Hiddleston not had spectacular chemistry that continues in the MCU today. This relationship was the beginning of Marvel showing how they completely understand the experience of having siblings and have showcased this time and time again in subsequent entries.
It has to be said that both Hemsworth and Hiddleston understood their assignments in the most phenomenal ways. Hemsworth truly embodied the egotistical, punch-first-ask-questions-later, that is compelled to go on a journey of growth and self reflection. This is the hero’s journey in its purest form and Thor just does it so well. There has been much written about Hiddleston being such a perfect and inspired casting choice on the level of Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man. It was complete justice that we got to see Loki in his own TV series of the same name.
Natalie Portman was a seemingly odd choice to include as Thor’s love interest, Jane Foster. Portman has an incredible acting repertoire in addition to her academic achievements, and so it was fantastic to see her portraying an accomplished astrophysicist. Unfortunately, it was disappointing to see an early example of Marvel introducing a female character with so much potential to add to the story, and ultimately reduce her to her relationship with the movie’s main male lead and reduced too frequently to tears unnecessarily.
It has to be said that Thor contains some of the greatest secondary characters in the MCU. The royal family is held together by Odin (the great Anthony Hopkins) and Frigga (Rene Russo). The legendary Idris Elba completely stole every scene he was in as Heimdall, as brief and far between as they were. The Warriors Three (Josh Dallas, Tadanobu Asano, and Ray Stevenson) led by the formidable Sif (Jaimie Alexander) make the best of friends, and really, who wouldn’t want to have fight giant ice-people or just hang out and have a beer with this crew? Stellan Skarsgard held the earthly crew together as the dad of the group, Erik Selvig and it’s been too long since we’ve seen his character make a re-appearance in the MCU. Darcy (Kat Dennings) was the gem of this movie, and it was so satisfying that the character finally being fully realized in WandaVision.
Kenneth Branagh’s signature is all over this movie, despite this being quite a departure from his typical filmography. Although it doesn’t all land perfectly, Branagh takes this film and characters incredibly seriously, which was the complete opposite approach Taika Waititi took in his entry into the Thorverse, Thor: Ragnarok. Branagh does his absolute best to bring together legendary Hollywood talent with the unknowns that became a less-than-perfect, but all-together enjoyable ride from beginning to end.
Unfortunately, Thor marks the beginning of the problem the MCU has continued to have with consequences. What I mean is, (spoilers for a movie that was released in 2011), both Thor and Loki die during the course of this movie. Both moments are played for serious, dramatic effect, and we as fans are meant to stop in our tracks. However, by the end of the movie, they are both alive and well, and it has us wondering, what was the point?
If death doesn’t mean anything in the MCU, how are we supposed to take these moments seriously and appreciate their gravity in the moment, if we know that in all likelihood these characters will not only survive their on-screen demise, but in all likelihood get their own series at a later date? Additionally, the destruction of the Bifrost Bridge was a temporary event, and the heartbreak of Thor and Jane’s separation seems needless and is difficult to fully sympathize with knowing that this was resolved quickly and easily.
Re-watching Thor has the distinct potential to make fans excited for Thor: Love and Thunder. We know that Natalie Portman will be returning, and wouldn’t it be spectacular to see her take the mantle from Chris Hemsworth. We’ve established what a talented and accomplished actress Portman is, and it would signal the further growing up of the MCU as a whole.
Thor introduced everyone to a Norse god who we collectively fell in love with. We’ve watched his journey over three solo films, and appearances as a necessary member of the Avengers. As we presumably approach the end of this particular character’s journey, we can only hope he will receive a hero’s send off. Thor deserves nothing less.
Thor is currently available to stream on Disney+.