Welcome to VOCIFERY, my attempt to re-watch every piece of media in the Marvel Cinematic Universe – every movie, every television series, every one-shot, every web series, and every tie-in comic book, using the Wikipedia entry on the MCU as a guide, before the release of Avengers 4 in May 2019. Join me as I write my thoughts about what I’m seeing, as I see it!
Also, spoilers follow – if you’re worried about that kind of thing, view before reading.
As of my writing this, all three of the major Avengers – Iron Man, Captain America and Thor – have enjoyed a huge amount of solo success off the back of individual trilogies. In fact, each of the three trilogies has grossed around the $2billion mark at the international box office; thanks to the success of Thor: Ragnarok, the Thor trilogy is floating around $1.9 billion worldwide.
But where the Iron Man and Captain America trilogies are the models of consistency, with each film building on the one before it (even as they did experiment with genre), the Thor films seem to be a little all over the place: this opening film is a somewhat Shakespearian affair directed by Kenneth Branagh, the sequel a straight fantasy/action flick by Game Of Thrones director Alan Taylor, and the third a sci-fi/comedy that turns the character on his head, made by our own Taika Waititi.
While the third film might be the best of all three, this first instalment is now an under-rated origin story – a fairly straight-forward tale that benefits from a likeable lead performance by Chris Hemsworth, a great ensemble cast led by Tom Hiddleston and Sir Anthony Hopkins, and a classical style by the unexpected Kenneth Branagh; I used the word Shakespearian before, and that is precisely why Branagh is an interesting choice for a superhero movie.
In fact, one wonders what this trilogy might have become had Branagh continued on to the sequel. Thor: The Dark World is a remarkably dull affair, and at least part of that is because of what it lost from this opening instalment.
The best of Shakespeare combines tragedy and comedy, and that is precisely what Thor tries to achieve. The tragedy of his story – his competitive upbringing beside Loki, his banishment from Asgard, his unworthiness to wield the hammer that has proven so much of his personality (and provides the redemptive arc of the third act) – is balanced with small moments of comedy, providing levity to everything that happens.
In fact, the tone of Thor is closer to the tone of Thor: Ragnarok than it is to Thor: The Dark World.
Though, that isn’t to say Thor is a great film, because there is plenty to dislike here. For a start, Natalie Portman seems thoroughly miscast as Jane Foster, Thor’s on-off girlfriend on Earth (and an eventual wielder of Mjolnir herself). A lot of the action scenes seem uninspired, just running through the motions without really doing anything fresh or exciting, and the sound design is equally generic.
And the third act plays as a complete anti-climax; in fact, I can remember at the time that it was something of a disappointment, given that we knew he was going to show up a year later in The Avengers, even though he seemed to have no way back to earth at the end of this film as the Bifrost is destroyed (though it turns out just to be a flashy elevator).
The bad doesn’t outweigh the good, however. This is an entertaining film – and I think an under-rated one now. And still thoroughly enjoyable on about my sixth viewing.
A few additional notes:
– During the battle on Jotunheim, the frost giant Laufey says “Your father is a murderer and a thief”. This is a nice little bit of foreshadowing to Thor: Ragnarok where Odin’s motivations are so often called in to question.
– “At least make it a challenge for me,” Thor calls out during the battle on Jotunheim. A similar scene in Avengers: Age Of Ultron – “Is that the best you can do?”, “You had to ask.” – is a nice little callback to this moment.
– The name Donald Blake MD appears on the t-shirt name tag; this is a call back to the comic books as Donald Blake is an alias Thor frequently uses to hide in plain sight during his visits to Midgard.
– Oh, hey, special agent Phil Coulson of S.H.I.E.L.D.! Clark Gregg must have the most screentime in the MCU, right? Oh, and there’s Jeremy Renner playing Clint “Hawkeye” Barton for the first time!
– I don’t want to rag on the music, but I do think Tony Zhou makes a good point in his video essay Marvel Symphonic Universe when he explores a key moment in this film. Let’s just say they could have done a better job.
Next: Captain America: The First Avenger!