Thor (2011) [MCU Retrospective]
This is a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe Retrospective series (ie. a sane person's marathon of the MCU). All entries can be accessed by clicking here.
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 77%
Domestic Gross: $181,030,624; International Gross: $268,295,994; Total: $449,326,618
At first glance, Thor seemed like a bit of a gamble for Marvel back in 2011. Still in its early days and not having solidified its reputation as a studio stronghold, the MCU's first outing into the fantasy territory was notably one of the first superhero movies to take on such a feat. No matter how fantastical superhero movies were, none were as grounded in Nordic mythology and the world of gods as Thor. You could make an argument that Green Lantern (which came out a month after Thor) leaned in this direction, but that would certainly be a bit of a stretch. I bring this up as a reminder that Marvel wasn't always in a position where its gambles weren't actually risky. There was a time when its risky creative choices were actually risky, and Thor is a good example of that.
Thoughts on the film itself? To this very day, Thor is still one of the funniest characters in the MCU and this was what started it all. Chris Hemsworth has so much fun in this film, to the point that the dude is literally smiling during 90% of his time on screen. And as fun as Robert Downey Jr. can be as Tony Stark, his banter and verbal whipping is never as funny as Thor's inherent mannerisms. Thor is funny without knowing it, and Hemsworth only goes on to perfect his comical delivery even further in subsequent films. The other notable performance here would be Tom Hiddleston's debut as everyone's favourite villain, Loki. Much like Hemsworth's overly impressive first pass as Thor, Hiddleston is equally as good with Loki's introduction to the cinematic world. The quirks and malice of the character that we come to know time and again in future MCU films is ever so present even back in 2011. It's such a memorable performance, which really speaks to the talent of Tom Hiddleston's acting capabilities.
The combination of Natalie Portman, Kat Dennings, Stellan Skarsgård, Anthony Hopkins and Idris Elba help round up a main cast that makes Thor more fun than it really should be. I say this because the film itself isn't all that spectacular. Everything that happens in Thor is mildly interesting from a story standpoint, and it's really just the characters that have any burden of vital importance. In hindsight, it's almost as if Marvel already had their eyes on 2012's The Avengers, and the sole purpose of Thor's origin story was for the world to become acclimatized to the character itself. It was a film to prepare you for Marvel's first major cinematic event. For whatever reason, Iron Man 2 didn't necessarily feel like this, which might be a result of the film's inherent quality or Marvel's less overt hidden agenda at the time.
Thinking aloud as I wrote that last sentence, it might also be due to the characters themselves, and the fact that Iron Man has more interesting story arcs than Thor. Either way, Thor as a film isn't overly memorable, and seems to be the start of a common theme for the MCU - at least for a number of upcoming years. Nevertheless, it was still a fun ride and even though it didn't push the envelope, it demonstrated Marvel's ability to maintain a certain level of entertainment, even in the midst of lacklustre memorability. Thor also isn't Marvel's first full on comedy (that would come much later), but it certainly held the title of funniest MCU film for a long time. For me, that's definitely the most memorable thing about this film.