After more grounded introductory stories with Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk, the time had come to take to go off-world in 2011’s Thor. A successful tease in the post-credit scene for Iron Man 2 was enough to get audiences everywhere excited about a trip to space in the budding MCU’s infancy. Although the first outing for the God of Thunder feels quite outdated considering the character received a complete tonal shift in the 2017 film Thor: Ragnarok, it’s a better movie than it gets credit for.
Directed by Kenneth Branagh, Thor brings many intriguing points to the table, but is unable to take full advantage of them in a cohesive way that compliments the story. Perhaps the most endearing element is the relationship between the sons of Odin (Anthony Hopkins), which would go on to be a pivotal factor in the Infinity Saga until its true conclusion in Avengers: Endgame. Similar to many of its Phase 1 counterparts, Thor doesn’t hold up perfectly in comparison to everything that came after, but it’s still a delightful introduction to the always-imperfect Asgardian family.
Thor review: an incomplete puzzle with some beautiful pieces
Let’s get one thing out of the way early. Thankfully, the movie itself doesn’t make any egregious choices, no weird cameos shoehorned in or head-scratching plot decisions, but there is a complete facial hair assassination. The decision to dye Chris Hemsworth’s beard bleach blonde is unfathomable. Hemsworth is a good-looking dude, and “pretty cut for a homeless guy” as described by Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings), it was completely unnecessary to attempt to enhance the looks of someone who already resembles a God.
More recent MCU fans may be unaware, but Thor wasn’t always the beloved character he is today. This Shakespearean rendition brought to life by Branagh continues throughout Phases 1 and 2, which at the time was quite controversial. Hemsworth’s occupation of the character was never the problem, but this early version that speaks in eloquent soliloquies was just not resonating with audiences at the time. Fortunately, Hemsworth’s charm in the role has always been enough to keep people coming back, even when they weren’t necessarily thrilled with what they were going to get.
Call it smart or lucky, Marvel undoubtedly made the right choice casting Hemsworth to play Thor. Among the many names in consideration to don the mantle of the strongest Avenger was Loki actor Tom Hiddleston. It’s hilarious to think about Hiddleston in a full-blonde wig, droning on about his hammer, but this is another case where Marvel’s decision most definitely paid off. Hiddleston as Loki has gone on to be one of the most iconic superhero castings of all time, and it’s hard to imagine a scenario where he became known as anyone other than the God of Mischief.
As for their respective performances in Thor, it’s almost impossible not to put Hiddleston’s Loki in a tier of his own. His line deliveries in this film remain some of the best the MCU has to offer, and there’s a menacing charm on display you just can’t help but sympathize with. Sure, Loki does some horrible things in this movie and will go on to “kill 80 people in two days”, but Hiddleston has a way of adding a layer of relatability to Loki’s immense library of personal trauma that lessens the blow of his evil intentions.
Although Hemsworth’s performance in this movie isn’t nearly as captivating as his later performances in Ragnarok and Infinity War, he takes the character of Thor on a beautiful journey of self-discovery and growth. Thor has to learn the difference between being a warrior and a leader, which inevitably comes down to putting yourself in harm’s way as opposed to someone else. Hemsworth delivers this message without fault, another reason why he has always been the perfect choice to play the character.
The rest of the Asgardian family and Warriors Three are a delightful addition to the supporting cast, each serving small but crucial roles in the main character’s lives. The late Ray Stevenson as Volstagg is particularly compelling with his resilient desire to protect his friends and do the right thing, no matter the cost. Idris Elba as Heimdall, Natalie Portman as Jane Foster, and Stellan Skarsgård as Erik Selvig all prove to be fitting companions on Thor’s journey, earning their place as MCU veterans going forward.
Thor comprises many elements that are capable of existing in a truly great film, but it is, unfortunately unable to mesh them together meaningfully. The choice to strip Thor of his powers for roughly half of the movie makes sense for the story, as he needs to know what it’s like to stand in the face of evil without having immortality, but it severely weighs down the entertainment value. Because the film opens on such a thrilling action sequence with the Frost Giants on Jotunheim, it’s tough to sit without that adrenaline high until the final 10 minutes.
One aspect that does play extraordinarily well is hiding Loki as the villain among the Frost Giants. It’s classic deceit from the God of Mischief, always operating from behind the scenes with an ulterior motive, and Thor allows the audience the courtesy of watching his villainous development while keeping it from other characters in the story. Perfect proof lies right here that you don’t need to hide your true antagonist until the very end, and what’s on display for the audience and the characters within the story can be two entirely different things.
The legacy of ‘Thor’
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what Thor’s legacy is when so many of the projects to come after completely undo different plot points and character development from this film. The destruction of the Bifrost appears to be a universe-altering decision that’s simply undone in the next movie; Loki’s death is revealed to be a fake-out in the mid-credit stinger, and Thor’s character in his most recent appearance is nearly unrecognizable from the hunk with a hammer as seen in this film.
Ultimately, Thor will be remembered for introducing beloved characters, all of which have received severe makeovers in the years following this movie. This is arguably the most beautiful portrayal of Asgard in the MCU, granted its only real competition is the 2013 sequel Thor: The Dark World. An Avengers movie was already a lock to release by this point, so even if this film had flopped, it would’ve likely just resulted in the same character realignment for Thor, perhaps just a few years sooner. Grossing over $440 million at the worldwide box office and introducing audiences to two characters still making an impact today, Thor should be remembered as a success that accomplished everything it needed to.
‘Thor’ is a supernatural adventure centered around family trauma
Adapting Thor into live-action was always going to prove more of a challenge than other Earth-bound characters, given the nature of his powers and the grandiose landscape of his home world, but Thor succeeds in the most important parts. This film certainly has some room to improve, but it could have been far worse than the final product that made it to the silver screen.
We’ll always have Thor to thank for bringing the Gods of Mischief and Thunder into our lives, both of which are still around and kicking today. Although they haven’t seen each other since Loki’s “death” in Avengers: Infinity War, the pair are bound for a reunion before we officially say goodbye. Their flawed but loveable relationship began all the way back here in this film, and it’s most definitely worth a rewatch to refresh yourself on the origin of Odin sons.
2011’s Thor fun facts
- Chris Hemsworth almost passed on the role of Thor, as he wasn’t head over heels about signing a six-film deal just to star in the first movie.
- As aforementioned, there were many people in consideration to play the God of Thunder. Among those names are Daniel Craig, Channing Tatum, WWE wrestler Triple H, and even Chris Hemsworth’s younger brother, Liam Hemsworth.
- Balder the Brave was considered for a role in the film, but ultimately the filmmakers decided it was best to leave the focus on Thor and Loki.
- The plans were already in place for Loki to be the main villain of The Avengers, so Marvel instructed Thor writer Zach Stentz to “make Loki as good or better than Magneto.”
- Set designer Bo Welch claims they had “one foot in comic book land, and another foot in Norse mythology land” when producing the film, as creators wanted to pay homage to Thor’s comic book and mythological origins.
- When filming for Thor began, Chris Hemsworth was too buff and couldn’t comfortably fit into his costume.
- Loki actor Tom Hiddleston said the hot, heavy costumes are part of what led to his performance in Thor, “sometimes that would really feed what I was doing. I would be going kind of mad in there.”
- Darcy actress Kat Dennings was sent to a fake address for her audition, where a golf cart picked her up to take her to the real location. Even in Phase 1, Marvel was notoriously secretive.
- Natalie Portman agreed to play Jane Foster upon hearing Kenneth Branagh was set to direct.
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'Thor' Review'Thor' Review
- Loki is incredible
- Some fun action at the end and beginning
- Really interesting family dynamic
- Struggling second act with a powerless Thor
- Not enough emphasis on any of the great aspects
- Bleach blonde beard