Published on January 28th, 2018 | by Lauren Bycroft0
The Road to Infinity War Part 4 – Thor
Thor is massively underrated. Until the recent release of Thor Ragnarok, I think audiences have been sleeping on the fact that Thor (the character) is the Avengers’ secret weapon. Kenneth Branagh’s take on the Asgardian superhero is where you start to realize that casting is not just a stroke of luck for Marvel it’s what they do best. The addition of Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston to the MCU is yet another pillar of strength on which Marvel can rest their eventual team up and Chris Evans’ Captain America is not far behind to boot. It’s how the MCU continues to soldier on, despite occasional missteps, through the charisma and commitment of their actors. Thor is a shining example of that principle.
The superhero origin story is tough to pull off. We’ve seen about a million of them at this point. And while Thor’s isn’t especially unique – egotistical, selfish man is stripped of his powers until he learns how to sacrifice and become a real hero – its wrappings are. Thor is part Shakespearean familial drama, part fish out of water comedy and Branagh, Hemsworth, Hiddleston, and Anthony Hopkins, nail it. I honestly dare you to find better acting in the MCU than the scene between Hiddleston and Hopkins, discussing Loki’s true parentage. It’s a master class in high drama. Moments like these are what make Thor such a fascinating film among the Marvel cannon.
While Thor gave the Marvel Cinematic Universe its strongest and most complex villain in Loki, as I mentioned earlier, I don’t believe that Thor himself really gets the recognition he deserves. In Hemsworth’s hands he is the “vain, greedy, cruel boy” his father declares him to be, the sensitive, self-less hero who will dedicate himself to the protection of Earth, and the witty counterpart to everyone around him. Hemsworth skips around deftly from warmongering arguments with Odin to quiet romantic moments with Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster & quips with Darcy and the warrior’s three. I would not be surprised to see him break into a song and dance and pull it off with flying colors.
Additionally, it’s not just Loki and Odin who help Thor shine, it’s all the characters around him. The Warriors Three who will later be criminally underused and discarded are immediately full of life, dimension, and charm. Likewise, Stellan Skarsgard is a beautifully dry and grounded presence, balancing the captivating sarcasm and ridiculousness of Kat Dennings’ Darcy. And finally, despite the bad reputation it’s gotten over time, the relationship between Hemsworth and Portman does work in this film. The actors have real chemistry together, though it’s hard to compete with the His Girl Friday, off the charts levels previously displayed by Robert Downey Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow. It’s a tough act to follow. Nevertheless, Portman balances the right amount of serious, scientific energy with the completely relatable school girl-esque fawning over the god-like Thor. There are a few awkward moments, but in the end, their relationship firing on all cylinders, is an element I miss in the sequels.
As with most Marvel films no matter where they fall on the spectrum of good to bad, the strength of Thor is in its characters and their evolution. Branagh as you might expect, is not particularly adept at filming action. However, considering the there’s no real maniacal villain hell bent on world domination to tackle, the lack of thrilling action kind of works for the film. Loki’s scheme is spurred by family turmoil, opening the door for character growth to carry the film. Ultimately while Thor begins to expand the Marvel Universe beyond the bounds of Earth, it keeps its story small and contained – something Ant-Man will get more credit for down the line in the midst of world destruction fatigue. Like Iron Man before it, Thor is a worthy character study and introduction that invests us in and endears us to its characters while quietly continuing to piece the Marvel Universe together through SHIELD’s more organic involvement