Oh I did it fam. In preparation for my viewing of Avengers: Infinity War on April 26th at 7PM, I went back and rewatched the previous 18 films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, from Iron Man to Black Panther. Every day leading up to Infinity War I’ll be posting a short piece on each film and my most recent hot takes on nearly a decade of the MCU. I’ll also be linking back to whatever old nonsense I wrote about the movies at the time, if applicable. And if that isn’t enough, check out my ranked listed of the MCU to date on my Letterboxd account here.
Director Kenneth Branagh’s Thor is one of the smaller films in the MCU despite the vast scope of time and space it introduced to the franchise. Before Thor, the MCU was basically just scientists pushing the limits of technology, but with Marvel’s fourth film we got millennia-old gods living in a gold pipe organ in space, traveling around the cosmos via rainbow laser beam.
And yet, if you had to stage a community theater production of a Marvel film, Thor would be the one to go for.
The action here is nothing to thumb your nose at, and it is particularly big in the first act, but where Thor really excels is in its depiction of interfamilial conflict. Tom Hiddleston’s Loki is a star from “go” and any time any combination of him, Chris Hemsworth’s Thor or Anthony Hopkins’ Odin share the screen there’s an undeniable sense of craft and gravitas.
Unfortunately we don’t get much of that during Thor’s humbling sojourn to New Mexico, but we do get a dope mud fight. Which you could totally do on a stage.
Natalie Portman isn’t exactly fully utilized as Jane Foster here, but her character feels like more than just checking a box next to “love interest.” Foster is the Stark or Banner of this film. She is the scientist pushing the limits of what is possible and Thor embodies just how much further there is to push.
Over the course of the first three Marvel films Stark and Banner are dogged by ever-present, antagonistic, militaristic authorities. By the time Iron Man 2 wraps up it’s pretty clear that even the shadiest government agency isn’t going to undo the likes of Iron Man or Hulk, but this film displays just how woefully inept and unequipped those antagonists, and by extension our protagonists, really are in the cosmic scheme of things. It sets up a new threshold of conflict that requires more than a robot suit and a green monster to quash.
Thor is the start of a true ramp-up to Avengers, expanding the possibilities of the franchise. It treads carefully. Perhaps too carefully. But when it takes us to Asgard and shows us the petty squabbles of gods in their giant space castle the intimate and the sprawling collide in compelling fashion.