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Ten Years Later: Thor

27 April 21 words: Michael Vince

Michael Vince looks at one of the earliest entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a decade since its release...

Director: Kenneth Branagh
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston
Running time: 114 minutes

In 2008, although they didn’t yet know it, Marvel studios changed the course of modern cinema with the release of Iron Man. Robert Downey Jr was an instant hit and audiences loved it. There were still no signs of the nascent Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) exploding into the biggest franchise in the world until 2011’s Thor and its various teasers made us realise: “Oh, they’re really going to do this”.

Iron Man 2 was average, but did a good job of introducing another fairly backseat Marvel character—Scarlett Johansen’s Black Widow—and its main strength was its post-credits stinger, showing Thor’s hammer Mjolnir in the New Mexico desert. For the MCU to work, Thor really had to work, and for the most part, it did.

As usual with the early MCU entries, the casting choices hit the jackpot right away. It was imperative that Robert Downey Jr worked as Iron Man—and he did—but it would have been all too easy to throw away the hard work if Thor’s casting did not go to plan.

Chris Hemsworth was relatively unknown when cast but immediately showed that he had the looks and acting chops to pull off a simultaneously very funny but also very serious character. Tom Hiddleston was instantly endearing and annoying in equal measure as Loki, the God of mischief, securing several roles as both villain and (sort of) ally throughout the remaining films, plus his own upcoming Disney plus show. 

Then were the established casting choices—Anthony Hopkins, Natalie Portman and Idris Elba added star power and plenty of accolades to draw in audiences that may not have been as enticed by comic book canon. 

It is clear on a rewatch that Thor takes place very early in the MCU’s run. The effects and production—whilst not at the level of later installments like Infinity War—are still on par, if not above the level of top blockbusters of a decade ago.

One to watch on an evening when you would prefer not to use your brain too much

The fight scenes are intense and fun to watch. The earliest, between the Warriors Three and the frost giants is particularly compelling and a complete genre and scenery departure from the more contemporary action/war flick aesthetic of the two Iron Man instalments. 

The key word above is ‘fun’. Thor is not exactly high art, but the real point is: who cares? It’s a film about a guy from Norse mythology landing on earth and trying to regain the power to wield a hammer—what more could you want from it?

It isn’t The Dark Knight or Logan, but it (thankfully) definitely isn’t 2003’s Daredevil. It is, however, a more rewatchable film than any of the aforementioned. In a world of comic book stories and particularly in the current year, people need safe movies to fall back on. Thor provides a great balance of just enough stakes to be an intriguing first time watch, but since it is a fairly light-hearted superhero movie, it’s a safe rewatch.

I am not an expert on Thor’s comic history, but Kenneth Brannagh’s Thor (yeah, he directed this film?) has humour, grandiose ancient mythos and lingo, good action and a large blond man summoning lightning with a mythical hammer. I don’t want to speak for the Thor comic contingent, but I would say this covers all bases!

Overall, 2011’s Thor is a fun movie with plenty of daft action and laughs to revisit and watch on an evening when you would prefer not to use your brain too much, but has good enough writing and performances to make it a fairly decent movie from a critical standpoint.

Did you know? The film was in development since the early 1990s, with several different directors being considered to helm the project including Sam Raimi, Matthew Vaughn and Guillermo del Toro.

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