After the success of the first two Iron Man films (read the review for those here and here) as well as general favorable reception towards Universal’s The Incredible Hulk, Marvel Studios moved onto their next project, teased by an excellent post credits scene at the end of Iron Man 2: THOR. This film was going to be no easy feat, though. This would be the first step into truly uncharted territory for comic book films and for Marvel as well, before there was Guardians of the Galaxy and before there was Doctor Strange, Marvel had not stepped into mysticism of the cosmic side of the Marvel Universe. From this point forward Marvel would be treading new ground and opening up a whole new door and side to the Marvel Universe with the introduction of the newest Avenger, Thor, God of Thunder. Needless to say, a lot was riding on this film for it to be good.
Luckily, Marvel Studios President of Production, Kevin Feige, had an eye for talent and being able to see ahead and look at the bigger picture. His involvement in Thor and overseeing of various aspects of Production plays a large part in this films success as well as development of future Marvel movies. Just look at this quote from an on set interview from Collider back in 2010, after the release of Iron man and during production of THOR
“Iron Man is entirely about tech. Hulk starts the break open the idea of biological enhancement which clearly goes into Cap. This cracks into the cosmic and other worlds. Dr. Strange will eventually get into the supernatural.”
Clearly, a lot was riding on this film. After the tech infused modern sci-fi of Iron Man and the thriller action of Hulk, it was time for THOR to show a whole new world and a new comic book film with entirely different, almost Shakespearean, tone. With Hamlet Director Kenneth Branagh and a Production Design like no other, THOR is a successful, fun, and action packed entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. With that being said, let’s dive into the film.
The first act is no doubt one of the strongest aspects of the film, as the opening narration by Odin and the first 30 minutes of the film from that point on are nothing but an absolute pleasure to watch. Seeing Asgard and the Cosmic side of the Marvel Universe for the very first time is stunning, and the world-building by the opening exposition does not feel forced at all. Watching the history of Asgard and the battle between Asgardians and Frost Giants on Earth is a welcome sequence, giving the whole film an epic scale and feel to it. After the introduction to the realm eternal that is Asgard, we are introduced to the rest of the cast of the film: Thor, Loki, Laufey, and the Warriors Three. Now, let’s talk about the cast of this film.
Anthony Hopkins as Odin is a pitch perfect casting as the All Father, and although his screen-time in this is limited, it is more-so than the other two Thor films and his character as a flawed but wise king is done excellently in this film. His performance bounces off of Hemsworth and Hiddleston’s perfectly, bringing that true Shakespearean flair thanks to Branagh’s sharp directing. On the topic of Hemsworth and Hiddleston, let’s talk about their performances in this film. Chris Hemsworth as Thor in this film is a different kind of Thor, an unworthy and arrogant prince who hasn’t learned yet what it means to be truly worthy. This turn as Thor is different than from what we’re used to, so seeing Hemsworth develop this character from one spectrum of personality to another is a fun watch as well, and something that makes this first Thor film different from the others. A fun, different take on the origin story of a hero, and his journey to worthiness and regaining the power he once had.
Tom Hiddleston as Thor’s brother Loki is now an iconic performance from the actor in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and his role and development in this film is considered as one of the MCU’s best for good reason. Loki’s subtle trickery and plots are done to such a degree that even the audience isn’t sure what to expect from the trickster until the big third act reveal, which is the strongest part of this film. Needless to say, without Hiddleston’s performance this film would be a lot more weak without such a fantastic antagonist. The script deserves some credit for this part, as Loki’s plan of deceit and manipulation of the Throne of Asgard is almost as well of a conceived plan as Zemo’s in Captain America: Civil War. Colm Feore also gives a sinister performance as a secondary antagonist to Thor and Asgard, and while he serves a nothing more than a pawn to Loki he nonetheless does a great job doing it.
The second act of the film, which has more of a focus on Earth, provides a great fish out of water story for Hemsworth’s Thor and introduces Natalie Portman, Stellan Skarsgård, and Kat Dennings as the supporting cast on Earth, and do a great job in regards to helping move the plot forward for Thor, but don’t do much for Thor in terms of character development, save for Portman’s Jane Foster, who helps as a love interest, but not much else. While the Asgard scenes provide for some great and tense emotional scenes, such as Loki’s confrontation of Odin, it is counteracted by the humorous situations that Thor is in on Earth, that works about 50% of the time. One of the best parts of the film, when Thor breaks into S.H.I.E.L.D’s facility to try and take his hammer back, is elevated by the great cinematography and score, as well as a surprise cameo by Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton/Hawkeye.
The final act of the film is a by the basics blockbuster on Earth as well as a setup for the Avengers, but the ending scenes on Asgard paint a fantastic and epic cosmic battle between Thor and Loki over the fate of the Nine Realms and Asgard. With Loki’s true intentions revealed and Thor making a triumphant return to Asgard, the battle of two brothers makes for an exciting climax. Hiddleston shines the most towards the end of this film, showing himself as only trying to be Thor’s equal and show ing his true evil nature at the same time. The raw emotions Hemsworth and Hiddleston show in their final battle at the end of this film provides a great closing action sequence to the film. The fact that it ends with Thor making a personal sacrifice and a selfless choice to save his enemies, the Frost Giants, makes for a great close for his character arc in the film.
Patrick Doyles emotional score and cinematographer Haris Zambarloukos powerful shots paired together with Branagh’s directing make Thor, Loki, and Odin’s final scene in this film one of the most emotional that it has to offer. The look that Loki gives Odin when he realizes he has disappointed him and decides to fall is a powerful closing point for Loki’s character arc in this film as well. With Thor’s newfound humbleness and realization he has much to learn if he wants to be a good king, Marvel’s first foray into the Cosmos ends up being a solid entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe with well developed characters, great action, a powerful score, and amazing cinematography. Despite some falls into cliches and pacing issues in the second act, the first Thor film does it’s job of showing a new side to the Marvel Universe and lays the groundwork for some even better films in the future for Hemsworth and new directors and actors to work with in the future. – Ernesto Valenzuela