As we barrel through an MCU loaded with Groots, Infinity Wars and more alien races than a Star Trek Tinder app, it’s easy to forget how tough a job Thor had of establishing itself. After all, only three films in and we’d barely scratched the surface, with only a rich dude in a metal suit and a scientist with emerald-hued anger issues making their cinematic bow.
No, Marvel’s opening gambit for a cosmic scale had to match with what had been established before, so where do magic hammers and frost giants fit in a world of super science and ‘roid raging monsters?
Enter Kenneth Branagh, yes THAT Kenneth Branagh, greatest living Shakespearian helmer and surely Marvel’s greatest directorial risk at that time (until someone decided to get Taika Watiti on the phone) who wisely puts all his experience with the bard to good use and utilizes it to add weight to the issues that plague the Sons Of Odin.
Thor, a member of the Asgardian race that has been worshiped as Gods on Earth, is disgraced and stripped of his powers after reigniting an ancient war with his egotistical bluster. After being banished to New Mexico by his father, Odin; Thor meets up with a group of physicists looking for proof of worm holes to other worlds (lucky that). As Thor strives to reclaim Mjolnir, his all powerful hammer, his mischievous brother Loki is pulling strings behind the scenes to make a bid for the throne.
While it may seem weird for the filmmakers to tackle outer space deities with a comedy heavy, fish-out-water plot considering how full-on they tackled the Guardians Of The Galaxy only three years later, Thor reveals itself to be gently sweet and incredibly warm. It also establishes the Thor-lore easily and breezy, digging deep from beloved comic runs from Walt Simonson, J.Michael Strazynski and, of course, Stan Lee.
The casting of newbies too is crackingly good, while the biggest star here is Natalie Portman who is only really required here to be “nice”, it’s the discoveries that make the most impression. Chris Hemsworth, last seen impressing as Kirk’s dad in J.J. Abrams Star Trek reboot (and Home & Away before that) brings a frat boy charm which is imperative in keeping Thor likeable but it’s Tom Hiddlston as Loki who scores MVP with an intricately layered performance and Marvel’s best villain by far until a certain purple faced titan chose to upgrade the bling on his space glove.
And yet the first Thor seems destined to not really get the adulation it deserves, being passed over for more newer fare it marks the MCU’s first tentative steps into a (literally) bigger universe.
Sure it’s a little overly convenient here and there (Thor turns around his whole life view in under a week and climax struggles to get the main players to where they need to be) and the earth stuff isn’t anywhere as exciting as the Asgard stuff but if this film was any warmer you could use it to reheat a pizza.
At the end of the day, Marvel definitely bet on the right Norse.