When someone thinks of a Marvel film, pretty much everyone has the exact same idea. Even though I maintain that the Marvel formula is the action formula, all Marvel origin stories are virtually the same. This idea didn’t really cement itself until after the Avengers, which is why Thor feels very unique in the grand scheme. Granted, Thor does use the same formula, but Thor was still early on when Marvel was finding its footing and the franchise was in need of an identity. I have always retained a soft spot in my heart for this one, because it is fun, small, subtle and created one of the finest villains on screen. The more Marvel films that come out, the deeper the older ones get buried, so I’d like to resurrect some of these old projects by refreshing your minds.
Before Joss Whedon came along, Marvel just made safe action blockbusters, while trying to integrate them into a bigger world. Each film, at this point, only added to the lore of the current film before the “set up the next film” gimmick began. Iron Man introduces S.H.I.E.L.D. Hulk integrates S.H.I.E.L.D. Iron Man 2: more S.H.I.E.L.D. Thor… more S.H.I.E.L.D.? I am aware that Iron Man 2 (a secret favorite of mine) introduces both the event in New Mexico, and Mjolnir makes an appearance, but there is no mention of Thor, Asgard, or anything in future films. At the time of Thor, each film was its own entity which required no knowledge of prior installments, and we just viewed them as fun blockbusters. Before the Avengers, comic book films were not nearly as dogmatic as they have become today. Thor largely benefits by just being a stand alone story of an arrogant hero learning the world is bigger than him, and he has to learn accountability and responsibility, which wasn’t such a cliché, at the time.
While Iron Man is largely driven by Robert Downey Jr., Thor is much more of an ensemble piece. Yes, Thor is very clearly the main character to whom the story revolves around, but the supporting cast plays an integral part of the story, and the collision between the scientists and Thor feels very organic, as opposed to introducing characters to pad out the run time and give them nothing to do. As generic as the plot goes (in retrospect), the film is driven and elevated by great performances and fun characters. Kat Dennings plays an incredibly useless assistant, but her comedic timing is perfect, and it’s silly little things like her lack of awareness that keeps the film from taking itself seriously. Where Iron Man is heavy on drama, Thor is heavy on humor and fun. It is, in many ways, the only real Marvel family film. It isn’t too violent, the jokes are simple, and the themes are easy to relate to.
The true centerpiece to Thor, as if you didn’t see this coming, is Loki. Loki not only steals the show, but he stole the hearts of everyone who saw this film. Do you expect anything less from the God of Mischief? Loki is introduced as an ally. He is given motivation to resent his brother, which, ultimately, sets the plot in motion. Its very basic, and it allows the audience to become emotionally invested in the villain, rather than having someone introduced just so the hero can punch someone. Tom Hiddelston remains one of the best aspects of the MCU, and it’s such a delight every time he is onscreen.
Thor is similar to Freddy’s Revenge in the MCU. When you stack it next to the other films in the franchise, it seems a little lackluster, but it is by no means a bad film, nor is it the worst film in the MCU. The Avengers was a game changer, but before that, what we had was Captain America and those before it. Thor is a fun, small, quirky blockbuster, with great performances, a perfect villain, and Chris Hemsworth shirtless. It really has something for everyone. It’s the only family film in the Marvel library, which is a big boom. It’s not the biggest film, nor the best, but it’s a solid entry with great characters, good jokes, and it came out at a time when comic book movies were still in their infancy. I like it more than Thor: Ragnarok because it relies less on visual gags, so it has a better replay value.