This Spring will see the release of Avengers: Infinity War, the third Avengers film, and the 19th film of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Once a week leading up to the release of the film, we’re going to dive into each of the Marvel films that led up to it. Today we’re taking a look at the fourth film in the MCU, Thor.
In some ways, Thor was a slight gamble, and overall, it didn’t help much in Marvel’s favor before the Avengers film came out. Thor was possibly the least-known Marvel hero of the four that received solo features before The Avengers. It was a film that featured a lot of complicated mythology, and its leads, Thor and Loki, were played by (relatively) newcomers, Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston, respectively. But it ended up being a mediocre success comparatively, taking in $181 million domestically ($50 mil. more than Incredible Hulk) and a total of $449 million worldwide ($186 more than Hulk). It helped show that Marvel had started something good here, and it helped expand the MCU in a lot of ways.
The film not only took audiences off Earth, it also included a good amount of Easter Eggs that showed that Marvel was willing to play into fanboys’ hands. Odin’s vault alone would contain a handful of Easter Eggs that are still playing out in the current films – quite significantly in some ways. It helped build up the character of Agent Coulson, who appeared in the first two Iron Man films, who would go on to be a significant part of The Avengers, and who would get his own TV show. But most importantly, it introduced the villain Loki, who would become just as significant of a figure in the MCU as most of the Avengers. So let’s dive in.
The film opens in Puente Antiguo, New Mexico. Astrophysicist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), her intern Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings), and Jane’s mentor, Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) are looking up to the sky, waiting for some sort of occurrence. Suddenly, the sky lights up and a beam of light comes crashing down, clouds and dust swirling around it. The team drives towards it, and ends up hitting someone with their van in the madness.
We cut to Tønsberg, Norway 965 AD. Odin (Anthony Hopkins) begins explaining the history of Asgard’s greatest war. A battle between the army of Asgard and the Frost Giants of Jotunheim which took place on Earth. Odin led the fight to victory, losing his eye, defeating the Ice Giants, and returning home to Asgard once and for all with the Frost Giant’s greatest weapon, the Casket of Ancient Winters. We come to Asgard where Odin is explaining this story to his two young sons, Thor and Loki, as they walk through his vault beneath the palace. Loki asks if the Frost Giants still live, and Thor says that once he’s king, he will hunt down all the Frost Giants and kill them. Odin explains that a good king must not seek out war but instead be ready for it at all times. He tells them that only one of them can ascend to the throne, despite them both being born to be kings.
We then cut to a ceremony years later, where Thor and Loki have grown up into men. Thor walks through a crowd of Asgardians and towards his father’s throne, showboating and cheering with his hammer, Mojlnir, in hand. Standing on one side of the throne are Lady Sif (Jaimie Alexander), Thor’s mother Frigga (Rene Russo), and Loki. On the other side of the throne stand The Warriors Three, Volstagg (Ray Stevenson), Hogun (Tabanobu Asano), and Fandral (Josh Dallas). The event is Thor’s coronation as king of Asgard, and Odin begins by detailing Mojlnir, a hammer made from a dying star, a great weapon or a “tool to build.” Just as Odin is about to proclaim Thor king, he stops, realizing that there are Frost Giants within his vault.
Within the vault sits multiple relics of the MCU:
- The Warlock’s Eye, which has the ability to cast powerful mind controlling enchantments
- The Tablet of Life and Time, which features the “Lifeline Formula,” and can turn someone into the supreme of their species
- The Orb of Agamatto, one of the “Three Eyes of Agamatto”, which can look through or be used to travel through different dimensions
- An Infinity Gauntlet, which can be used to hold the six infinity stones to control all of time and space in every universe and dimension
- The Eternal Flame, which Odin and his brothers took from the celestial Demon Surtar to keep it safe, as it is essentially the life force of Asgard
- The Casket of Ancient Winters
- The Destroyer, a sort of security system controlled by the king, which can emerge from the wall and turn into a Soldier to keep the vault safe or do the King’s bidding
The Destroyer emerges from the wall and kills the Ice Giants before they can try to take the Casket. Odin, Thor, and Loki enter the vault and see their guards killed by the Frost Giants. Thor says that he wants to go to Jotunheim and take the battle to them. Loki watches as Thor and Odin argue, quiet and focused. Thor says that as king, he wants to attack them. Odin reminds him that he is not king yet. We then cut to Thor sulking in a banquet hall where Loki joins him and tells him at first that he agrees with Thor. The Warriors Three and Lady Sif show up. Thor says he wants to attack Jotunheim. At first everyone seems to try to dissuade him, but he brings up how many times he’s led them into battles and essentially uses their egos to convince them.
At the gate to Asgard, Thor, Loki, Sif, and the Warriors Three meet Heimdall (Idris Elba), the gatekeeper to the Bifrost, which is the Rainbow bridge that takes Asgardians to other realms and planets. He only lets them leave because he wants to know how the Frost Giants got into Asgard. Never has an enemy entered Asgard under his watch. He explains that he must close the Bifrost and will not reopen it if danger follows them. They arrive on Jotunheim and meet the king, Laufey (Colm Feore), without running into a single soul. Thor asks how they got to Asgard, and Laufey says there are traitors in the house of Odin. Thor takes this as an insult and is ready to battle, but Laufey gives them one last chance to leave. Loki takes it and leads Thor away before a Frost Giant calls Thor a princess. At this point, Loki knows they’re screwed, and Thor begins a fight.
As they fight the Frost Giants, Volstagg is touched by one of them and his arm freezes. He warns the others not to let them touch their skin, but one touches Loki and his arm and hand turn blue like one of the Frost Giants. They exchange uncertain looks before Loki kills him. The Frost Giants keep coming; after Fandral is injured, they all fall back, heading to where Heimdall dropped them, near the edge of a cliff. Thor still tries to battle every Frost Giant that comes at him, and eventually a large beast comes out to attack him. He knocks the beast and the Frost Giants down with a strike of lightning and catches up with the rest of his group. As they reach edge of the cliff, they call to Heimdall to bring them back but he doesn’t answer. The large beast crawls out from the underside of the cliff. Thor throws his hammer through its head and as it falls into the cavern past the cliff; then Odin shows up.
Thor exclaims that they can finish off the Frost Giants together, and Odin tells him to shut up. Odin tries to reason with Laufey, but he’s done reasoning. Their peace treaty is undone, and Odin should expect war. Just as Laufey is about to stab Odin, Odin returns them all to Asgard. Odin and Thor fight, and Thor remarks that Odin was foolish. Odin agrees – he was foolish to believe Thor could be king. He casts Thor out, taking his power and his title away from him and sends him through the Bifrost. He holds Mojlnir to his lips and enchants it, saying, “Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor,” and then sends it through the Bifrost after Thor.
Thor slams down to Earth and is immediately hit by Jane Foster’s van. He’s knocked out for a moment, but comes to. He yells at first for his hammer and then for Heimdall to bring him back. Darcy ends up tazing Thor, and they take him to a hospital. As they head out, Mojlnir lands in the distance. They leave him at the hospital, and when the doctors try to take some of his blood, he fights them, believing they are attacking him. They sedate him and strap him to the bed. The next day, a truck pulls up to where Mojlnir landed. A man steps out and attempts to move the hammer, but it doesn’t budge. Jane and her team look at images from the Bifrost in her lab and see an image of a person inside of it. They head back to the hospital, but Thor has escaped. As they go to leave, Jane hits him with the van again.
Back at the crater, people have shown up to try to pull the hammer from the dirt. Tons of men are getting drunk and trying their best to pull it out. A truck tries to tow it out, but the bumper falls off the truck. The driver, Stan Lee, asks if it worked. Coulson shows up and tells Fury they found it (it’s the post credits scene from Iron Man 2). Thor gets dressed back at Jane Foster’s place. She gives him her ex’s clothes. His name, Dr. Donald Blake. In the comics, this was Thor’s alter ego/secret identity on Earth. Back on Asgard, Sif, Loki, and the Warriors Three discuss Thor’s banishment. They all seem to agree that Odin went too far. Loki admits it was he that told Heimdall to send Odin to Jotunheim after them. When Loki leaves the room, they begin to think that Loki may not be trustworthy.
Loki stands in Odin’s vault in front of the Casket, and just as he’s about to touch it, Odin tells him to stop. He asks Odin if he’s cursed, and he says no. He turns around to reveal his true self, blue skinned just like the Frost Giants. Odin explains that Loki is actually Laufey’s son; Odin took him after the war, and he hoped that one day Loki would unite their worlds. Loki screams at him, saying he doesn’t believe it, and Odin passes out, falling into deep “Odinsleep” to recover his Godly strength. Thor sits with Jane and her team in a diner; he’s still rude and slightly obnoxious. Two men walk in from the site where Mojlnir landed and talk about how the government came in and took over. Thor realizes they’re talking about Mojlnir and heads out. Jane follows him and offers to take him if he’ll tell her everything. He agrees, but then Dr. Selvig pulls her aside and says it’s not safe and he’s got to be some delusional man thinking he’s Thor. They part ways and Jane sees SHIELD vehicles driving away with her lab equipment.
Jane, Darcy, and Erik get back to the lab, and Jane fights with Coulson as he takes the last of her things. He hands her a check to buy new things, but the money doesn’t make up for her journal entries and notes. Erik pulls her away and tells her to let them go. They sit on the roof of the lab and Erik mentions that he used to have a colleague who was an expert in Gamma Radiation, but he got involved with SHIELD and was never heard from again. The interesting thing with that nod is that it’s actually unclear if he’s talking about Bruce Banner or Samuel Sterns. Because in all reality, Banner’s experiment was never really marked as anything with SHIELD, but when they capture Banner at Sterns’ lab, that’s a SHIELD mission. There’s never any real reference in later films to clear it up and Selvig and Banner never truly interact, so it’s hard to say.
Sif and the Warriors Three walk into the Palace to speak with Odin and are surprised to find Loki. He explains that Odin has fallen into a sleep, his mother is by Odin’s bedside, and he is king. They ask him to bring Thor back, and he states that his first act as king can’t be to undo the last act of the previous king. They leave, even more suspicious of Loki. Erik heads to a library to email a colleague for help with SHIELD, and Jane ends up seeing Thor walk into a pet shop, looking for a horse to ride. Jane offers to give him a ride again if he’ll tell her what she wants to know. He agrees and they head to Mojlnir. Loki and his mother talk; he asks why they lied about what he was. She says they lied because he was their son, and they didn’t want him to think he wasn’t. She hopes that Odin will awaken soon and that Thor will return, stating that everything Odin does has a purpose. Jane and Thor arrive at the SHIELD site, and Thor agrees to grab whatever he can of her things before breaking in.
Agent after agent tries attacking him, and Thor wipes out each one. Coulson calls for “eyes up high with a gun” and we see a SHIELD agent examine some guns and then grab a bow and arrow. The agent jumps into a cherry-picker style basket and heads up above the site. He aims below and is revealed to be Clint Barton aka Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner). He asks Coulson if he wants him to slow Thor down or if he’s going to send in more agents for him to beat up. One large agent shows up and fights Thor in the mud. Thor takes him down and heads into the final area where Mojlnir is. Hawkeye admits he likes “this guy” and asks if he should take his shot before Thor gets too far. Coulson tells Hawkeye to wait, as he wants to see what happens. Thor tries to grab Mojlnir and it doesn’t budge even a bit. He screams out in anger and defeat before SHIELD agents come in and cuff him.
There’s a quick cut where we see that Heimdall has seen all of this from Asgard as he looks out from his post. Jane is back at the lab with Selvig, and they have an argument over whether Thor is legitimate or not. Selvig shows them a children’s book on Norse mythology he picked up at the library, and Darcy and Jane argue that “magic is just science we don’t understand yet” and that more primitive cultures may have viewed these technologically advanced aliens as deities. Back at the SHIELD base, Coulson tries to question Thor but doesn’t get a single response. He steps out to take a phone call; Loki appears and tells Thor that Odin has died. He tells him that Thor’s banishment is the only way to prevent the Frost Giants from starting war and makes a comment about how it sucks that Odin left the hammer there. They say their goodbyes as Coulson returns. Loki tries to remove Mojlnr and it doesn’t budge a bit. He walks away, seeming frustrated by that.
Erik then shows up and tries to reason with Coulson, saying that Thor is Dr. Donald Blake, a colleague that just lost his mind when they took everything. Coulson lets him go, and Thor grabs Jane’s journal on the way out. Coulson tells Selvig not to let Thor near any bars, Selvig says yeah, and then takes Thor to a bar. They talk and Thor agrees to leave town that night. Selvig gets them another round, this time of a large drink that Thor chugs, leading to Erik chug his drink. Loki arrives at Jotunheim and tells Laufey that he will let him in to kill Odin and they can take the Casket. When questioned why he would do it, he explains that as the new king, he can’t get caught killing Odin. He arrives back on Asgard and Heimdall mentions that he couldn’t see what Loki was doing on Jotunheim. Loki orders Heimdall to keep the Bifrost closed to everyone else and storms off.
Thor brings Erik back to Jane’s, completely drunk. She asked what happened and he explains, “We drank, we fought, he made his ancestors proud.” Jane seems flustered to have Thor there in her little home, and they end up going up to the roof of the lab. He gives her the journal and she thanks him before saying that SHIELD is just going to try to cover all of this up. They talk about Thor’s world, “(her) ancestors called it magic, (she) calls it science, (Thor) comes from a place where they’re one in the same.” He explains that there are nine realms: Earth is one and Asgard is another. They end up falling asleep in their lawn chairs on the roof.
On Asgard, the Warriors Three and Sif agree that they have to get to Earth somehow. But they know Heimdall won’t betray the king, and he may be watching them. Just then, a guard shows up saying Heimdall needs them. He asks if they want to commit treason and bring back Thor. They admit that they do. “Good,” he says before stating he’s bound by his honor to the king and then leaves. The Bifrost opens on its own and they head to Earth. They land on Earth. SHIELD this sees and heads after them. Loki sees as well and heads to the vault where he tells the Destroyer to make sure his brother doesn’t return and to destroy everything. The Warriors Three and Sif show up as Thor and Jane’s team are eating breakfast. They tell Thor he has to come back with them and explain that Odin is in fact alive.
Loki meets Heimdall at the Bifrost gate, and Heimdall asks him how he got the Frost Giants into Asgard. He says that there are other paths into Asgard that he can’t see. Heimdall ends up going to attack Loki, but he freezes him just before he hits him. Coulson gets to the spot where Sif and the Warriors Three landed and the Destroyer shows up. Another SHIELD agent, Agent Sitwell (Maximiliano Hernández), asks if it’s a Stark Suit, to which Coulson replies, “I don’t know, he never tells me anything.” The Destroyer then begins to attack the SHIELD agents as it makes its way into town. Thor tells the Warriors Three and Sif to fight off the Destroyer for now while he helps Jane and her team to evacuate the small town. They fight and the Destroyer eventually gets the upper hand on the Warriors and Sif. Thor tells them to head back to Asgard to fight Loki and that he has a plan.
They begin to leave, when Thor walks towards the Destroyer. He talks to Loki aloud as he walks towards it, apologizing for what he’s done to upset him and tells him that killing these humans won’t bring him anything. The Destroyer, in complete control by Loki, stops, turns to walk away, and then backhands Thor across the town. He lands and says a goodbye to Jane. He seems to die. Odin, in his sleep, sheds a tear. Mojlnir begins shaking and flies to Thor. He comes to and grabs it with one hand as lightning strikes his position. His armor reassembles, and a sort of tornado of clouds and lightning begin to form. The Destroyer tries to fire his flame beams at Thor, only to be countered with a lightning strike from Mojlnir. The tornado encircles them and Thor fights off the Destroyer and defeats it. He tells Coulson that he is an ally to mankind and will not cause any problems as long as SHIELD gives Jane her things back. Coulson says yes, and Thor leads everyone to the Bifrost point.
Loki lets the Frost Giants into Asgard as Thor calls out to Heimdall. Heimdall cracks the ice around him and takes out two Frost Giants before opening the Bifrost. Thor tells Jane he has to head back to Asgard, but he will return. They kiss. She agrees to the “deal.” They get back and the Warriors Three and Sif take care of Heimdall and his wounds. Thor heads to the palace. Laufey enters Odin’s room and knocks Frigga away. He is about to kill Odin when Loki shows up and kills him. Thor arrives and tries to tell his mother what Loki has done. Loki knocks him out of the room and heads to the Bifrost. He opens it and sets it to begin firing into Jotunheim, destroying the planet. He then freezes the Bifrost to keep anyone from turning it off.
Thor tries to reason with him, explaining that he was wrong before to think they should destroy the Frost Giants. Loki says that he never wanted to be king at first – he merely wanted to be equal to Thor. Thor says that they need to stop this, that he’s changed. Loki says he’s changed too and asks if it was Jane that changed him. If so, maybe he’ll go visit her after he destroys Jotunheim. Thor attacks Loki, and their fight leads out to the bridge that leads to the Bifrost gate. Thor eventually gets the upper hand and places Mojlnir on Loki to keep him still. He tries to find a way to shut off the Bifrost but can’t, and he realizes there’s only one option. He destroys the bridge with Mojlnir. As he smashes, it Loki even screams out, “But you’ll never see her again!” It doesn’t matter; he has to do this. The bridge begins to fall apart. Loki and Thor both begin to fall into the abyss of space.
Odin grabs Thor from the edge, and Thor grab’s Loki’s staff. Loki looks up at Odin and says emotionally, “I could have done it father. For you. For all of us.” And Odin simply replies, “No, Loki.” Loki looks up at his father with despair and lets go of his staff, falling into the abyss. The clouds in the sky that appeared when the Bifrost was activated disappear from Earth, and Jane heads home. There’s a large feast on Asgard where everyone celebrates things being okay.
Thor walks off to be with Odin, while Lady Sif tells Frigga she’s sorry for her loss and that Thor is mourning his brother and misses Jane. Odin tells Thor he’ll be a wise king. Thor tells Odin there will never be a king as wise as him or a better father. He admits he has a lot to learn and hopes maybe one day he can make him proud, to which Odin says he already makes him proud. Thor heads to Heimdall and asks him if Earth is lost to them. He tells him there is always hope. Thor asks if he can see Jane, and he says yes, “She’s searching for you.” Thor smiles, and the credits roll.
When I went into this, I remember not caring for the first Thor film very much. But overall, it’s actually really fantastic. The stuff with SHIELD isn’t heavy-handed like it felt at times in Iron Man 2. The Hawkeye cameo was actually an even bigger and better cameo than I thought it was. He makes some good quips, and it just feels natural given the circumstances of the story. The first act of the film is a little rough at first, just because there’s a lot to take in and Thor is such a jerk. But Loki helps make it really great. Tom Hiddleston really commands the screen throughout. His arc in this film, from the quiet and focused one in the vault to the cackling villain destroying planets to for his father’s approval at the end, is truly fantastic.
The twists to Loki’s plan are great as well. It’s clear from the beginning that Loki is probably the one pulling the strings on things, and you think you know what he wants: to be king. But killing Laufey and destroying the whole planet just for the approval of his father (and that final moment when Odin says, “Loki, no”) is heartbreaking and fantastic.
Another fantastic element to the film is the production design. The previous MCU films showed that they can put together some good CGI and interesting character designs, but this film showed that Marvel can truly create some beautiful things on screen. Asgard looks amazing, and the juxtaposition of the small, dusty New Mexico town is great.
The film really is great on just about every level. The one disappointing factor is Jane Foster and the relationship between her and Thor; it’s very cliché and by the book, and there are signs that it could have been better. Jane could have been a bit more of a “geeky girl who would never get a guy like Thor.” But it’s only bits of that, never a fully realized idea. Maybe it’s also because it’s Natalie Portman, and she’s not what you think of for that type of stereotypical character. But still yet, at times she’s nerdy and flustered. At times she’s taking charge. At times she’s swooning over the hot guy. It’s like they weren’t sure exactly what to make her, so they just threw everything at the screen to see what stuck.
The irony to that though is that there are some great moments with Sif and Frigga throughout the film where they each show off some really great aspects of their characters that seem to make them more than what they are on the surface. When Sif is fighting the destroyer in New Mexico, she wants to go out in that fight and die like a warrior. And Thor tells her, live to tell the tale. She reluctantly listens. But that’s who she is. This isn’t the only scene where you see it, but it’s the best example to lead with.
The other element of Thor that makes it interesting is how much it truly begins to set up from this moment on. There’s the Infinity Gauntlet, which is a HUGE aspect of Infinity War. There’s the Eternal Flame. A HUGE element of Ragnarok (The 3rd Thor Film). And it could be said that a lot of later decisions were made based on what happened before, but there’s just too much lined throughout the MCU to make me think that some of the details in this film aren’t the start of some big things. Especially when you consider that for so many characters, this is the lead in for Avengers because the next film before that is Captain America, which takes place in the 40’s. Which means that from here, Thor, Loki, Selvig, Coulson, all go from this to Avengers. And the post credits scene for that begins the path to Infinity War with the reveal of Thanos. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
When the credits are done, Dr. Erik Selvig walks through a tunnel in a facility. He comes to a corridor where Nick Fury is waiting for him. He makes a joke about thinking he was going to be killed down there. Fury is straight-faced the entire time. Essentially, Fury enlists Selvig’s help with a project to understand the Tesseract and to help use it as a power source. But what Fury doesn’t know is that Selvig is actually under the mind control of Loki, who appears in a window next to Selvig, hiding in the reflection.
And that’s that. Stay tuned next week, when we take a look at the last solo venture before the first Avengers film: the vastly underrated, Captain America: The First Avenger.