Thorsome Sauce

Marvel's Cine-CHAT-ic Universe: Thor (2011)

Matt Looker,
Ali Gray,
Becky Suter,
Ed Williamson

3rd September 2018

Marvel's Cine-CHAT-ic Universe is back! After last covering Iron Man 2 back in... holy shit, November? It's been nearly a year? Ok, it's about time we brought this back to continue our efforts in discussing each of the MCU films in turn, now finishing before our NEW deadline of Avengers 4. That should be fine. Just fine. Quick, let's talk Thor!

Ali: This, for me, is when I finally 'got' the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Thor is the movie that made me believe. It's the movie where I realised that you could have all these far-flung stories and heroes across the galaxy and you could hire all these weird and left-field directors to strike whatever tone you liked, because the world was already built - it just needed exploring.

Becky: It's quite good, innit? Even when you have the delight that is Ragnarok in the back of your mind.

Matt: It’s strange to rewatch Thor and remember that, at the time, it had so much riding on it. The MCU was banking on going cosmic in a massive way and I remember the popular narrative around Thor when it was released was "how are they going to make a magic space Viking fit into the same world as Tony Stark". But it totally works, and not just because of the "magic and science are basically the same thing - don’t ask any more questions about that, they just are" line.

"It's all explained in this book. No obviously, I'm not going to read from it aloud."

Ed: It makes me realise just how much the humour of the MCU is key to your accepting some of its ideas: Thor isn't a hugely funny film but it uses laughs to ease you through the bits where you might struggle. Half of it is about setting him up as a fish out of water with a few chuckles (smashing the coffee cup on the floor; "I need a horse!" etc) so you forget how utterly daft it is to have a god on Earth.

Ali: Thor is one of my favourite Marvel movies, because even though it's world-building with every scene, it'd totally work as a standalone movie. It's a Kenneth Branagh Shakespeare tale!

Becky: Branagh was an inspired choice, he combines Shakespearean levels of family drama with flying Vikings and it shouldn't work but it does godammit and yeah, like Ali, this is where it clicked for me and Marvel.

But oh god, Kenny B likes a dutch tilt, doesn't he?

Ed: Yeah, it's like he's got one leg shorter than the other.

Ali: I was, and remain astounded at how well it works, given how risky it was. Risk is a relative term with Marvel: Thor was risky because it was gods and monsters, then Guardians of the Galaxy was risky because it was space aliens, then Ant-Man was risky because yada yada yada. But this was a proper punt. Everything to this point was explained away by tech or science. Magic and mythology shouldn't work in the same franchise, but through sheer strength of conviction, Marvel made it work.

Ed: I really enjoyed it at the time, and it overcame my concerns that Magic into Science Won't Go. Post-Ragnarok it doesn't feel silly enough, but it does lead you to conclude that spending time on Earth around wiseacres like Stark has made Thor a bit goofy, the sort of bloke who leans on stuff trying to look cool but then knocks it over. It's a nice idea: not just that he's grown into his responsibilities, but that he's taken on endearing human characteristics through exposure to us, like how Jan Molby speaks English with a broad scouse accent.

Matt: I think there’s lots that this film does to keep things grounded in a really clever way. To keep all of the action on earth to a small pokey desert town acts as a great contrast to make Asgard and the other realms look like expansive universes by comparison.

And, interestingly, Thor is really one-note in this film. Hemsworth makes it work but he’s not actually got a lot to play with: it’s a simplistic ‘spoiled brat learns humility’ arc and there’s not really much depth to him beyond following that character journey. It makes him stand apart from the other, more expressive human characters and that - plus having a then-unknown play the part - subtly sets up Thor as this unusual, out-of-place character

Becky: I never really thought much before about Thor having a character arc as such, Tony has always seemed to be the only one who goes on a journey, but Thor's transition from spoiled child to selfless...I dunno...god?... is satisfying.

And what a god. Amirite, ladies?

Ali: I think the key to any great movie is if you can take any two characters and put them together and still have a brilliant scene. I actually think Thor has proper depth in character - arguably two of the best characters are played by Kat Dennings and Stellan Skarsgard, and they're, what, 9th and 10th respectively on the billing? All of the Darcy stuff is great and never feels shoehorned in to meet a humour quota - *HEM HEM JUSTICE LEAGUE* - and the scene where Skarsgard and Thor get tanked is excellent.

Ed: The fact that Jane's motivation throughout the first half is scientific research grounds you back in the real world too and ensures it doesn't all turn into a big magic fight between magicmen. Until she forgets all that because she just wants to bone him.

What happened to her, by the way? I can't remember if she was in The Dark World, but she's not around anymore it seems. Watching this reminded me that the big emo crux of the whole thing was Thor sacrificing getting back to Earth and seeing her again, but he doesn't seem that bothered now. Maybe when he's around his mates he's like "Nah, she was a slag anyway, never fancied her" but then when he's alone he stalks her Instagram and puts on Nothing Compares 2 U.

Ali: Natalie Portman fell off the Marvel map when they replaced Patty Jenkins as director on the second Thor movie. She didn't want to do Marvel after that any more so they eventually wrote her out. So yeah, the first two Thor movies, Thor moves Heaven and Earth for his lady friend, then by movie #3, he's all like *kisses teeth* but you can tell he's definitely had a few cry-wanks since she left.

Shall we talk Loki? Because Loki is obviously the best thing in the MCU. He is really the only villain in the entire franchise that has motivations that extend beyond "Must destroy because ANGRY". He has back-story, character and arguably he even has justification for a lot of his actions. I really love the relationship between Thor, Loki and Odin across all three movies. It's not exactly complex in relative terms, but at least it goes further than a post-it that reads 'Daddy Issues'.

Matt: I agree that Loki is easily one of the best characters in the MCU full-stop - although it's interesting that Marvel get the villain so right in this film but rarely again afterwards, like they didn’t learn anything from this - but I think a lot of that is predominantly down to Tom Hiddleston. Rewatching this, I had a lot of questions about Loki that the film doesn’t do a particularly good job of answering. His relationship with the Warriors Three is confusing to me. Loki is supposed to be a resentful, emo loner, but he has this pseudo friendship not just with Thor but with Thor’s buddies that doesn’t quite fit that picture.

More importantly though, we discover that Loki is a Jotun, but what does that actually mean? Does he have other abilities? Does he have a different appearance? Does he care at all about learning more about his actual birth parents and race? It’s just never really mentioned again in the MCU. I’ve always liked how Marvel handle Loki’s moral flip-flopping, but they never really explore his motives ever again, which seems... problematic.

Anyway, my main impression of this whole film is that I'm really glad they stopped dyeing Chris Hemsworth's eyebrows after this one. He looks like Teddy Ruxpin.

Becky: I never noticed his eyebrows before, but they really do stick out. The bleached brows and the big shoulder pads are a bit 'Norse Mythology But Make It Fashion' but I dig it.

Ali: The eyebrows are easily the worst thing in the movie by a cosmic mile. They make him look like a Tory.

Matt: It's like a Mitchell brother had sex with a throw pillow. He's a human Pomeranian.


Now, we just have to watch Captain America: The First Avenger sometime before March, and we should be all set to meet our deadline of, fuck it, let's say Ant-Man 5 to be on the safe side.

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