MCU Rewatch Issue #4: Thor

Marvel takes a big step out of their comfort zone, introducing the God of Thunder to the MCU.  Does it work?  (Oh, you know you know already…)

tomkThor

Trailers before the DVD menu: Captain America, Super 8, and Transformers 3.

tomk: You know, in light of Thor Ragnarok, a lot of the lines from early in the movie have a very different meaning.

jimmy: And THAT’s how you do an end credits scene.

tomk: You let Joss Whedon direct it?

jimmy: Did he? (He said knowing the answer as you wouldn’t have brought it up otherwise.)

tomk: I am 90% sure he did.

jimmy: The interwebs agree with you. And we know the interwebs are never wrong.

tomk: Right. Jet fuel cannot melt steel.

OK, so, I remember being very uncertain about Thor before it came out. Thor was being played by some guy who I’d only seen in the first few minutes of the relaunched Star Trek as Kirk’s dad. Much of the rest of the cast wasn’t familiar to me with three obvious exceptions in Renee Russo (who barely says anything), Portman and Hopkins, and at the time, I was surprised about Hopkins at least. Plus, Kenneth Branagh was directing, and I knew him best from his Shakespeare adaptations that I liked very much (he directed my favorite movie version of Hamlet). But Thor struck me as a hard sell. I feel like certain heroes might look a little too ridiculous in live action, such as Green Lantern and maybe an Aquaman or Namor, and Thor fell squarely in that category. A viking god with a magic hammer? In the real world? That’s a big step away from Iron Man and even the pseudo-science of the Hulk. But then the movie came out and I saw it and actually really enjoyed the hell out of it. Hemsworth has a real gift for the necessary comedic moments, and Hiddleston is brilliant as the best villain the MCU has given us yet, especially since Loki’s scheme is so much more complicated than “blow up a bunch of stuff and maybe take over the ruins” (this time).

But watching it now, what jumps out at me the most is the scale. Asgard, Jotenhiem, and the New Mexico desert are HUGE. Thor and his companions are constantly being dwarfed by their surroundings. It really hammers home (no pun intended) how much bigger Thor’s adventures are than Tony’s or the Hulk’s. Tony’s biggest battle is over a glorified theme park. Thor is racing along a bridge to stop a planet from exploding after he learns the power of humility.

jimmyGuardians probably does more to expand the boundaries of this being a cinematic “universe”, but you are right, especially at this point, that Thor is such a high concept character compared to Iron Man and Hulk.

The Hulk seems like the outsider of the Avengers, but it’s Thor who is really the odd man out from a character standpoint. He’s not human. He’s the only one born with abilities. He’s arguably more powerful than the Hulk. The majority of the Avengers are just people.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves…

tomk: But even the closing credits play up the scope game by zooming through space to Asgard.

jimmy: I guess now we have to wait for Watson to get here.

 

watson: I’m here!

Watched it tonight. Thought we had another day, but you guys are assclowns…

tomk: I blame Jenny and her Iron Man 2 loving ways.

jimmy: No one likes Iron Man 2. That’s fake news.

tomk: But even the rumor of someone liking it throws sane people off.

I can also blame Ryan for loving Iron Fist and Krull.

watson: So, Thor? It held up fine but had the same pacing issues that the early MCU films have when compared to the later Phases.

There were a lot of moments where I’m sitting there wondering why they are wasting precious screen time with… THIS….

That said, Hemsworth is brilliant. Loki is a lot of fun and you see the seeds of his utter brilliance in Avengers. The action was nice, but the obvious knock here is the same one I will reserve for Iron Man 3: The superhero spends most of the film not being a superhero.

Fortunately, Hemsworth is charming enough to keep us engaged. Natalie Portman sure is hell wasn’t.

tomk: Wasting precious screen time with other stuff? I think I felt the same way during some scenes of Murder on the Orient Express. Could it be Branagh?

And yes, Portman doesn’t work here. I wondered why Thor couldn’t fall for Kat Dennings instead.

watson: Or Lady Sif!!! Classic friend zone.

Or…per Jenny…NO ROMANCE ANYWHERE…EVER!

jimmy: The Destroyer was simply a pawn of Loki and wasn’t much match for Thor once he got his powers back, but damn he looked cool. The scene where he completely swivels his body around to face Sif was awesome.

That said, I did find the CGI here was a bit of a step back from Hulk and the Iron Man’s.

tomk: You know, I thought the Destroyer was just impressive-looking in general. The Frost Giants may not have been, but the Destroyer looked pretty damn good. Heck, I wouldn’t be surprised if they used a puppet of some kind for the close-ups when it wasn’t doing much.

But on the subject of romance…I was chatting with a friend once about this. Why can’t fiction in general depict a male and female lead as just friends? Why do they have to get romantically entangled? I suppose for Thor it is necessary, as it gives him another reason to try and protect the mortals of Midgard, But when you have a pair when one half (at least) isn’t that interesting, or there isn’t any real chemistry, then it sticks out more. The movie that jumps out at me the most for this sort of thing is actually The Mummy with Brendan Fraiser, or at least that was the first time I noticed such a thing.

jimmy: Save it for The Mummy rewatch Tom!

tomk: Unless we are starting with Boris Karloff, I am out on that one.

watson: Rogue One was a platonic friendship.

But the real answer is that Hemsworth and Portman are beautiful people and we want to see them hump.

tomk: Can’t argue with that.

OK, so here’s the question: as far as this movie is concerned, is Thor a god?

jimmy: Well, he’s definitely an alien from another planet with great powers that the Vikings might have worshiped as a God.

tomk: Try not to think about how Thor was a kid during the Frost Giant wars, making it a little confusing how the vikings knew he existed when they watched Asgard and Jotenhiem go to war in their backyard.

But that was how I always took it: Asgardians aren’t gods but just powerful aliens with long lifespans.

watson: They even have a line of dialogue in the film supporting that. Something like “you even go down among the mortals and they think you are a God”.

tomk: Odin suggests they were mistaken for gods in his opening narration.

watson: But really, isn’t the definition of a God a being of greater power from another place?

Only creation is missing. That’s usually a big part, I guess.

tomk: Maybe, but Odin didn’t construct the cosmos from his father’s corpse, and I don’t see any trips to Valhalla for dead vikings here.

But if you’re Walt Simonson, you get to sit next to Lady Sif at a feast.

 

watson: Jaime Alexander is great (and stunning). Shame she didn’t make the cut for Thor 3.

I always liked how Millar’s Ultimates (which heavily influenced the MCU) never answered the question of whether Thor really was a God or just a lunatic mutant with alpha class powers.

tomk: Probably for the best Lady Sif sat out Thor Ragnarok considering what happened to the Warriors Three.

And besides Walt and Stan, another Thor writer, J. Michael Straczynski was the guy to first try to lift Thor’s hammer. Considering he got a story credit and his Thor work included a line of people trying to lift Mjolnir when it landed in the middle of nowhere, America, that makes some sense.

 

jimmy: I noticed the JMS story credit, but didn’t know that was him. Or Simonson for that matter.

tomk: I’m a big Babylon 5 fan. I know JMS when I see him. Read about Simonson later.

jimmy: Speaking of the hammer scene (which was great and had a classic Stan Lee cameo), I was trying to remember if the version of Coulson finding the hammer in the post credits of Iron Man 2 showed any of the tailgate party atmosphere? I think it just showed the crater?

tomk: The close up of the hammer was just the hammer.

jimmy: Yeah. But the long shot of Coulson looking down at the crater and then calling Fury. Not a big deal, it just wasn’t exactly the same.

It does show the others, but the hammer shot doesn’t, like you said.

watson: Close enough. I’m ok blurring my eyes on something like this. Don’t want the Post-credit scenes to ruin a good opportunity in the next film.

Because that scene was funny.

We know Thor 3 was funny. I didn’t remember this much humor in the original. Chris Hemsworth is legitimately a funny actor.

jimmy: Agreed. I was wondering though, when the time comes, who will be easier to replace? Hemsworth or Evans?

watson: Both will be tough. Those two characters have the danger of being bland. But because of Hemsworth’s smarmy charm and Evans’ charismatic earnestness, they are really fun to watch.

I’d say it might be easier to replace Thor but his schtick will be broader and not as funny.

tomk: I think it helps that both Hemsworth and Evans can play their respective roles without looking too ridiculous. Truth be told, I think Hemsworth does a better job of it. I read once one of the keys to successfully playing a superhero is not looking uncomfortable in the suit. Hemsworth’s comedic sensibility helps him a lot there. He’s big, handsome, and funny.

watson: Hemsworth said recently he is done after this phase so they should be tested soon.

jimmy: That rumor seems to pop up for each of them every now and then. It may be true, but we’ll have to wait and see. I’ve heard a lot of them comment about it getting tougher to get in “superhero shape” as they get older, including Hemsworth, Evans and Jackman. Hemsworth was also pretty happy that they cut Thor’s hair in Ragnorak.

tomk: Hemsworth seems to get the most work outside the MCU of the Chrises.

jimmy: That’s true. He just had a film open well this past weekend. Snowpiercer was good, but you don’t hear of Evans doing much. Pratt seems to be doing ok for himself…

watson: Evans had a nice film last year called Gifted.

jimmy: Which I’ve never heard of…

tomk: Evans seems to be pickier about roles. He might be fine with just being a working actor than a huge star.

watson: He’s said as much. Wants to direct and produce more than act and will use his cache as Cap to do it. Directed a middling Indie romantic comedy two years ago as his first effort.

Clearly he doesn’t want the 12 Strong roles that Hemsworth gets. I would imagine they get the same calls for these roles.

tomk: I think Evans is the most ambitious. Hemsworth takes what he can to at least maintain his star power. Pratt should probably stick to charismatic goofball roles. And, for the record, I think Pine is the best actor even though he’s not part of this cinematic universe or this discussion but is still a Chris.

jimmy: In either case, Hemsworth is a great Thor. Marvel has done a great job of casting across the MCU.

tomk: No disagreements here. But as great as Hemsworth is, I’d argue the real “savior” of the MCU is generally standing next to him.

jimmy: Stellan Skarsgård?

tomk: No, I mean Anthony Hopkins. Here’s a video from YouTube guy Nerdwriter on how much range Hopkins shows in just a short scene from Westworld to demonstrate his skill. May be spoilers for Westworld.

Or, you know, I mean Hiddleston.

watson: I’m not that impressed by Hopkins in this performance/role. He is really just yelling his lines. He’s entered the same paycheck portion of his career as as has Morgan Freeman. See The Last Knight, Transformers

tomk: I’d argue Hopkins does OK here, moreso than he does in Dark World.

Then again, he has the gravitas that makes it hard to tell the difference sometimes.

Plus, I think having a guy known for Shakespeare behind the camera helped given the pseudo-Elizabethean style Thor and the Asdgardians typically speak. The argument between Thor and Odin wouldn’t work, as written, if it weren’t guys in fake armor and capes shouting about war with giants.

jimmy: I think Thor more than the others does a nice job of setting up the plot of the first Avengers movie. There is still the sense of world building, including the completely unnecessary Hawkeye cameo, but for the most part I didn’t find it as forced as Iron Man 2.

tomk: I’d agree with that. Plus Loki was involved.

watson: Thor helped build the universe, but it was much about an origin story for Thor. The MCU stuff felt organic to the story.

This was probably the first time the shared universe felt real. Overlapping characters, organic references, and the post-credit scene actually teasing major events rather than just showing an Easter Egg for the sake of previewing.

jimmy: Agreed. Great end credits scene.

tomkThor built on the MCU the same way The Incredible Hulk did: organically and in a way that wasn’t detrimental to the title character’s story.

jimmy: Seems like we are winding down for this chat. Shall we give our scores for Thor?

tomk8.5 out of 10 eight-legged horses for Odin.

watson: Let’s do it! I liked Thor but it was an origin story which come with some baggage. That said, this was fun and set things up for the MCU. I give Thor 8 Eyepatches out of 10.

tomk: By the by, I hear Jane’s ex, the real Donald Blake, really hated sand.

jimmy: I tend to like origin stories more than Watson, but I’ll give the same 8 out of 10 “tesseract” literally means four dimensional cube.

tomk: And the running score?

jimmy: [11:10 AM]
Calculating…

Iron Man 9.7
Thor 8.2
Incredible Hulk 7.2
Iron Man 2 6.2

MCU Overall: 7.8

watson: Numbers!

jimmy: Don’t tell Tom.

watson: That looks about right to me. What are we watching next week?

jimmy: When Captain America throws his mighty shield.

watson: Nice! I rewatched that trilogy right before we started our rewatch. Can’t wait to discuss.

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