11 Days of Marvel: Thor

I’ll get back to our nor­mal pro­gram­ming in just moment, but I want to thank Hannah DuVoix for her time as Editor-in-Chief and wel­come Oscar Strik to the posi­tion! Oscar’s going to do a great job, and I’m happy as heck to see him in charge of the project.  So, with that said, let’s get back to work! –Bill Coberly, Editor Emeritus

Day 4 of 11 Days of Marvel is here! In this project, Bill and Erin go through every sin­gle extant film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, write their reac­tions to them, and then have con­ver­sa­tions about them! The project start­ed here, with Iron Man, or you can click here to see all the arti­cles in the project so far. Today is about:


Thor (2011)

This time, we elect­ed to do most of our response in the form of a length­i­er con­ver­sa­tion, had dur­ing happy hour at the bar across the street.


Bill: I know you and I didn’t real­ly care very much for the sec­ond movie when we first saw it, so I guess I was just won­der­ing: did you like this one more or less than you thought you would?

Erin: I remem­ber think­ing that the chem­istry between Thor and Jane was pret­ty good. This movie seems to have the right amount of lev­i­ty. It doesn’t take itself as seri­ous­ly as some of the other ones do. I think that’s because you kind of have to buy into the fact that Thor is a god, and so real­ly is prob­a­bly too much, even in the MCU.

Bill:  A lot of peo­ple have said this before, but I think every­thing in Asgard is a lot bet­ter than every­thing in New Mexico. You’d imag­ine it would be the other way around, right? You’d expect, since our writer is from Earth, that he can write the Earth stuff well, and the stuff that’s in space would come off as ridicu­lous and hammy, but actu­al­ly, I think the stuff in Asgard lands pret­ty well. The dia­logue is appro­pri­ate­ly grandiose with­out actu­al­ly being too much. Of course, you’ve also got some good actors pulling it off. Hiddleston and Hopkins and Elba and Hemsworth can pull off that kind of stuff where less­er actors would have had a hard­er time with that.

Erin: I also think that one is inclined to give them more lee­way in Asgard. It is “fan­tas­tic,” and it has sort of a Beowulf feel. They are leg­ends, and they already know they are leg­ends, and that makes it more fun, more believ­able – I guess believ­able isn’t the right word, but more inter­est­ing, or more amus­ing.

Bill: Not “real­is­tic,” but I think believ­able is the right word, like, self-consistent.

Erin: Yeah, con­sis­tent with­in the uni­verse.

Bill: You buy it.

Erin: Yeah, I mean, there is a cer­tain amount of buy-in with gods sort of on Olympus, which is basi­cal­ly where they are, but if you can get past it, then it is real­ly fun.

Bill: I think part of the prob­lem with the Earth stuff is that after he gets sent back, he’s wan­der­ing around New Mexico in sort of a daze, and he comes off as being a bit goofy. It might have been bet­ter if they had writ­ten him with a lit­tle bit more grav­i­tas, even in his New Mexico bits, because then it wouldn’t be quite as crazy for Foster and Friends to imag­ine, “Maybe there’s some­thing to what he’s say­ing.” As it is, it’s kind of like “this lunatic showed up, and let’s believe every­thing he says.”

Erin: And that is prob­a­bly the one big prob­lem with Jane. I know we’ve talked about it before, about how in most of these movies, Selvig does­n’t serve much of a pur­pose. In this movie, Selvig func­tions as her sci­en­tif­ic skep­ti­cism. But this means Foster’s sort of all-in to believe Thor at the begin­ning, which I think is prob­a­bly incon­sis­tent with what the char­ac­ter should be like. I think what you’re talk­ing about would have made more sense if she had been much more skep­ti­cal from the start. It also would have made more sense if he had ever been able to fur­ther her inquiry. If he had ever pro­vid­ed some­thing use­ful to her, then I think it would make more sense that she would trust him. He never seems to be very use­ful.

Bill: Well, they hint at that a cou­ple of times. She takes him to the gov­ern­ment facil­i­ty on the con­di­tion that he tell her about stuff, but then he most­ly doesn’t. I’d be a lot more will­ing to believe that she would help him sneak into a gov­ern­ment facil­i­ty if he had dropped any use­ful hints at all up to that point.


Bill: So, I think Loki’s a lot more inter­est­ing in this movie than he is in the other two. All of Tumblr is in love with Loki, and that’s fine, but in the Avengers, he’s much more of a cut-and-dried mega­lo­ma­ni­ac, where­as here I think his arc is a lot more inter­est­ing.

Erin: I think you said this before, when we were watch­ing it. His arc was, in many ways, more inter­est­ing than Thor’s. Thor has sort of a tired “needs to grow up and take life more seri­ous­ly” arc, where­as Loki’s arc is about try­ing to impress Anthony Hopkins, and let’s be hon­est. I think we all want to impress Anthony Hopkins.

Bill: I would do a lot of things to impress Anthony Hopkins. Agreed. Overall, the movie’s not per­fect, but I liked it a lot bet­ter this time than I was expect­ing, prob­a­bly part­ly because we had just seen two movies we real­ly did­n’t like at all. But Thor is also so unabashed­ly strange. It’s a bit bizarre to watch Iron Man and then Hulk and then Iron Man 2 and then this. For all that Iron Man 2 gets kind of crazy when Stark cre­ates a new ele­ment in his base­ment, it’s still more or less ground­ed in real­i­ty. There’s no dis­cus­sion of magic or any­thing like that, and then you have Thor show up and every­thing is rain­bow bridges and six-legged hors­es and mag­i­cal por­tals and Frost Giants and wow. I think some of that stuff ends up dom­i­nat­ing the rest of the fran­chise, but it’s inter­est­ing to see it just show up out of space in the fourth movie.

Erin: Magic, you think, ends up dom­i­nat­ing?

Bill: Yeah, magic and that real­ly Jack Kirby visu­al aes­thet­ic that Branagh employed around Asgard. I think that aes­thet­ic and that empha­sis on magic and Ultimate Cosmic Power ends up dom­i­nat­ing a lot of the rest of the movies, except for Iron Man 3 and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Everything else is at least part­ly about some mag­i­cal MacGuffin. Of course, I think once they real­ized they were doing Thanos as the big vil­lain for every­thing that’s cur­rent­ly planned, since his whole arc is about hav­ing the six Infinity Stones, they need­ed to intro­duce the six Infinity Stones some­where. It’s funny that the first one only shows up in the end-credits teas­er for Thor.

Erin: The other thing that we noticed a lot watch­ing this movie, and we both com­ment­ed on this, is how much Branagh likes those sharply angled shots.

Bill: Yeah, the movie over­floweth with those weird 45-degree angle shots. I’ve seen the movie twice before, and I’m sure I saw it, but I didn’t real­ize just how much he likes to do that. It’s all over the estab­lish­ing shots, in par­tic­u­lar, whether in Asgard or New Mexico.

Erin: Even a lot of the pan­ning shots end up not being straight pans, which I think is kind of fun.

Bill: On the sub­ject of Branagh, you know, he’s most­ly famous for all the Shakespeare adap­ta­tions he’s done, so I sup­pose it would make sense that the Asgard stuff would work bet­ter with him in charge. He doesn’t real­ly know how to do some of the sort of weird, rom-commy stuff that hap­pens in New Mexico. His thing is get­ting actors to give him real­ly dra­mat­ic per­for­mances through styl­ized dia­logue.

Erin: I think Hiddleston’s per­for­mance is more believ­able here than in later films. He’s not such a hammed-up vil­lain. You real­ly do feel that he’s con­flict­ed here, and he comes off as much, much smarter. He’s got a very intri­cate plan, which he exe­cutes almost per­fect­ly. He real­ly is The Trickster here, and I think that that’s where some of the other movies got him wrong. It’s more fun when he is pulling low-level stunts and try­ing to manip­u­late the con­ver­sa­tion.

Bill: I will be curi­ous to see what they do with him in Ragnarok. I mean, the end of The Dark World sees him on the throne of Asgard, so they have to do some­thing with him. We’ll see how that lands.


Bill: Also, Idris Elba is great as Heimdall.

Erin: I was just going to say that! I don’t think the first time I watched the movie I real­ized how impor­tant he was to the whole plot, but he is the linch­pin of almost every­thing every­one does. He’s con­trol­ling all of their trav­el.

Bill: There was one thing I had­n’t noticed the first two times I saw this movie. When Loki comes up to him and says, “Heimdall, did Odin ever fear you?” and Heimdall’s response is just “No, because he’s my king.” Heimdall might actu­al­ly be the most pow­er­ful per­son in the movie. Barring mag­i­cal trick­ery from Loki, he appears to be able to see every­thing and every­where, and they let him guard the Bifrost all by him­self, so he must be suf­fi­cient.  I’m glad they used him more in The Dark World, and that he even has that cameo in Ultron. I hope he gets to do even more stuff in Ragnarok. He’s one of the best parts of the whole fran­chise.

Erin: Why do you think that?

Bill: It’s part­ly the size of the part: Heimdall does­n’t have to shoul­der the whole movie, so he can just focus on being impos­si­bly badass in his few appear­ances. Heimdall would­n’t work as the hero of his own movie, but he’s real­ly enjoy­able as a side char­ac­ter. He real­ly anchors just how pow­er­ful the Asgardians real­ly are, that at their bor­ders they only have one man, who, as far as we can tell, spends 24 hours a day stand­ing there, Watching.


Erin: I do kind of wish that Natalie Portman didn’t come off as so manic.

Bill: Well, she’s good at that. Her part in Garden State is one of the ur-Manic Pixie Dream Girls.

Erin: It still sort of feels the whole time like she’s just come off of a real­ly bad breakup.

Bill: Well, of course, she says she has. She does at least get to do more stuff in here than she does in The Dark World.

Erin: I actu­al­ly kind of like that she still has her old boyfriend’s clothes around. It almost feels like Thor isn’t her main squeeze, he’s a rebound, which is sort of an inter­est­ing place to be as a god.

Bill: The romance does feel super-rushed, but I sup­pose that’s sort of the nature of these things. Actually, in all of the rela­tion­ships that we’ve seen so far they actu­al­ly know each other before the movie starts and have some kind of estab­lished rela­tion­ship, even if it’s not roman­tic. This is the only one where they do the tra­di­tion­al action movie thing where they meet and then they hang out for twen­ty min­utes, and then they’re falling in love. Even up next, with  Captain America and Peggy Carter, it’s drawn out over a longer peri­od of time. That actu­al­ly brings me to one of the things about this movie I don’t like. You don’t real­ly notice it at the time, but the whole movie takes place over the space of about 48 hours, and that doesn’t make any sense. It’s dif­fi­cult to imag­ine that this thousand-year-old demigod could go from a ram­pag­ing war­mon­ger to this friend­ly giant in the space of 48 hours.

Erin: That’s because no one want­ed to watch Thor work in a hard­ware store.

Bill:  Well, I think they should have done it, though. It would have taken five more min­utes to have a lit­tle “time pass­es” mon­tage, and I think it would have made the movie make more sense, for both Thor and Loki’s arcs.

Erin: It would have been fun to watch Loki try to con­trol Asgard as him­self, and then see how he tries to con­trol Asgard when he’s pre­tend­ing to be Odin in Ragnarok. Does he change his style at all?


Bill: To praise the movie for being cool for a moment, Thor fights well. He is clear­ly an unstop­pable engine of destruc­tion, even in his “depow­ered” state. When he’s in the zone, he’s pret­ty eas­i­ly the most pow­er­ful of the Avengers. The only per­son who could maybe taken him in a fight would be the Hulk.

Erin: Part of what makes these movies start to get bor­ing is that they some­times boil down to just punch­ing big­ger and big­ger bad­dies hard­er and hard­er. But there is some­thing neat about the Avengers where they all have slight­ly dif­fer­ent skills and ways they have to work. To mon­tage them togeth­er into big­ger fight scenes, the scriptwriter has to work real­ly hard to make sure that every­body is even­ly matched. Because if they weren’t equal­ly matched, then it wouldn’t be inter­est­ing, and some­one would be dead.

Bill: To that point, I like that the last fight of this movie isn’t actu­al­ly the fight with the Destroyer. The last fight is his lit­tle hand-to-hand fight with Loki, which he pret­ty clear­ly is going to win as soon as he decides to take the gloves off. But the big, final moment is not just him beat­ing the badguy, it’s not like Man of Steel when he just final­ly beats General Zod to death, it’s when he breaks the Bifrost. I do like that that’s the final, super­heroic thing he does in the movie.

Erin: Well, it cements what his arc is, which is learn­ing to be less self­ish and child­ish, and that’s one of the things that Loki is sort of appeal­ing to when he says, “You’ll never see her again.” Although it both­ered me that one of the things that when Loki is try­ing to rile Thor up, he threat­ens to go “visit” Jane. Did we real­ly need that veiled rape threat there?


Erin: Do you think the way that Thor gets intro­duced to Earth in this movie is com­pelling enough for him to want to keep sav­ing it? I think that’s always the prob­lem with these kinds of sto­ries. Why does Doctor Who love human­i­ty so much? When you con­sid­er how much shit is going down in Asgard, why is Thor spend­ing any time at all on Earth?

Bill: Well, I think the threats he faces in all three movies after this are seri­ous enough that you under­stand why he’s here. In Avengers, he’s there because Loki is there„ and in Thor 2, this guy Malekith is going to destroy EXISTENCE, so yeah, Thor is going to be there. In Ultron, he was already there because he was try­ing to get Loki’s scepter, which makes sense. But, yeah, his deci­sion at the end of Thor 2 to stay on Earth for the forsee­able future is weird. I don’t buy that he’s enough in love with Jane Foster that that makes sense.

Erin: Partly because we didn’t see it actu­al­ly devel­op prop­er­ly. When Tony does crazy things for Pepper, it makes sense. It’s very clear how long she has taken care of him, and you believe he would be devot­ed to her.

Bill: I think the romance between Thor and Foster is not super con­vinc­ing. They have decent chem­istry, but we don’t real­ly get much time with it. To be done right, it would need to be a Great Romance, and I’m not sure mar­vel real­ly wants to do that.

Erin: Yeah, but Thor 2 is all about the romance.

Bill: Not real­ly, unless I’m remem­ber­ing incor­rect­ly. I mean, it’s cer­tain­ly a sub­plot, but a Great Romance would be some­thing like, I don’t know, Dr. Zhivago. The romance would be the cen­ter of the film, not just one plot amongst many.

Erin: What if the Great Romance is actu­al­ly between Thor and Loki, and Jane is the third wheel? I mean, that’s the big devel­op­ing, change-your-life kind of rela­tion­ship in Thor, at least.

Bill: Well, if Loki shows up in Ragnarok to any real extent (and I expect he will), then the rela­tion­ship between Thor and Loki will be the one that has prob­a­bly received the most atten­tion in the entire fran­chise, I think. The only other one would be the roman­tic rela­tion­ship between Stark and Pepper, which isn’t center-stage the same way as the rela­tion­ship between Thor and Loki.


Erin’s Favorite Moment: Can I just say Idris Elba? I think so. Idris Elba.

Erin’s Least Favorite Moment: Just gen­er­al­ly Jane Foster’s role in this movie, which is so much less than I would expect from a badass female astro­physi­cist.

Erin’s Rankings:

1Iron Man


3The Incredible Hulk

4. Iron Man 2

Bill’s Favorite Moment: This isn’t the best sto­ry­telling moment or what­ev­er, but when Sif stabs the Destroyer and you think it’s out of the fight but then it rotates itself around and tries to shoot her in the face. I fig­ured the Destroyer was­n’t dead, but that made it so much more alien than just if it had grabbed her and thrown her.

Bill’s Least Favorite Moment: Loki is all set to blow up Jotunheim, and Thor shouts “This is mad­ness!” and Loki shouts “Is it? Is it? IS IT?” and then says noth­ing else of import. That’s, uh, not an argu­ment, Loki.

Bill’s Rankings:

1Iron Man


3The Incredible Hulk

4Iron Man 2


So, we are just real­ly in agree­ment here as to rank­ings! Tune in next time for Captain America: The First Avenger, and com­ment below! Did you agree with your rea­son­ing? Did you like the long con­ver­sa­tion bet­ter than the for­mat we’ve used for the other three? Let us know below, and see you tomor­row!

Bill Coberly

About Bill Coberly

Bill Coberly is the founder and groundskeeper of The Ontological Geek, now that it has shifted over to archive mode. If something on the site isn't working, please shoot a DM to @ontologicalgeek on Twitter!