I mean, besides The Avengers, of course. Let’s not get crazy.
I remember going into Thor fully prepared to hate it. I didn’t want to, as some of my favorite comics take place in either Asgard or Asgard, Oklahoma, but there were just so many things that could have gone wrong. The Marvel Cinematic Universe had been pretty grounded in science (albeit super-advanced science) up until that point, and it doesn’t get more fantastical than a thunder god among gods fighting frost giants with his mighty hammer.
But I ended up loving it, seeing the flick multiple times in theaters. It wasn’t until my fourth or fifth re-watch yesterday, though, that I realized something.
Not only is Thor is the best solo Marvel flick… it’s by far the best.
Okay, bear with me. I don’t want to seem like that contrarian jerk on the Internet who likes to go against the grain – I know the easy pick for the best pre-Avengers Marvel joint is Iron Man, and for good reason. Super solid flick. But I’m not here to take anything away from that flick, its underrated sequel, the stupidly awesome third installment, or Cap. I’m here to talk about why Thor is the perfect superhero movie.
THE NINE REALMS
Okay, so. The basic problem of Thor is that the foundation of the MCU is sciency. Machines, schematics, chemicals, biology, and a whole bunch of things I don’t really comprehend because I was an English major but think are awesome ‘cause I read funny books. So how do you introduce Marvel’s Norse mythology and all of its broad drama, Shakespearean dialogue, and fantasy action into that? Well… by kind of making it science.
With one line, we understand: “Your ancestors called it magic… but you call it science.”
Earlier in the flick, Jane Foster (played by Natalie Portman because, I mean, c’mon) quotes Arthur C. Clarke as having said, “Magic’s just science we don’t understand yet.”
And in a world that’s building toward a collision between the Norse god of thunder, a man in a metal suit, a super soldier, a big green monster, an archer with tree-trunk arms, and Scarlett Johansson in a leather get-up, those words suspended my disbelief before I even realized I’d been snagged along for the ride.
Loki’s awesome. Just ask Tumblr.
No, really. If there’s any actor who has fully lost himself in his role besides RDJ, it’s Tom Hiddleston as Loki. He’s arch and devious and sinister, but goddammit he’s also in pain. He brings the pathos when he screams at his father to tell him the truth of how he was taken as a child. He sneaks and lies and manipulates, but there are moments when it’s very, very easy to buy into the illusion. To hope beyond hope that he’s heroic. And, in those moments, it’s clear that Tom hopes so too – and hell, maybe Loki does. But the brilliance of Hiddleston’s portrayal is that we’ll never know that last bit.
LOVE AT FIRST — WELL, YOU KNOW
The most common critique of Thor I’ve seen is that Thor/Jane happens too quickly. That they couldn’t possibly feel this emotion only having known one another for a few days, annnnnnnd yeah, I totally buy into it. It helps that they don’t have the lame hero-saves-the-damsel moments, but the film is also completely lacking the cliché outpouring of emotion. There’s a lot of romantic tension, connecty conversation, budding emotion, and a kiss. That’s it! What underlines it and makes it all feel weighty is the heavy situation, which I think serves to tie these characters together in a meaningful way.
So yeah. I totally ship it.
(I’ll admit that the above screencap does look a bit Nicholas Sparks, though.)
THE MAN HIMSELF
Chris Hemsworth is Thor.
For further proof, check out these muscles and how Natalie Portman is about half the size of one of his thundery pecs. Jesus Christ. Er, I mean Odin’s beard.
It’s always funny seeing high characters in low settings and low characters in high settings, but I lose my shit every time Thor slurps down his coffee, decides he likes it, and proceeds to smash it on the floor as he calls for another. It’s the highlight of the movie for me because of the obvious hilarity, but it also serves to humanize the character. When it’s pointed out that this isn’t the way to behave, he quickly and humbly accepts this and gives his word that no more smashing will occur. These moments – like the other great one where Thor goes to a pet store looking for a horse – gently deflate this big, mighty, all powerful character so he resembles us a bit more. And I think that is where the biggest strength of this film lies. By putting Thor and, later, Sif and the Warriors Three in a comedic situation that shows that their flaws are as big and as plentiful as ours, it makes a statement about humans, these “gods,” and, in a larger context, the idea of worship as a whole.
And if all of that weren’t enough?
Just… Kat Dennings.
PAT SHAND writes comics. He wishes he were a little bit taller. He wishes he were a baller.