Thor

⭐⭐⭐ averaged across 3 films.

tl;dr: A decent if relatively small-scale introduction that defines the character well. Followed by a lacklustre sequel with irritating and distracting side plots, and then utterly revitalised by an imaginative and extremely fun third act.

Collections

Marvel Cinematic UniverseMarvel

Thor

Spoilers Ahead: My reviews are not spoiler-free. You have been warned.

Thor is one of the first phase movies in the MCU that I never really had an opinion on. I remember watching it when it came to TV and thinking it was fine, but at the time I didn't know much (or care much) for the characters. I remember thinking that the premise of Asgard and the Nine Realms as distinct planets and cultures was a nice riff on Norse mythology and that was about that.

But then Loki became a beloved villain-turned-antihero in the first Avengers movie, which also helped flesh out how fun Thor could be, so I was actively pumped when The Dark World came out and actually saw it at the cinema. I hated it (though my feelings have mellowed with time) and therefore condemned the Thor franchise to obscurity, never feeling the need to revisit the first outing.

However, in a post-Endgame world, with the brilliance of Ragnarok now having shown that Thor could be centre stage in an excellent film, and with Disney+ giving my easy access to the entire MCU again, why not revisit it and see if – in hindsight – there was more to Thor than met the eye. Well, I think there probably was.

Considering the source material and general lack of popular knowledge around Thor, I think using him as part of the first set of films was a pretty bold move. As a result, the film goes into a decent amount of detail about how the Nine Realms function, which is a lot of fun to watch and includes some great world-building. On that front, I'm very impressed by how well Asgard holds up; you can tell a lot of the sets are practical, as they look brilliant, and the fashion design, architecture, and art direction in general of the Asgardians are genuinely great.

In other areas, you can see that Thor is a little primitive within the wider universe. Loki feels a little more like his comics counterpart and a lot more villainous, though I did enjoy his arc a lot more and feel like it serves to underpin his actions in Avengers a great deal better than I had credited it in the past. There are also a few moments when characters like Odin make reference to certain elements of the cosmic side of the Marvel continuity that doesn't entirely work with what we now know, or even about Asgard which would later be slightly retconned (the Infinity Gauntlet being a notable one). Despite these niggles, overall the film is surprisingly consistent with what comes next, both immediately in Avengers Assemble and in later Thor or Thor-related movies. To that end I have to give further props to Fiege and everyone involved in plotting these movies out.

I also found the human characters – Jane, Eric, and Darsy – a lot more manageable, and the Hawkeye/Coulson cameos are great fun with hindsight. The humans help ground the story (as does the small-town US setting) and provide a useful alternative perspective to all the grand goings-on in Asgard, whilst the wider Marvel nods help flesh out the story and make it feel more interconnected with what we've seen elsewhere. The Destroyer is well designed but ultimately does feel like a bit of a lacklustre threat, but that's largely because the story isn't about that. It's more about the emotional growth of Thor, who goes from spoilt brat to hero, as well as the introduction of a new side of the MCU. In those senses, it definitely works and helps lay the foundations for a surprisingly successful character in the process. Overall, I'd say it's the worst of the phase one origin stories (Incredible Hulk aside as its status is still uncertain) but its a more coherent story than Iron Man 2 and a generally more entertaining film than many phase two films. When considered as a standalone entity, it's a fun romp with some interesting and quite unique characters, and a decent dash of humour throughout.

Thor: The Dark World

Spoilers Ahead: My reviews are not spoiler-free. You have been warned.

When I saw The Dark World in the cinema I was not a huge fan. I've long held that it is the worst MCU film and the only truly black mark on their release record (alongside Iron Man 2). I thought Christopher Eccleston was largely wasted on a dull and inconsequential villain. I found Odin to be weirdly terse and childish. I thought that the human characters were terribly written (and acted) and very annoying. Jane's infusion with the Aether was nothing more than an excuse to have her involved in a plot that really didn't need her. The sudden love triangle with Lady Siv felt tired and pointless. Did I mention just how incredibly annoying the human characters were?

On rewatch, some of these criticisms still stand, but others feel overly harsh. I discovered that I'd also forgotten some of the good aspects of the movie entirely. The design of the Dark Elves is brilliant and really quite unique, both within the MCU and elsewhere. Their ships and fighting style were both really fun to watch and I found their characterisation quite enjoyable. They won't be winning any awards for their plot, but it's not terrible either. Relatedly, I actually thought Eccleston was great, though I found it interesting how similar his introduction is cinematically to Ronin the Destroyers. I think he could have been better written, but actually I don't have any more fault with Malekith than I do with Hela, even if the latter got a more interesting role overall. Killing Frigga is a great moment (and she actually gets some great character development and dialogue) and really helps strengthen Malekith's threat level.

I'd also largely forgotten how great Loki's arc is. It manages to make his personal story post-Avengers feel organic and gives him some brilliant moments. The entire escape sequence with Thor is also very well done and quite funny. That I do remember from first time around, but it is a genuinely enjoyable sequence. I also remain a fan of his deception and ultimate twist ending, even if it is quickly retconned out in Ragnarok (a decision I also hate much less over time).

As for the humans... yeah, they're still quite annoying. Darcy and the new (and never again seen) intern are just a weird character combo. I found them less irritating than I remembered and I still feel like you could remove them from the film entirely and it wouldn't matter, but they did at least have a couple of mildly redeeming moments. Though the "Darcy", "Jane", "Eric", "Mjolnir!" gag is definitely not one of them. I audibly groaned. I'm also not sure about Eric's madness. On the one hand, he is allowed to have been messed up by Loki's staff. On the other, he is clearly still capable of some rational thought, so the whole nakedness just feels like a weak mishit at humour. I honestly think it would have been a lot better to just get rid of Darcy and friend and just have Eric and Jane (with a less irritating Eric) as the human factor in the film.

Speaking of, Jane is much less tokenised than I had remembered. Is her infection with the Aether still a bit of a narrative crutch? Absolutely, but it allows the plot to progress in useful ways and the moments on Asgard – particularly with Frigga – are a lot of fun. I also really enjoyed the whole gravitational anomaly scenes with the disappear shoes. They actually made me laugh a couple of times.

Overall, then, The Dark World was an enjoyable film that developed Thor and Loki's characters nicely, allowed for some great world-building, and was a generally fun ride. It's still one of the worst MCU films, but it's nowhere near as bad as I remembered it.

Thor: Ragnarok

Spoilers Ahead: My reviews are not spoiler-free. You have been warned.

It's that time of year again: the winter film release season, bringing with it the next big hitters from both Marvel and DC. Marvel is arriving first with the third (and final?) film in the Thor franchise. Personally, Thor is one of those characters who I find brilliant in an ensemble but haven't really latched onto any of his solo outings. The first film was decently entertaining but didn't leave a huge impression and then the second was easily the worst Marvel misstep since the creation of the MCU. That said, I get excited for each film because I love the mash-up of Norse mythology and science fiction and see a huge amount of potential for films there. The question, then, is: does Ragnarok finally find that sweet spot?

Well, yes and no. Of the three films Ragnarok is a clear leader, improving on everything the first film did well whilst increasing the stakes and generally feeling a lot more comfortable within itself. Chris Hemsworth has truly become Thor, much like other big Marvel heroes such as Iron Man and Cap, allowing his performance to shine through. Standing head-to-head is Tom Hiddleston as Loki, proving yet again that he deserves the fan fervour he garners. Luckily, as opposed to The Dark World, the new characters introduced (and returning characters) all fit the world(s) they inhabit and aren't irritating. There were moments I felt the inhabitants of Sakaar were sliding dangerously close to the farce of film two, but luckily they always pull back at the brink and make the punchlines land.

The tone of Ragnarok helps massively in this respect, ensuring that any flatter moments are brushed out of your mind quickly by a breakneck pace and styling itself in a much less serious and more colourful manner. The influence of certain Guardians in this change of pace is clear and the right decision to have made. There's also the absence (now permanent) of Jane Foster, whose presence was tolerable in Thor 2 but largely forced the plot to find reasons (not particularly good ones) for her to even be involved. She became less of a character and more of a crutch for the stakes, a classic damsel-in-distress plot point. Without that, Thor is very literally unleashed, allowing him to be a lot more arrogant and effective in battle. Combined with enemies that are a realistic challenge for a demigod, we finally get to see Thor demonstrate his much-lauded fighting abilities and the result is awesome.

Which is another area of Guardians influence. Seeing Mjolnir explode through demons and zombies is just as spectacular as watching Yondu's whistle carve up bad guys, except it feels so much heavier and fittingly forceful. They're great scenes (whilst they last) and involve some brilliant camera work and choreography. Later, with Mjolnir gone and replaced by the Odin force, Thor's lightning warfare is stunning and wonderfully visceral. In other words, the action scenes in Ragnarok are great, and that's before even discussing the much-anticipated gladiatorial fight with the Hulk!

Speaking of which, one area the film is a little, well, hard to process, is the "adaptation" of the Planet Hulk storyline. Personally, this is an aspect of Ragnarok that will improve on rewatch, now I know how it fits in the greater story arc and which parts have been left. As a huge fan of the original comic arc I was a little disappointed, but if you see the Thor story as an homage rather than adaptation it helps a lot. Plus, ultimately, I quite like how it weaves into the greater story of Hela and Ragnarok. It may trample all over the Sakaar I love (and especially the associated characters) but the world it creates still feels interesting, vibrant and alive, plus it makes the ending both a lot more unexpected and interesting. Had the Asgardians just escaped via the Bifrost then the destruction of Asgard would have been less impactful and their options far more restricted. Having a literal ark of Asgard floating through space gives future stories a lot more scope to work with (even if the next step seems to be fairly concrete at this point, given what we know of Infinity War and the post-credits scene).

That said, I did struggle with how much they had changed Korg's identity and can't help but feel that if they had left him out of the trailer my hopes for the Planet Hulk inclusion would haven't been quite as high. That element did muddy the water significantly, making me a little less engaged with a lot of what was happening on Sakaar, a little more annoyed at the way the Hulk was behaving and a little less accepting of Valkyrie as a character. That last one is the least fair, as she is a brilliant character done absolute justice, but I had hoped she might have been Caiera Oldstrong, Hulk's queen, and the trailer shot of her riding a Pegasus was her bringing the Valkyries to battle. As it is, both Caiera and the Valkyries were missing, which was a double-whammy of disappointment.

Also, the plot isn't exactly the most cohesive. There are plenty of ideas here which could have been much more fleshed out and I can't help but feel that they just tried to cram too much into the plot. You could easily have removed the Sakaar part entirely and just had Thor pick up Hulk to help him out; plus that would explain how a Terran quin-jet somehow made it to Sakaar? I realise repulsor technology is a little hand-wavey in terms of fuel efficiency, but I do think that a short-flight, terrestrial-based transport craft shouldn't be that efficient at interstellar flight...

The result is that quite a bit of the plot is just left to progress by happenchance. Some of it feels acceptable, like the cameo by Dr Strange to cut out an "Odin hunt" sequence, whilst at other times a little callous, such as when Thor just leaves Loki incapacitated and with a death sentence over his head. That would fly if Thor seemed at all upset with Loki, which would be understandable considering that he is the one responsible for Odin's death, thereby the destruction of Asgard, Thor's predicament on Sakaar and the release of Hela, but he just never seems that bothered at all. Or that he shows no worry over how Loki was going to escape from Odin's Vault after releasing the world-eating demon Sutur. Then there are the pieces which were good but could have been great, like Sakaar or even Scourge, who never really makes it into the character equivalent of the third dimension despite a solid performance from Karl Urban.

Having said all of that, on balance, the film was very enjoyable and a huge amount of fun. By the end, I had warmed to the new characterisations of Mieek and Korg, thoroughly fallen for the gorgeous design and palate of Sakaar and the Master, and become completely enthralled by Cate Blanchett's turn as Hela (which, just to be clear, was on par with both Thor and Loki). I found the mythology intriguing and well explained, whilst retaining a semblance of mystery, the characterisation solid and the design stunning. The action is brilliant (as mentioned) but so is the dialogue, with a sharp wit which should become grating but actually never gets there. The one major flaw is that the film never really has that moment of emotional connection. There's plenty of laughs and the stakes do feel high, but at the same time you never get a gut-punching moment. There's no feel-good emotional overload, like at the end of the first Guardians film, or crushingly sad instance, such as the second Guardians film. Ragnarok just continues focusing on the humour and the action, right to the very last moment. That lack of depth means I won't be classing it amongst the finest in the MCU but it sits just outside of that band by a very narrow margin and leaves me extremely excited for Infinity War and some more Norse god mayhem!

Rewatch

Ragnarok is a prime example of why I like returning to these reviews. My initial feelings about this film have changed rapidly over time. Not least of all is that is has easily become one of my favourite MCU films and – I think – one of the strongest in the franchise. I'd certainly now place it on par with, if not ahead of, Guardians Vol. 2. There are just so many excellent moments that keep me entertained each time I watch it. Sakaar continues to shine, now that I'm used to the rewriting of that planet and the characters from Planet Hulk they've become firm favourites, and some of the action sequences are just brilliant. The attack on Hel is excellent, and the moment when Thor – eye socket bleeding and electrified – leaps into the fray on the Bifrost is an incredibly iconic moment.

And yes, Loki and Thor are both great throughout, I'd even say the best either had been portrayed by this stage in the MCU, but the supporting cast is excellent. Korg really does make me laugh, Heimdall is brilliant throughout adding to the emotional journey of the Asgardians, and then there's Valkyrie. Tessa Thompson is excellent throughout the film and has created a character that I genuinely miss in the wider MCU (so far).

Hela, on the other hand, increasingly feels a bit two-dimensional and boring. She's strong, sure, and her fighting style is really interesting to watch, but she's just consumed with the desire to kill. There's no nuance here and no matter how good Cate Blanchett is I don't think of her as that great of a villain.

Is the film perfect? No, it still lacks a clear purpose, but it is a whole lot of fun and one of the few movies in the MCU that I keep returning to. Interesting how these things change over time.

Made By Me, But Made Possible By:

CMS:

Build: Gatsby

Deployment: GitHub

Hosting: Netlify

Connect With Me:

Twitter Twitter

Instagram Instragram

500px 500px

GitHub GitHub

Keep Up To Date:

All Posts RSS feed.

Articles RSS feed.

Journal RSS feed.

Notes RSS feed.