First off, sorry for the delayed post. Last weekend was very busy, with seeing an old friend, my army brother visiting for a day with his new girlfriend, and also checking out a couple houses. Anyway, the Thor trilogy is perhaps the oddest trilogy we’ve seen so far in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Each of the three movies have a completely different feel to them, and arguably a very different level of quality for each movie as well.
Development for a Thor movie went as far back as 1991, with Sam Raimi involved shortly after he finished Darkman. He met Stan Lee and they talked about ideas, before he pitched the concept to 20th Century Fox. They rejected it, not understanding the concept of Thor. The project was abandoned until April of 1997, when Marvel Studios rapidly began to expand. In fact the film gained a lot of momentum after the success of 2000’s X-Men.
The original plan was to make Thor a straight to TV movie. Marvel Studios brought in Artisan Entertainment to help finance the film, but by June 2004, no studio had picked up the film. Sony Pictures finally purchased film rights late in 2004, with David S. Goyer in negotiations to write and direct. As someone who does not like Goyer as a writer, I’m glad he lost interest after talks with Marvel. Finally in 2006, Paramount Pictures acquired the rights to distribute the movie. That same year, Marvel Studios announced the film.
Writer Mark Protoservich, a long-time fan of the Thor comics, agreed to write the script. Although other writers would eventually take over, Protoservich still holds story credits. He planned an alternate take on the superhero origin story from the start. Instead of the common tale of a human gaining superpowers, it would be about a God reaching his true potential. “It’s the story of an Old Testament god who becomes a New Testament god.”
Matthew Vaughn signed up to direct the film, and he rewrote most of Protoservich’s script, mostly to bring the budget down to a manageable $150 million, saying that the first draft probably would have cost $300 million to make. He intended to start filming in late 2008, and after Iron Man’s success, Marvel Studios announced their intention to release Thor in 2010. Of course, Vaughn’s contract expired in May of 2008, before he could begin filming. They looked at several other directors, including Guillermo del Toro, who showed a lot of interest and proclaimed his love of the early Jack Kirby era Thor comics, but ultimately turned the offer down to direct The Hobbit. That too would eventually fall through. If I ever get to doing a blogathon about the Lord of the Rings movies, it’ll be well worth talking about the production nightmare behind the Hobbit trilogy. Anyway, Kenneth Branagh eventually signed on as the director.
Thor also went through several potential actors before Marvel Studios settled on Chris Hemsworth. Daniel Craig was offered the role, but he turned it down, citing his commitment to the James Bond franchise. Hemsworth’s brother, Liam, also auditioned for the role, but Kevin Feige passed on that one. I can’t comment on Liam because I haven’t seen to many movies with him, but between Craig and Chris, Chris is definitely the better choice for Thor. He’s got a natural sense of charisma and charm that works pretty much perfectly for the role. He’s arguably just as perfect of a casting choice as Robert Downey Jr. is for Tony Stark.
Tom Hiddleson, who was briefly considered for the role of Thor, ultimately landed the role of Loki in a pitch perfect casting choice. Additional cast members include Natalie Portman as Jane Foster, Jaimie Alexander as Lady Sif, the brilliant Sir Anthony Hopkins as Odin. Of the Warriors Three, Fandral had the most complicated casting process. Initially, Zachary Levi (Flynn Rider from Tangled and Chuck from the Chuck series) was signed on to the role, but he was forced to vacate due to a scheduling conflict with Chuck. Stuart Townsend quickly signed on to replace him, but days before filming, he was replaced by Josh Dallas over creative differences. Levi does portray Fandral in both sequels though.
Thor released in May of 2011, about a year after the originally planned release. It ended up earning a respectable $449 million on its $150 million budget. It also earned generally positive reviews, with a 77% on Rotten Tomatoes. Variety magazine praised the movie during its epic fight scenes, but said that Thor’s banishment on Earth was far less thrilling. Richard Roeper went as far to describe it as the most entertaining Superhero debut since Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man. However, Roger Ebert gave it a negative review, stating “Thor is a failure as a movie, but a success at marketing.
I know that opinions on this movie tend to vary a lot, but personally, I really like this one. For a while I even went as far as to call it my favourite pre-Avengers MCU movie. The core story is about Thor learning a valuable lesson in humility. He starts off the movie as headstrong, aggressive and at least somewhat vengeful. He sees his role as the future king of Asgard as a position of strength. However when he nearly starts a war by attacking a realm currently at truce with Asgard, he’s banished to Earth with all of his Asgardian powers taken away. He doesn’t regain his powers until he proves himself worthy of them. The scene where Odin casts him out is brilliantly performed by Hopkins, who somehow shows intense anger, sadness and wisdom all at once. It might actually be the best individual acting moment out of the entire MCU so far.
That said, rewatching this movie for the first time in several years, I did notice a few flaws I hadn’t noticed before, while also being reminded of others I recognized even after my first viewing. For one, the CGI really hasn’t aged all that well. It’s aged better than Incredible Hulk mind you, but still not well. For example, the Destroyer looks like it belongs in an animated cartoon more than an actual movie. The movie obviously cheaps out on some of the larger special effects shots by going into close-ups. Sometimes this leads to awkwardly shot moments, most notably in Thor’s fight with the Destroyer.
In addition to this, Thor’s finale is the least climactic action scene in the entire MCU. There are emotional connotations behind the scene, sure, and Loki is such a great character in these movies that it at least partially makes up for that, but it still doesn’t feel nearly as intense or epic as it should. It’s a fight between the God of thunder and the God of mischief (who’s got all sorts of special powers). Why is most of the fight just the two of them swinging things at each other and pausing on occasion to argue?
Opinions seem to be quite divided over Thor’s first movie. I still really like this movie, although I don’t think I like it as much as I used to. All of the Asgardian characters are brilliantly acted, with Hemsworth being a very charismatic Thor, Hiddleson being purely awesome as Loki, and Hopkins is very convincing as the king of a very powerful civilization. Compared to that, as much as the Earth stuff is fine, and it does serve Thor’s character development, most of the human characters aren’t nearly as entertaining or as well performed. Because much of the movie is spent on Earth, that does kind of hold the movie back a bit. And yeah, especially compared to the newer MCU movies, the action in Thor really hasn’t aged well.
If you haven’t seen this movie, I’d still recommend it. It’s got some great dramatic beats and the music is pretty good. But unless you’re trying to watch every movie in the MCU, consider this a cautionary recommendation. Next up is Captain America: The First Avenger. That’s followed by Avengers, and then Iron Man 3.