Thor Movies Megareview

Thor (2011)

Your ancestors called it magic and you call it science. Well, I come from a place where they’re one and the same thing.

Thor

Thor and Guardians of the Galaxy are the two Marvel franchises I still mostly (mostly) uncomplicatedly like, which probably isn’t the most surprising, right? That I would continue liking the space bullshit ones? I really hope that isn’t surprising, otherwise I’ve done a very poor job of establishing my brand. What I’ve always liked about Thor specifically is the way it combines high fantasy and science fiction tropes. I’ve written previously about how that doesn’t make it immune to reinforcing the sort of hegemonic narratives that the rest of the MCU reinforces, but it’s still different. It’s Tolkien-style ruling class apologia rather than just literally U.S. Army: Be All You Can Be or The Few, The Proud, The Marines with the branding removed. I’m not saying that makes it okay, but it does at least make it less grating.

Thor himself is a big part of the appeal. They figure out how to write him even better as the MCU goes on and he interacts with all the other characters, but even in the first movie his personality is basically “cheerful himbo” and it rules. He needs to learn some humility, but there’s a reason he’s able to learn that lesson and become a true hero. I know the MCU likes telling stories with this general shape, and I know there’s a superficial resemblance to one Anthony Edward Stark, but I think it feels more authentic with Thor. Even before he turns a corner there, you can clearly see that at his core he’s an extremely good boy, especially in all his interactions with Jane, Erik, and Darcy. He’s just so bright and sunny, but it isn’t toxic positivity like you sometimes get in Marvel, you really do feel like this is him being true to himself. It makes him putting everything together to blossom into the self-sacrificing hero he was always meant to be so satisfying to see.

Although Thor undeniably needed a lesson in humility, I would argue that Odin is the absolute last person who gets to make that judgment. And the way he goes about it, if that’s even what he’s trying to do, is just awful. Just casting him out the second he makes a huge mistake without even trying to help him is just the fucking worst kind of parenting. Yeah, maybe strip him of his powers. In fact, probably do that. But keep him home while he works on making things right. Make yourself part of the solution. What Odin does instead is a total abdication of his responsibility as both a parent and a leader of his people. It’s honestly pretty fucking abusive, and the fact that he doesn’t get taken to task for that at all pisses me off. Thor succeeds in becoming a better man and a better hero in spite of Odin’s actions, not because of them. It would be nice if the movie acknowledged that at all, but oh well.

If I look at this movie selfishly, I would’ve liked more realm-hopping Lord of the Rings-style bullshit with Thor, Lady Sif, and the Warriors Three. I wouldn’t even bother bringing that up, except my boyfriend pointed out that the movie kind of super sets up like that’s the kind of story it’s going to tell? And we only ever get tiny tastes of it between this movie and like the first five minutes of The Dark World. Like, this movie is fine. It’s one of the better MCU movies in my opinion (though, again, I have a fairly low opinion of the MCU), but it really does feel like a lot of more interesting stuff was left on the table.

I do like what we got, though. And Loki is a great villain, not necessarily because he’s a particularly great villain here but because he’s so amazing for the rest of the series and it’s nice that he got slotted in as the big bad in his first appearance (okay also in The Avengers but whatever) to get that out of the way and have him be a more interesting and complicated character going forward.

Oh last thing. I don’t… super care about this necessarily? but the CGI in this aged so poorly, oh my gosh. Which isn’t to say I didn’t love a lot of the visuals, especially at night on Asgard, but it was still pretty distracting how poorly it held up.

(B-Rank)

Thor: Tales of Asgard (2011)

This is exactly what I was asking for!! Thor and Loki go on a hecking adventure with the Warriors Three. There’s a tavern and what looks like orcs and goblins and there’s some animal people. Jotunheim is way more interesting than it was in the MCU movie. Thor feels remorse after killing two frost giants in battle. Odin is slightly less of a dick (still a huge dick, though). Sif has an actual, like, story and stuff. This rules!

I also appreciate that instead of having a magic teleporting bridge that takes you literally anywhere you want, everyone travels around on winged horses and flying boats and shit. On the flying horses note, yeah I’m hella thirsty for the Valkyries being all “on your knees, male” and “silence, male” and whatnot. I don’t consider myself male, though, so hopefully they’d have the same attitude towards an enby boy.

I think this story also made way more sense with a younger Thor, and I appreciated seeing him and his brother palling around. Loki is an adorable femboy in this, and instead of having him just constantly plotting against Thor there’s a setup that shows him as a more conflicted character that could pretty easily go in a bunch of directions if this had ever gotten a sequel. For that matter, there’s a dark elf hanging around Asgard the whole movie and you’re just constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop with him, and when it inevitably does his motivations make perfect sense and he hasn’t just been biding his time waiting to do a betrayal, he’s presented with a powerful temptation and he succumbs. There is just so much more pathos to the villains in this little movie than anything you get in the MCU.

Honestly, although I have a pretty low opinion of most of the other movies I’ve seen in this line, I really wish it had continued if only to get sequels to this one! I think it’s decently likely I would’ve liked this series better than the MCU’s Thor if it had continued. It’s just such a shame this was the only one.

(B-Rank)

Thor: The Dark World (2013)

“How’s space?”
“Space is fine.”

I used to pretty consistently defend this one when I was a dumb MCU stan (would that be a Stan stan?). When I reevaluated all the Marvel movies back in the day when I was experimenting with how much to integrate my reading of a movie’s politics into my evaluation of how much I enjoyed said movie, I wrote a much more scathing review of it. The one part of that review I still absolutely stand by is this movie has a ton of problems with women. Natalie Portman has to show up to work for this movie just to be blatantly shoe-horned into the plot because She Had To Be There and not because anything that was happening was remotely motivated by her character. Darcy is nearly the best thing about the movie but it’s entirely because of Kat Dennings’ performance. All the script really has for her is some compulsory heterosexuality because Sure, Why Not. Lady Sif is in the movie for about five minutes and it’s just for Odin to literally dangle her in front of Thor as a consolation prize, so that’s lovely, thanks for that.

Most glaringly, though, Frigga gets fridged (there’s a pun in there somewhere) in one of the most textbook examples you’ll ever see of the awful trope. Everyone talks about their Feelings about her being dead for the rest of the movie but no one talks about her. Her funeral is a silent affair with sad music blaring over a bunch of boys looking sad. Gag.

Today, I mostly look at broadly entertaining blockbusters (especially superhero movies) as silly, disposable entertainment and while I still think it’s necessary to explicitly call out their awful politics, I don’t take them too too seriously. As long as they’re entertaining, not genuinely hateful, and their bad politics aren’t too intrusive (most of the MCU fails on this last point), I just let myself enjoy them. And The Dark World does continue the Tolkien-style imperialism of the first movie (I jokingly called it Asgardian exceptionalism in an earlier review), but it’s just normal Fantasy Written By White People stuff, not exactly a high bar for awfulness in the MCU.

So, with that in mind, the place I land with Thor: The Dark World is basically “yeah it’s kinda bad?” But like. It’s not the worst way to spend two hours, and you’re largely spending it with a radiant himbo, Natalie Portman, and the radiant himbo’s scheming genderfluid sibling, so like? It really isn’t the worst.

The effects in this one aren’t as glaringly bad for the most part, either. A lot of the Aether effects are super, super bad, but Asgard doesn’t look like it was built for a sixth-generation video game cutscene, and that matters.

The finale in London is aggressively bad. One cute gag about Thor having to ride the subway aside, it’s just so boring it’s like watching paint dry. The movie definitely peaks around Loki’s fake death, they probably should’ve retooled the script and found a way to make that the actual climax of the movie, then it would probably be a lot better. Maybe do like a Raiders of the Lost Ark-style thing with the Aether and have it kill all the dark elves instead of having Malekith absorb it.

Idk, there’s obviously problems with my suggestion too, but it would still be way better than what we got? The way things are, it feels more like “oh okay this is still happening?” for basically the whole third act.

(C-Rank)

Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

“I make grave mistakes all the time. Everything seems to work out.”

Thor

(CW: Horny)

I think this narrowly edges out the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie as my favorite MCU movie but it honestly usually comes down to which one I’ve watched the most recently. And these two movies are in a class of their own when it comes to MCU movies. It just honestly doesn’t even make sense to compare them to any other MCU movies, just other superhero movies, and other movies in general. Except maybe Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2? I want to rewatch that one sometime (probably right before Vol. 3 comes out) before I decide for sure.

Despite being saddled with the usual MCU movie problems, principally the fact that the studio insists that all these movies basically just be commercials for the next movie, Waititi & co managed to make something really different and fresh, and largely self-contained. That last point is a bit bittersweet because part of what makes this movie so self-contained is that Infinity War effectively used all of Thor’s screentime to take a sledgehammer to everything that happened in the third act of Ragnarok, but y’know. MCU gonna MCU.

I’d be lying if I said that Thor blasting onto the field in Wakanda and defiantly shouting “BRING ME THANOS!” while the Avengers theme blared and Thanos’s minions (the ones he didn’t cleave in half on his way in) cowered wasn’t an awesome moment that I think about in a positive light more frequently than I think about most of the rest of the non-Thor/Guardians MCU combined. The only things that might beat it are Hulk’s “that’s my secret: I’m always angry” from the first Avengers and Iron Man’s helicopter suit-up in Civil War. And I like Infinity War way better than I like either of those other two movies. But the thing all of those moments have in common (besides a great score behind them) is that I enjoy them only in isolation. Ragnarok actually told a great, character-driven story. It had consequences that made sense. It had hope triumphing. It was emotionally satisfying. And half of it was swept away between Ragnarok’s mid-credits scene and Infinity War’s opening credits while the other half was jettisoned by Thor’s entire deal in Infinity War being “me need big, strong weapon to be big, strong boy.”

Just. Fellas. What the heck. Why can’t we have nice things? (Oh right because it’s the fucking MCU.)

All I’m really saying is that Thor: Ragnarok’s awesomeness being self-contained is a, uh, double-edged… hammer? Is that anything? I’m not sure if that’s anything. I know the MCU frequently gets too much credit for being quirky and “weird,” or my personal favorite (which I am guilty of parroting in the past) “risky.” The fucking audacity of calling any of the vanilla soft serve ice cream cinematic universe movies “risky.”

What I will say in the case of Ragnarok is okay wow thank you a movie that has a fucking personality. But now I’m sliding back into negging the MCU instead of talking about what I like about this movie. I know “funny and lighthearted but with 80s arcade music for a soundtrack” might not sound like the most radical departure, but I promise you, it’s all in the details. Like The Dark World setting up Loki on the throne and pretending that’s going to be a big deal and we’re just going round and round with the whole Loki betraying Thor carousel, and Ragnarok just straight up says “no we’re not gonna do that” and makes Thor exposing Loki’s treachery into a fun comedic moment before quickly moving on to something else. Thor could have basically turned to the camera and told the audience directly, “We’re done with this shit, do you hear me? We’re moving on to something more interesting.” Thank fuck.

In case you didn’t get it, the movie comes right out and says it when Loki tries to betray Thor one last time by thwarting his escape in exchange for the reward money the Grand Master is offering, and Thor is actually one step ahead of him. “Dear brother, you’re becoming predictable. I trust you, you betray me, round and round in circles we go. See Loki, life is about… It’s about growth, it’s about change, but you seem to just want to stay the same. I guess what I’m trying to say is that you’ll always be the god of mischief, but you could be more.”

And it’s not just talk! Which, you know, I thoroughly enjoy Thor embodying the trope of “surprisingly insightful himbo who understands psychological health” trope, but it doesn’t stop there. Loki does change! He helps Thor save the people of Asgard, and he actually goes with him to help with whatever comes next.

It’s like the creative team here decided to base this movie on all the nerd press’s voluntary propagandizing about the MCU being character-driven and interested in showing people growing and hope overcoming trauma and disillusionment instead of just quipping every five seconds and aping their own memes.

Look I’m sorry this keeps looping back to “the MCU sucks,” but let’s just look for a second at all the things this movie does and that the rest of the MCU squanders almost immediately. You probably think Thor is out of lessons to learn at this point but he learns a big one in the form of “Asgard isn’t a place, it’s a people.” Armed with that perspective, he makes the incredible choice to sacrifice the realm of Asgard without a second’s hesitation.

Attendant to this, Thor also learns to trust his power without Mjolnir. This is largely summed up by Odin’s line, “Are you Thor, god of hammers?” and Hela’s “What were you the god of again?” I hate, hate, hate that Odin gets this moment, but oh well. It’s still great to see Thor come into his own even more than he already had.

Where this falls short, though, is that after all of that, and after agreeing with Valkyrie that the monarchy sucks… Thor just takes the throne anyway, and Valkyrie seems to fully support him in this. Just… why? Your people are literally starting over, this is the perfect time to enact change. Why cling to an institution that you paid lipservice to understanding is inherently immoral? I just hate this choice for them. And there are echoes of this in the movie’s inch-deep anti-imperialism. It doesn’t earn the moment when Hela breaks down the ceiling of the throne room to reveal the mural of her father’s “peaceful” reign has been built over a mural depicting Asgard’s bloody conquests which her father presided over and she executed. Nor is Hela the right person to be calling attention to this. As often happens in the MCU, the audience isn’t really forced to grapple with any of this because the well is poisoned by putting these words in the lips of the film’s big bad, and Thor himself basically shrugs it off. It’s a stirring visual but the movie around it needs to treat it with more weight for it to be really effective.

In a more consensual scene, though, I would absolutely kneel before Hela as she keeps demanding of everyone. (It’s literally like her second line and she never stops for the rest of the movie.) And that was before she had a giant wolf and a skeleton army. I also badly need Valkyrie to step on me (she seems pleased with herself for beating up and chaining Loki so I’m pretty sure we could have fun together), so yeah. Thor isn’t really my type physically, but his personality is so radiant that I would absolutely go there. I’d probably let Loki do problematic things to me. Okay sorry we got to this part of the review.

Since we’re into the superficial stuff, so many people get tied up in this movie, you guys. Okay, not exactly tied up, but like. Thor opens the movie in a cage in chains basically doing a “so you’re probably wondering how I got here” monologue. And then he’s hanging in chains in front of a big, scary demon thing sitting on an ancient throne and I’m thinking “that’s how I’d like to spend my summer vacation, dude.” (Yeah, I’m a little fucked up.) And yeah, that joke where he was slowly spinning because of the dangling chain so he had to keep interrupting Surtur’s speech to ask him to wait when he was facing away from him was pretty damn hilarious.

Anyway, because this movie loves me and wants me to be happy, Thor isn’t free for much longer before he’s told to kneel before his queen (which he refuses because he’s some kind of weird idiot), escapes, immediately gets captured by a gang with some kind of awesome net gun thing, only to be “rescued” and immediately captured by Valkyrie. Who is amazing, by the way. And then he wakes up in a glass cage literally beneath her feet, and just… okay, I don’t want you to think that the only reason I enjoyed this movie is because it kept putting its hero in bondage peril, but guys, come on.

It really, really isn’t just the bondage, though. I mean, it definitely helps, but I just love this weird space techno bullshit so much.

(A-Rank)

Thor: Love and Thunder (2022)

(CW: Spoilers, horny)

I gotta say, I really don’t get the hate. This is like a tweak away from being pretty easily my favorite Marvel movie ever. Basically if Mighty Thor and Valkyrie hadn’t been sidelined for the final battle it would have been.

This is exactly the kind of weird space shit and weird mythology shit I love from this franchise. The fights were fantastic. The penultimate fight where Thor, Mighty Thor, and Valkyrie are teaming up to fight Gorr and his shadow minions was definitely better than the final fight, but oh well.

I’ve seen a lot on Twitter about queerbaiting in relation to this movie, and like… yeah, okay, it’s not a super gay movie or anything, but there are explicitly gay characters in it? Korg literally has two dads, and literally marries another guy at the end of the movie? Valkyrie is explicitly primarily interested in other women? I’m going to be pretty upset if they don’t give her a girlfriend soon, and also if she doesn’t get a spinoff solo movie at some point that’s much gayer than this. I mean, not really upset because this is the MCU I expect literally nothing from them, but I’m just saying.

There is, uh, quite a lot of extremely good bondage in this. I just. Yeah. I just felt I needed to mention that.

They kill Zeus for being a big, dumb idiot. (Yeah okay fine he ends up being not dead in the midcredits scene, whatever.) They fly around on a boat that’s pulled by giant goats. The goats yell. The goats are extremely good. I love the goats. And hey wait a second wasn’t I complaining during earlier movies that the bifrost was really boring when other versions have flying horses and flying boats and shit? Well, wish granted!

I liked literally every part of this movie except the last fight, and even then there are things I liked about it? I mean, the fight itself was fine, I just didn’t like Valkyrie being abruptly sidelined. And ultimately the conflict is literally solved by Thor talking the bad guy into… not being a bad guy anymore. And he gets there through empathy, not browbeating. I’m sorry, but that’s way better than everyone having a big stupid fight while a giant blue beam shoots into the sky.

I don’t know. I’m being pretty uncritical here, but I just don’t know, guys. This was almost exactly what I wanted. It’s possible I’ll like it even more when I rewatch it and have time to digest it.

(A-Rank)

,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: