Countdown to Age of Ultron: Thor Revisited

We are not even at the halfway point, guys. Seriously, ten years ago, would you have ever thought there would be so many great Marvel movies to watch, with so many more on the horizon? It's crazy!

For whatever reason, I did not see Thor on opening night. I think it had actually been in theatres for awhile when I finally got around to seeing it. I really have no idea why. Even more puzzling is the fact that I didn't bother to see the second one in theatres at all. Weird, considering I love Thor as a character, was looking forward to this movie, and both films heavily feature Chris Hemsworth's arms.

 Whosoever has these arms, if he be handsome, shall be cast in the role of Thor

Whosoever has these arms, if he be handsome, shall be cast in the role of Thor

Let's get thunderstruck!

RG: The opening is super Lord of the Rings, but I think that's a good call for this movie because Thor is a weird ass character and it's helpful to give audiences a reference point.

 Less is more is not a rule that applies in Asgard.

Less is more is not a rule that applies in Asgard.

DH: I like that in the movies, Asgard and its people are basically space aliens who influenced early human civilizations, rather than having them be the actual Norse Gods. I don’t think that’s from the original comics (in fact, it’s a lot closer to Jack Kirby’s Eternals), but honestly, I’ve never been super into Thor’s solo comic adventures--I mostly knew him as one of the Avengers. So it very well could be an older idea, but either way I think it was the right approach.

RG: Yeah, if you read the very first Lee/Kirby Thor comics they are pretty weak. It definitely feels like they realized there was a perfectly good public domain character they could write comics about in a hurry.

 "Many women will be surprisingly into you when you grow up, Loki."

"Many women will be surprisingly into you when you grow up, Loki."

Good casting on kid Thor and kid Loki. Those kids look like their adult counterparts. Really everyone in this movie looks perfect. And I was THRILLED to see Renne Russo.

I love Chris Hemsworth's Thor voice so much. It's perfect. In general the guy has a great voice.

 Yup. That guy looks like Thor.

Yup. That guy looks like Thor.

DH: Like with RDJ, the casting of the lead could have made or broken this movie, and Hemsworth is pretty much dead on. He is superhumanly huge. He TOWERS over Natalie Portman. He covers all the facets of Thor very well--lusty brawler, arrogant prince, but basically a good dude. He definitely makes you believe that he’s a super viking from space, which is certainly something that most actors couldn’t pull off.

RG: Thor is remarkably chill, like, one day after he falls to Earth. Just joking and flirting with Jane. I guess he's just being cocky because he figures he'll grab the hammer and head home soon.

I think this movie has too many action scenes are are so dimly lit that you can barely see what's happening, but what you can see is pretty awesome.

 Did they win? Is that Thor? What's happening?

Did they win? Is that Thor? What's happening?

DH: Had Kenneth Branagh really done anything like this before? I think that, considering he was primarily known for directing Shakespeare adaptations, he did pretty well with all the action and special effects. One thing is certain, he likes his canted camera angles!

RG: Yes! Like every shot is diagonal! I guess that's the only way you can fit Loki's horns into a frame.

I think the attraction for Natalie to a film like this was Kenneth Branagh’s involvement. At that time in my life, I wasn’t in a position to pick and choose who I wanted to work with. I just needed to pay the rent, and I was excited to be involved with something on this scale. I was signed up either way! This is by far the biggest thing I have ever been involved in and there is more anticipation than anything else.
— Chris Hemsworth, Interview Magazine, 2011

DH: I get the sense that these movies are hard on directors (which we’ll get into in more detail when we talk about the sequel). I don’t know if has to do with trying to maintain a specific tone, while trying to keep the studio happy, or what. But they have the most directorial turnover of any series in the MCU to date. I don’t think the third one even has a director yet.

What I was interested in was the family saga. I think everybody was having trouble arriving at the right way to tell the story, and I was fairly clear about wanting to have a significant proportion of it on contemporary Earth.
— Kenneth Branagh, The Hollywood Reporter, 2011
 "No one rocks like Asgard!"

"No one rocks like Asgard!"

RG: You get a really good sense of how powerful the hammer is early on. I think they do a good job of that. Apparently the prop had some weight to it to make it more realistic when it was being swung around.

When Odin is ripping parts of Thor's uniform off saying he's unworthy I'm like "Yeah! He's unworthy of his shirt, too!"

I could write, like, nine or ten paragraphs about the scene where Thor is roaming around with no shirt and very low slung jeans.

 Ridiculous.

Ridiculous.

DH: I’m a little surprised you haven’t already.

RG: You can refer to my fanfiction trilogy: Thor and the Low Slung Jeans of Destiny.

I remember skyping with Kenneth (Branagh) when he was already in LA working on the film and I was still in London, and he said he wanted me to have a look at two performances. One was Peter O’Toole in the Lion in Winter, he plays Henry II with a degree of emotional volatility that is unpredictable. He’s capable of being incredibly charming and very dangerous in a second, and the second thing he said to take a look at that might seem left field is Charlize Theron’s performance in Monster.
— Tom Hiddleston, Screen Crave, 2011

Obviously we have to talk about what an amazing breakout role for Tom Hiddleston this movie was. He is just perfect as Loki and I am so glad they used him in The Avengers. They did such a great job bringing that character to the screen and making him so layered and sympathetic. I love a complicated villain.

 Surprisingly not silly looking.

Surprisingly not silly looking.

DH: It’s weird--I don’t feel like Hiddleston/Loki’s popularity really exploded until The Avengers. Something about the combination of his performance and Joss Whedon’s writing really seemed to click with people.

RG: I’m not one of those ladies who is nuts for Tom Hiddleston, but he seems like a cool guy and he certainly serves face. I mean, ladies talking like he’s hotter than Hemsworth and that is just plain crazy. I mean...

 Seriously, what?!

Seriously, what?!

Hiddleston and Anthony Hopkins brought a lot of dignity and quality to this movie. Kenneth Branagh classes things up, too.

DH: Hopkins is fine, but it also feels like he stopped trying back in the ‘90s. He pretty much sleepwalks through the sequel. Although frankly, I don’t think this part required a lot from him.

RG: He just had to look cool and be British.

 "Do you have any Norse in you? Would you like some?"

"Do you have any Norse in you? Would you like some?"

I was always pretty hard on Natalie Portman in this movie, but honestly she's very sweet and charming as Jane Foster. I mean, it's a weird version of the character that is nothing like the comic book character, but she's enjoyable enough. I think the bigger problem is how boring most of her scenes are, and how forced the romance is.

DH: True, but at least nobody takes her hostage or anything like that, which I suppose is a kind of progress.

RG: That is an excellent point! They take her research hostage instead. She is a legit smart, cool lady.

RG: The first time I saw this I did not at all notice that Hawkeye was in it. I actually remember that you asked me what I thought of Hawkeye in the movie and I was like "huh?" Like, I didn't even notice that it was Jeremy Renner. I do remember thinking "a bow and arrow. That's a weird detail." I am going to blame all of this on my sleep deprivation at the time.

 I'm Hawkeye, I guess?

I'm Hawkeye, I guess?

DH: As character introductions go, it is incredibly half-assed.

RG: Also: ugly, short and boring.

In Thor, I had to just stand in a bucket and hold my bow and arrow. What’s the character? I have no idea.
— Jeremy Renner, Collider, 2011

RG: Is Thor controlling the weather in the scene where he goes to retrieve his hammer, or is that just a coincidence? Can he still bring the thunder?

DH: I don’t think so, but I think Kenneth Branagh just instinctively knew you’d enjoy seeing Thor in a wet t-shirt.

RG: I did! And I also appreciated that the inclement weather set up a long and gratuitous mud wrestling scene!

 I would like a mud wrestling scene between Thor and Captain America in Age of Ultron, please.

I would like a mud wrestling scene between Thor and Captain America in Age of Ultron, please.

I think for the first time I am appreciating how well directed this movie is. You know what scene is really cool? When Thor is being held by S.H.I.E.L.D. and Loki shows up. It looks very cool, and I love Loki's dapper Earth clothes.

 He should magic himself some better hair, though.

He should magic himself some better hair, though.

DH: That is a popular costume at conventions. Pretty inside baseball, but also kind of lazy.

RG: Ha! I would like to see guys at conventions dressed as Thor in that scene where he's serving everyone breakfast. Adorable!

 The dishtowel!

The dishtowel!

RG: I always thought it was weird that Selvig orders a couple of Boilermakers when he's hanging at the bar with Thor, but I think it was just a way to get a giant beer stein into Thor's hand, which is what we all wanted to see. Also, those two getting drunk together is magic. I would have liked another 45 minutes of that.

 Or a podcast: Drinkin' with Thor and Selvig.

Or a podcast: Drinkin' with Thor and Selvig.

DH: There’s a weird little Hulk reference with Selvig that I had totally forgotten about, where he mentions that he knew a scientist who specialized in gamma radiation that disappeared when S.H.I.E.L.D. showed up. Does he mean Bruce Banner? Do they even have any scenes together in The Avengers?

RG: Yeah, I noticed that reference, but you are right. I don't think they acknowledge each other in The Avengers at all. But that's something to watch for!

Everything about Heimdall is awesome.

 Kind of a waste of Idris Elba's handsome, handsome face, though.

Kind of a waste of Idris Elba's handsome, handsome face, though.

DH: Yeah, he’s great. His matching golden eyes and armour are rad, and I love his spooky voice. I really like Sif and the Warriors Three, too. I think it’s weird that they cast Ray Stevenson as Volstagg instead of an actual big fat guy (imagine John Goodman in that part!), but I like that, since he played Frank Castle in Punisher: War Zone, it’s another bit of Marvel crossover casting to drive fanboys nuts (like Chris Evans being both Johnny Storm AND Steve Rogers). I wish Jamie Alexander had more scenes as Sif because she’s totally badass. I think she had a bigger part in the sequel but it got cut down a lot. I guess she’s occasionally on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., but let’s face it--no one wants to watch that.

 Seriously perfect.

Seriously perfect.

RG: Yes, Sif and the Warriors Three look perfect. They are the Howling Commandos of this movie. I love Sif, but not enough to watch Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. And as far as I am concerned they can cast Chris Evans as every other character in the Marvel universe if they want. Although I am sure if you search this blog hard enough you'll find some ancient post where I think it's weird that they cast Johnny Storm as Captain America. I was WRONG.

I'd also like to note that Loki looks so great in the throne room when he's in full Loki mode.

 I'm worried about his neck.

I'm worried about his neck.

RG: I guess the campfire scene with Thor and Jane does a lot to build the romance. I mean, it's not at all hard to see why she would fall instantly in love with him. Believe me, Jane, I get it.

 How does she not just burst into flames?

How does she not just burst into flames?

But it seems like kind of a stretch that Thor would be so besotted with her. It's just...he's Thor. And they spend like a few hours together total. I think the movie is just missing a scene that would really sell me on why he's so in love with Jane. Like, she needs to do something more than just give him a lift somewhere. I think the excellent Roger Langridge/Chris Samnee comic series, Thor: The Mighty Avenger may have ruined me for this movie. That is some damn good Thor and Jane storytelling.

 "So...do you like thunder?"

"So...do you like thunder?"

RG: I think the middle of this movie is just generally a little hollow. It feels a little rushed and there isn't a whole lot of character development. When I think about Captain America: The First Avenger there's such a huge difference between these movies. In Captain America the characters are so well established so quickly and there are so many memorable scenes. Thor is kind of forgettable, which is weird because it's probably the most visually impressive movie, with fantasy worlds and epic battles. And there are definitely some solid emotional moments, mostly from Loki.

 Pretty cool, I guess.

Pretty cool, I guess.

DH: The real world/fantasy elements aren’t always balanced very well. I don’t know what the solution would have been. I sometimes think it might have been cooler if they kept the mystery of whether he really is Thor--or just an especially buff mental patient--going for awhile. With all that prologue stuff, we in the audience know he’s the real deal, but we have to sit through more than half the film with the human characters in the movie trying to figure it out.

RG: I love when Coulson shows up at the end of the Destroyer fight, when Thor is looking all Thor, and says "Donald, I don't think you've been completely honest with me." Coulson as a character really comes into his own in this movie.

DH: Yeah, and Thor immediately calls him “Son of Coul”! I forgot that line. Pretty funny.

 "Yeah, so it's on Tuesday nights on ABC. You should check it out!"

"Yeah, so it's on Tuesday nights on ABC. You should check it out!"

RG: I think this movie gets better every time I see it. There are a lot of laugh out loud moments. Like when Thor goes into that pet store and demands a horse, and when he learns they only have cats and dogs asks for one big enough to ride.

I hate that Thor's mom gets knocked out immediately when she tried to defend Odin against the frost giants. I love in the second movie when Frigga totally gets to kick some ass.

I love when Thor puts the hammer on Loki after their fight like a paperweight.

 Mondays, am I right, Loki?

Mondays, am I right, Loki?

DH: Me too! He must have done something similar to someone in the comics at some point, but I’d never seen it.

RG: Here is something that we REALLY need to talk about: the garbage Foo Fighters song that plays over the credits. Like, what the hell? Took me right out of it. Thank God they stopped doing that shit for these movies. I'm right about that, right? There isn't, like, a Weezer song that plays over the Avengers credits, right?

DH: No, but there is a very mediocre new Soundgarden song, so you’re kind of in the right ballpark. And for this movie, I’m guessing the rights to “God Of Thunder” by Kiss were too expensive? I mean, they did use Black Sabbath in Iron Man, so it should have been a no-brainer!

RG: There is? Seriously? I don't remember the Soundgarden. Also, “Thunderstruck” by AC/DC was used in Iron Man 2 so that's out, too. Maybe “Lightning Strikes”, or “Knock on Wood”?

DH: It’s also very cool that Walt Simonson got to do a cameo in the banquet scene on Asgard at the end.

RG: I swear to God I remember the opening scene of Captain America, where they find him in the ice, being tagged onto the end of this movie. I guess I am crazy.

DH: The heart wants what it wants, I suppose. And what your heart always wants is more Cap.

RG: ‘tis true!

 "I'm going to be so rich!"

"I'm going to be so rich!"

At this point I am super excited to watch/finally write about Captain America: The First Avenger. My love for that movie is INTENSE. I know Dave feels the same way, though probably with a little less lust.