I’ve already established how obnoxious Kat Dennings is as Darcy. I also think that Natalie Portman as Thor’s love-interest, Jane, is shallow and uninteresting (which is shocking, considering the fact that Natalie Portman is a very talented actress…could this be a rare instance where Marvel’s screenwriters are to blame?). Stellan Skarsgård, though, is quite an enjoyable character. So also are Thor’s “Warriors Three” and, to a lesser extent, the Lady Sif. Another fine actor (a legend, actually), Anthony Hopkins, does an okay job as Odin. Rene Russo hardly exists as Frigga.
But this movie isn’t about any of them. It’s about Thor and Loki. And, with this, the best sibling rivalry in the MCU, we are given our most powerful superhero as well as our most beloved villain. There are certainly many weaknesses to this film (it’s ranked the third lowest out of the thirteen feature films that have been released up to this point), but what it does have going for it is that it, perhaps more than any other MCU film, changed everything. This movie is the hinge point upon which the whole universe swings, opening more doors and introducing more plot elements than any other film in the history of this vast cinematic project. And that includes its two key characters.
Banished to earth to atone for the threats he has caused to descend upon his homeland of Asgard, Thor, the Norse God of Thunder, must protect his newfound mortal friends from otherworldly threats….
Suffice it to say, this was a huge gamble for Marvel. They had dealt with the realms of science and human enhancement with Iron Man and the Hulk. But this, this was way different. They were dealing with magic (which is nothing more than advanced science) and aliens, now. And, boy, did it pay off.
Without Thor, the introduction of the Tesseract in Captain America: The First Avenger would have been completely out of place. No Red Skull. No HYDRA. No HYDRA means no Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and we would have had a completely different conclusion to the first season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., let alone the entire second and third seasons with all their reference to Inhumans, Terrigen Mist and alien blood transfusions. Guardians of the Galaxy is already a film that feels a little out-of-place in this universe. Imagine how out-of-place it would feel without the connecting tissue of Asgard and the Nine Realms as we know them?
In order to make the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the studio had to make The Avengers. And, in order to make The Avengers really work, they had to introduce the Asgardian element. But, how on earth do you get the Norse mythology to tie into Tony Stark in his mighty tower?
The fact that all of this worked out is why Thor turned out so well. It is a linchpin. However, it does have many weaknesses. Kenneth Branagh, who, in many ways, is our generation’s version of Laurence Olivier, was entrusted to make this rather Shakespearean world come to life as only he could. At times, he succeeded. But, ultimately, he delivered what is one of the more boring of the Marvel movies, at least for extended stretches of time. I will say, though, that those first few scenes with Thor on earth are pretty fun to watch. All in all, this is a movie with strengths and weaknesses, just like any other movie.