Here we are, the first divergence from the order of films that I took in my 2015 edition of this countdown. Where the penultimate spot last year was occupied by “Marvel One-Shot: Item 47”, this year, it will be occupied by “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor’s Hammer.” I’m sure you’re already reeling in shock; but there is far more to come, so brace yourself.
Remember that quote from Brian Winderbaum, which I used in my review of “The Consultant”? He said that the goal of the Marvel One-Shots were to create “a fun way to experiment with new characters and ideas, but more importantly it’s a way for us to expand the Marvel Cinematic Universe and tell stories that live outside the plot of our features.” That the One-Shots are about characters is the probably the most important thing to take from this. And one of the most beloved characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is, undeniably, Agent Phil Coulson.
“A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor’s Hammer” is all about introducing us to a new element of Phil Coulson. He is no longer the annoying bureaucrat that keeps showing up to wreck Pepper Potts’ and Tony Stark’s fledgling relationship. We see him for a little bit more of who he is, particularly the whole “Agent” part. In all this, the short is fun and comical, exactly the sort of thing that we expect from a Marvel picture. Mix in Clark Gregg’s inimitable deadpan as Coulson, and we get an all new look to the character.
In much the same way that “Item 47” (we’re getting to that one in a couple pages) is an homage to Bonnie and Clyde, “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor’s Hammer” is an unveiled homage to one of the finest of the 20th Century Broadway farces, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, which was later turned into a movie from United Artists starring Zero Mostel (who also was in the stage version.)
Beyond the title, however, there is little that the two stories have in common.
Ultimately, the film is one of the two shortest of the Marvel One-Shots, clocking in at only four minutes. It shows Coulson on his way to the New Mexico site where the “0-8-4” (Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir) has been resting contingent to it’s wielder finding that ever-important level of worthiness. On his way, he routinely stops for gas, only to save the accosted clerk at the grab-and-go from two armed bandits. We see him in his more action-role self that we will come to see more in his television show. But, the fight is only part of the fun. The ability to base an entire 4-minute short film on his choice between powdered donuts and chocolate ones is a testament not only to Gregg’s deadpan, but a compliment to Marvel fans. At times, the Marvel movies tend to think we’re stupid. “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor’s Hammer” gives us a little more credit. That the decision as to what donuts to pick is, in all, a more important dilemma than the robbery going on before him is, simply put, great writing with very little words.
Next: #24: Iron Man 2 (2010)