More Fun With The God of Thunder

I (and a lot of other people) will never forget just how fresh, original, and downright FUN Iron Man was to watch in theaters. What disappoints me just slightly, is that I feel like Marvel Studios forgets that a large portion of Iron Man‘s second act involved little more than Robert Downey Jr. sitting onscreen alone in a workshop, going through the trials and many errors of creating a better version of his armor, all while talking to a robot Paul Bettany (J.A.R.V.I.S.). And that was extremely fun to watch!

Director Jon Favreau took the bold approach of trusting in his leading man to carry the slower, but much more crucial, section of Tony Stark’s story on his shoulders. The result was one of the all-time best comic book movie performances in one of the all-time best comic book movies. Sure, the ending battle was a letdown for many (not me), but by the end of Iron Man, when Tony cavalierly announces that he is a superhero with a new outlook on life, you believed it. It’s what made the sequel – and its silly use of dues ex machina to drive both the plot and character development forward – even more painful to experience: Marvel Studios had by then settled into a formulaic story structure to build its Avengers universe, rather than trusting in the vision of the uniquely talented directors they hire.

While Chris Hemsworth is not at all the established onscreen charmer that Downey Jr. is, Thor has proven that he’s capable of being an extremely likable and engaging leading man who commands the screen he’s (almost literally) filling up. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I felt that the S.H.I.E.L.D. sub-plot in Thor took away from some other (greater) opportunities for this film to be more like Iron Man and less like Iron Man 2. If you’ll allow me to elaborate:

In the film, Thor was essentially presented as a character who always led with brawn before brains – the complete opposite of his nefarious brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston). Sadly, this aspect of the character was never fully fleshed out – and in my opinion, would’ve made for a much better movie.

The setup was there: Mighty Thor in small town New Mexico, amidst meager salt-of-the-earth, er, Earth folk. However, this fish-out-of-water scenario was largely left un-mined for the potential gems waiting in it. In the version of the movie in my head, I imagine that instead of Kat Dennings playing a throwaway comic relief character, maybe we have more townspeople as characters (not just stuffy out-of-towner scientists) – people whose hometown values and close connections would help Thor learn the value in the fragility and beauty of mortality (see: Thor comics of the last few years).

Instead of just coffee mug smashing and Facebook jokes to explain how Thor has much to learn, throw a young boy in there – some kid playing knights and dragons (or whatever kids role play these days) who Thor awkwardly tries to mentor in the true ways of the warrior. (For example, by standing the child in front of an oncoming car and telling him something insane like “Now hold your ground, young Midgaurdian! Do not yield!”). How about more scenes of Thor trying to behave like an indestructible superman, only to discover time and again the limits of a human body? Or Thor watching a townie pass away with his/her spouse holding their hand as they go (the beauty and fragility of human love)? Or Jane Foster treating Thor like more of an annoying child who has to eventually prove himself a mature man, instead of a buff guy whose bones she wants to jump from glance #1?

If you can’t tell, I could go on all day making up the movie in my head, but my point is this: the S.H.I.E.L.D. sequence in the second act ate up so much time and attention that what we DID get was a rushed transformation: Thor can’t lift his hammer, is discouraged, is tricked by Loki into thinking he’s trapped on Earth, and therefore says…what? “Screw it, guess I better settle down and get a girlfriend.” So Thor is the equivalent of a 30-year-old man who has finally sewn all his wild oats?

"Dude, I have partied as hard as thy can..."

S.H.I.E.L.D. needed to be in the story, definitely, but just like in Iron Man they could’ve been kept on the peripheral, largely uninvolved – at least until the third act when a big super god/alien (galien?) in full armor is flying around whirling a magic hammer and summoning thunderbolts. Then you could have Agent Coulson asking questions about where he was trained and what his purpose is, with everyday townspeople standing by his side saying “He’s one of the good guys” – instant small town America endorsement!

The ONLY reason the story had Thor’s hammer crash-land away from him was to provide an excuse for the “Thor vs. S.H.I.E.L.D.” second act sequence. If Thor’s hammer had crashed right next to him (since Odin DID throw it in the portal right after him,) Thor would’ve gotten that whole “I can’t lift it” bit out of the way upfront, and we could’ve spent more time watching him learn his lesson. And S.H.I.E.L.D. still would’ve been involved in the story.

Guess Marvel thought that would’ve been too risky: boring the audience with all that Earth-bound character development that clearly didn’t work for Iron Man (sarcasm).

I know I’m not the only one who felt that the central theme of Thor – his transformation from reckless warrior into compassionate hero – was totally rushed and grossly superficial. And, I might be going out on a limb here (NOTE: I do not express the views of Screen Rant as a whole) but I think that once again, the demands of building not just a singular, insular, story – but rather the larger, ecompassing mythology of a whole cinematic universe – cost us what could have been a deeper and richer introduction to a fantastic character. But as a wise man once said, “These, are, the, breaks.”

One for the Team

I’m holding out hope (like many of you are) that The Avengers is ultimately going to be worth it. I’m hoping that seeing all these distracting little plot threads and tangents come together into one epic superhero team-up experience is going to be worth all the nagging little thoughts about ‘what could’ve been,’ which have been floating around my brain after every Marvel movie since Iron Man made me into a true believer of this Avengers initiative.

Was Thor terrible? No, far from it. But put this whole Avengers thing on back-burner, and focus ONLY on telling the story of The God of Thunder, and would we maybe have had a great movie in place of a good one? I’ve said my piece – what do YOU think?

Thor is currently lighting up theaters everywhere.

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