Did ‘The Avengers’ Connection Hurt ‘Thor’?

Published 3 years ago by , Updated June 27th, 2013 at 3:11 pm,

Thor movie discussion Avengers Did The Avengers Connection Hurt Thor?

Now that Marvel’s Thor has struck gold at the box office – two weeks running – it’s high time to continue a discussion that we began last year with the release of Iron Man 2 – namely, is Marvel Studios’ ambitious shared continuity approach to next year’s epic superhero movie event, The Avengers, a sign of how superhero movie franchise should be built, or an experiment that shouldn’t be repeated?

Before we get into what is sure to be a divisive topic amongst comic book movie fans, make sure you’ve checked out the following posts:

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It should also go without saying that the topics discussed in this article will contain MAJOR THOR SPOILERS – READ AT YOUR OWN RISK!

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At this point we can say with assurance that most people enjoyed the Thor experience. The movie has a solid composite review scores on both Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic, a solid Screen Rant Review, and is quickly approaching $350 million at the worldwide box office on a $150 million budget. Needless to say, Marvel Studios is still in the game as far as building its Avengers universe goes.

However, for all the positives surrounding Thor the film (like any other) isn’t immune to criticisms – the most common being that it felt like an uneven movie, made of two parts (the fantastical Asgard scenes and the more grounded Earth scenes) that never fully meshed together. Some people loved the Earth stuff, but didn’t love the Asgard stuff as much; other people felt the exact opposite way. However, the question here is not which realm served Thor best, but whether or not the film’s obligation as a lead-in to The Avengers was a detracting factor in how the movie’s story was spun.

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The S.H.I.E.L.D. Factor

Thor and SHIELD agent Coulson Did The Avengers Connection Hurt Thor?

If you’re not a cinephille who has memorized the 3-act structure employed by a lot of films (definitely summer blockbusters and DEFINITELY Marvel films), allow us to break down Thor into its 3 core parts:

  1. ACT I: Thor’s back story in Asgard, battle with the Frost Giants, and banishment.
  2. ACT II: Thor on Earth meeting Jane Foster, trying to reclaim his hammer, and “learning humility.”
  3. ACT III: Thor regaining his powers, beating up bad guys and saving the world(s).

If there is one thing that seems to be generally agreed upon, it’s that Thor‘s second act is its weakest. Second acts are typically reserved for the bulk of character development – in which a protagonist grows/develops/learns their lesson while the conflict of the story simultaneously approaches its climax. In Thor, this meant the titular hero learning NOT to be an arrogant bastard, so that he could grow into the wise hero his father Odin (Anthony Hopkins) wanted him to be. Thor’s relationship with Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) was intended to keep him grounded, and to motivate him to change, since the qualities Odin hoped he’d learn would also make him a worthy man for Jane’s affections.

That’s a great story to tell, and an interesting way to explore a nigh omnipotent superhero – de-powering him and making humility, compassion and wisdom the keys to re-gaining his powers. It would have been a slower, but more interesting approach to telling a superhero story (riskier for sure) but on paper it sounds intriguing. Other films might have invested full time and attention in these second act developments; however, director Kenneth Branagh had a bigger sandbox to fill – one that included Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg), his S.H.I.E.L.D. faction, and even an unsatisfying cameo by an Avenger (Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye).

"We're gonna ram some 'Avengers' stuff up in here and you're gonna like it!"

Compared to the Iron Man 2 team, the small squadron of writers who worked on Thor‘s script did a much better job of weaving S.H.I.E.L.D. and all those Avengers Easter eggs into the story.  After all, if a magical hammer like Mjolnir crashed on American soil, and nobody (not even Stan Lee!) could move it, top secret government spooks would definitely be all over it. S.H.I.E.L.D.’s involvement in Thor was clearly organic and logical, whereas their involvement in Iron Man 2 was clunky and awkward. Points for that.

On the other hand, when you have to split your second act between tying together a cinematic universe AND the proposed epic transformation that’s supposed to take place in your central character, ultimately there are going to be sacrifices…

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What Thor was missing…

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  1. I think the Avengers is going to be one big mess of a movie, extremely unwieldy with too many characters. It will be like Spiderman 3 times 10.

    Better to make it a TV show than a feature film.

  2. Damn, I agree with this whole article.

    The Avengers won’t be like Spider-Man 3 since all the characters already had their origins told. The team dynamic and clash of egos will make or break it. I have faith in Whedon.

  3. I’m going to go with The Avengers being an awesome movie because Joss Whedon is at the helm. Sounds a little fan-boy, I know, but I don’t throw my support behind a director unless it is warranted.

  4. Why cant they just introduce the characters in their own movies and connect it in The Avengers?
    And why introduce Barton without having him fire a single arrow?
    If your going to make an Avengers reference, at least have it make sense .

    • I totally agree. You mean they couldn’t find any use for an incredibly precision fired arrow other than shooting Goldilocks? If they had added that one single element, the whole Hawkeye thing wouldn’t have felt so shoe-horned in.

  5. I personally liked the thor movie, you can pick apart any movie an explain what needed to be changed or what would of made it better but the truth is every movie is going to have holes. As far as the Avengers go I am anxious to see how they pull it off but think about it this way they this idea is mind for many years now .. We think about the problems with to many characters in this movie as it comes near .. they been thinking about that problem since the idea came out .. i trust they will no what they are doing

  6. Great article.

  7. I really agree with most everything you wrote. Most especially though, the line about those being the breaks.

    You are right about his rushed transformation and I like a lot of the ideas that you put forward. Why is this incredibly powerful being fascinated with the people of this backward little planet? Fleshing that out could be the subject for Thor 2.

    But back to them being the breaks. I think we all want to see The Avengers movie, and it will no doubt be much, much better with these individual movies handling backstory and setting the characters on their feet and ready to go.

    There might have been a missed opportunity in Thor, but maybe it is a thread that can be picked back up after the awesome spectacle that will be The Avengers.

  8. I think we are in safe hands considering that the worst that marvel has brought to the table so far as been Iron Man 2 which isnt all that bad to begin with. I also consider my self pretty much a fanboy and I do agree that Thor’s transformation as you put it was very superficial but I think Thor has always been that way , and I dont think for one minute it will stick. Thor has always been arrogant and if he isnt in Avengers then he will not be the Thor I know or love. That said we also dont really know what was cut from the film before the final cut but it seems like that there should have been more to the bar scene, and a bar room brawl seems like it would have been fitting.
    as far as shield goes , I think it was just the right amount of contact with the infamous spy masters, it allowed the audience to see the far reaching arms of SHIELD and the power they have. Now as far as Hawkeye goes, I was quite satisfied with his role, it was meant as a little taste of the bigger universe, I personally wouldnt have wanted more then that it would have defeated the purpose of the cameo and drawn attention away from the main character. I will say this they should have let him let a bolt or two loose, but that might spoil some trick shot scene in the intro to the character in Avengers.
    All in all my big thing with the movies so far is time frame, why does everything happen in hours and days instead of days and weeks. Tony builds his new High tech suit in hours, he learns and masters flight in hours, and people less intelligent are able to keep up with that. Thor gets tossed out of Asgard gets hit with a truck and learns humility the next day the day after that he gets the crap kicked out him and gets his hammer back and then returns home all forgiven, lol. it kills me I mean we are using film and can use story telling devices like oh two later in the stark cave blah blah blah. Thats my biggest issue with all the movies. oh yeah and those four days where really lesson forming for the God of Arrogance, lol. However taken as they are they tell a complete tale with little issues that effect the overall enjoyment of the film

  9. It makes sense that Marvel has decided to introduce characters who were solo stars before joining a team in their own films to establish the personality, motives, antagonists,etc. The idea for the Avengers movie probably came from them liking the way Iron Man came off initially and keeps with the way things developed originally in the comics.

    The attempt to mesh these individual movies into something cohesive to lead up to the team movie has at least given the writers, producers and directors some structure when doing these movies. Ironically the issues the X-Men series over at Fox has had probably helped motivate Marvel (and DC to a lesser extent) to try not to put too many characters in one project and not be able to explain or build them properly in the time given. On the money side the success of the individual movies cash wise can also only help build a production budget that can sustain the rest of the projects.

  10. I think it’s really annoying when all the articles on this site end with ‘what do YOU think!’. We know there’s a comment section, and we can post our thoughts if we’re so inclined. Stick with the news and analysis and you won’t have to beg for a response!

    • It is a common blog finish designed to elicit a response from readers, nearly everyone does some form of it on the Net.
      Even, ‘Why do you keep asking us what we think?’ is a comment, as well as ones such as this.
      And your inevitable reply to my reply, ad nauseam….

    • Tim,

      I can assure you we don’t have to “beg” for responses. We get around 1,000 comments a day on the site. But hey, thanks for your valuable addition to the conversation.

      Vic

    • We actually cut a lot of that out Tim, for the very reason you’re expressing. I actually just used it here more as an acknowledgement that I’m just running my mouth, and would like to hear you guys’ thoughts on the matter. (Hence why I’m answering you now ;-)

      • No problem guys. Know that I’m an avid SR follower, one of my favorite sites. I value your hard work, your opinions, analysis, and reviews. As a blogger myself, I’ve caught myself doing this too as a fellow blogger pointed out to me. It’s kind of a running joke on our podcast now. Anyway, it’s the one ‘less than professional’ aspect of this site, so I thought I’d finally mention it since I like you guys so much.

        Vic, I apologize, that should have read “don’t” not “won’t”. You guys certainly get lots of great comments, one of my favorite parts of the site. Keep it up!

        • Thanks, Tim. As Kofi said, we HAVE cut way back on that (if you’d notice). :-P

          Best regards,

          Vic

  11. Avengers, a big mess? I don’t think so…It’s a Whedon movie, and Whedon is much better than Abrams.

  12. I don’t mean any disrespect, and it may just be my ignorance, but why does everybody seem to think Joss Whedon can do no wrong? I liked Dollhouse, but Buffy was pretty cheesy. What box office theatrical hit other than Toy Story has he been a part of?

    • This film will be big no matter what. It’s a business plan juggernaut. But Whedon directed Serenity. I think that was a really solid movie. By the time I saw it, I’d forgotten most of what was going on with Firefly, but I still thought it held up really well. It was made for less than 40 million under time and budget. It wasn’t a hit, but it has become a minor cult film. I think he’s a good person for this project.

  13. I don think The Avengers will be a mess.
    But I dont think they need all the foreshadowing.
    If people start to think they have to see all the Marvel movies to understand all the post credit scenes and all that nonsense.
    Eventually they wont want to go to them.
    Dont make it complcated.
    Keep the films simple.
    I am not talking about dumbing the films down.
    But the more they get in to thes big epic stories, the riskier it will be.

  14. Thor was an incredibly weak movie, story-wise.

    And without the Avengers Franchise concept, the only Thor we’d be seeing are the horrid SyFy channel crap movies – so it’s wholly invalid to complain about the Avengers aspects of the Thor film.

    Mind you, I’m not a fan of the “Avengers” franchise. My sole interest is that they all succeed so I get to see more Iron Man and War Machine.

    Captain America, btw, has virtually zero appeal in its trailer.

    and ditto “Clint” – Joss Whedon is wildly overrated.

    However – if Marvel had any brains at all, they’d be delivering a mountain of cash to Jon Favreau right now to at the very least oversee the remainder of the Avengers franchise to ensure they all meet some minimum quality bar.

    Thor didn’t, Captain America won’t, and I very much fear that Iron Man 3 will not, either.

  15. I agree with the movie being bloated. S.H.I.E.L.D. has always kind of been behind the scenes, which is how it was played in Iron Man, and how it should always be. Also, I wouldn’t mind some extended playtimes for the movies. For a huge epic that takes place on two worlds and deals with one of the largest mythologies the Marvel Universe has to offer, under 2 hours seems a little short. I’m not expecting 3 hours, but maybe 2 and a half.

  16. Lets be honest for a moment. No matter how the Avengers is filmed or the stroy line. Someone will not be happy. Your favorite character could have the smallest part and you wouldnt be happy. Do they focus on Cap and Ironman differences of opinions? Or do they spend time on Shellhead and Thors difference of opinion on Tech or magic? I personaly want to see a Hulk/Thor confrontation which I hope is a hell of a lot longer then Thor whippin the Destroyer. But thats just me.

    My fear for this movie is too much shield not enough heroes.

  17. since Iron Man 2, all marvel movies are doomed by The Avengers initiative. They’re popular, they will make +$500 mil at ww bo, but we are getting popcorn with no salt nor butter… you know what I mean?

    They’re showing their biggest heroes just as an excuse to put the avengers together.

    After reading lots of comments from Kenneth Branagh on how Thor is a stand-alone movie I was deeply dissapointed.

    Thor is a big failure as a movie, because almost all the points you mentioned in your article but general audience don’t even care about characters anymore. It’s great that people are embracing this genre but that does not mean the writers cannot make a movie with at least a decent history.

  18. your, should i say, version of Thor sounds intriguing Kofi…but wouldnt you say its overdone?
    Without the shared continuity and the Marvelness of the whole thing, Thor would be the Taming of the Shrew with random special effect shots here and there.
    There isnt a single audience member who didn’t know Thor would turn soft by the end of the film. I think having the bulk of this (frankly, tiresome) aspect of his transformation offscreen was an intentional and intelligent decision.
    The second act of Thor – the current one – its kind of a surprise. You think it’ll be a run of the mill transformation..but it isnt. All this stuff happens thats unique to Marvel.
    Frankly, if this alternate version of Thor was a reality I’d think (and I believe a lot of people would) its taking itself way too seriously.

  19. Have yet to see I M 2 or Thor, but the question doesn’t require that. I love the idea of solo movies for character development before the “superteam” is formed. The little tie-ins in each would be acceptable if “realistically” done. Like Stark’s Dad creating the serum for Cap- not true, but plausible. As a die-hard X-Men fanboy,though, the way that franchise’s continuity has been mucked up is a travesty. Can’t wait to see first class, yet I will because of glaring mistakes and just total disregard to storyline history. Can’t win ‘em all, true believers!

  20. I didn’t like Thor for various reasons I won’t go into. The one moment I did enjoy without question was the when Thor got his hammer and the look on the earth people’s faces. So no special effects for that. Then the look on the Asgardian faces was cheesy. Also Thor’s conversion and the fight with the destroyer really seemed okay to me, which a lot of people have complained about.

    Anyhoo, would this movie ever had been made if not for the Avengers? So, there may be some irony in asking if Avengers ruined it.

    I have thought, and think so more and more, that the shared universe is going to create lifeless cookie-cutter Marvel movies. It’s like the directors are on a pretty tight leash as far as what they can do, and what they have to include.

    I’m hoping that they are giving Joss Wheden more freedom, because maybe they can allow it more at this point. I have faith in Wheden because I’ve liked a lot of his TV shows, but especially because of “Serenity,” which he made for a low budget, working with Unions, etc. and it’s a good solid movie. One also gets the sense that he is good with people. I think he’ll make a good, fun movie, even if the budget is less than 200 million. I think he’s the best man for the job really.

    • “Anyhoo, would this movie ever had been made if not for the Avengers? So, there may be some irony in asking if Avengers ruined it.”

      Kudos Nostelg-O for putting it so succinctly. One other thing that blows any ambition to amplify any element of the story is that the studio heads are going to hold your feet to the fire on the run time! Thinking that Branagh wouldn’t have thought or desired to put in all the things that would have made the movie pop for you is a little stingy to say the least. If he had final cut rights you can rest assured it was granted because he well understood his professional obligations.

      Having said that though I very much would have liked to have had those things everyone else missed. I missed them too! Just the nature of the beast IMO. One thing I’ve observed about Thor is that he struggles time and again with the same character faults. I don’t think anyone has to worry that he overcame his problems too easily. He’s the agile klutz. He’s always tripping but has gotten extremely good at catching himself before falling completely flat…

  21. @Clint

    If Serenity hadn’t been a sequel to a TV show no one watched, I think it might’ve been a modest hit. Considering the Dvd sales.

    @article

    I feel like Thor just needed to be 20 minutes longer. An extra 20 minutes of character development on Earth would have helped the film substantially.

    That said, right now I’m worried about The Avengers because of how LITTLE they’re building it up in the standalone flicks. I mean, come Avengers, we’ll need to spend a large amount of screentime getting Thor back to Earth, recruiting Hulk, and, unless it happens in the Cap flick, thawing out Captain America. Then we’re sure to have a large amount of time getting Cap adjusted to present day Earth.

    I can’t see them doing that in less than an hour, so unless the movie is three hours long, we’ll only get a good hour’s worth of the team working together.

    • Actually No they dont , Odin knows how to get him back to Earth, Loki says it himself, that there are many hidden ways in and out of Asgard, and Hem dale is always watching so Thor will get back to Earth just Fine

      • Add to that the news we ALREADY have that Cap’s getting thawed at the beginning AND end of Captain America, and there’s PLENTY of time.
        Plus, Cappy isn’t an Asgardian god. It’s not like it will take 45 minutes for him to adjust. It’s about 80 years, at first guess.

        People need to relax and try to enjoy these movies.

  22. Thor grew up in an instant when he realized that his brother was a back-stabbing liar who lied to him about his father’s death. The only lessons Thor ever learned were through the stories of war and the rewards of winning his own battles. Being bigger, stronger and more arrogant than mere earthlings they couldn’t have taught him humility. In a way, Loki taught him what Odin couldn’t.

    My biggest gripe with Thor was it felt I was watching two movies. And honestly, it felt like they spent more time developing Loki than Thor. This leads me to believe he will be the villain in the Avengers movie (along with the after-credits scene). In that regards — Yes, setting up the Avengers movie hampered the development of Thor.

    S.H.I.E.L.D. was in Thor for the just the right amount of screen time. They have their fingerprints on everything, we get it. They have an image but still don’t have an identity. Right now, they look more like the M.i.B. to me.

    • I kinda agree and disagree, Mainly because they had to develop Loki as much as they did for Thor. A hero is measured by his Enemies, and The Best villains have been the ones that have been explored and developed as much as their heroes. You want real threat you have to have a real bad guy to do that.

  23. I think The Avengers connection hurt this as it did Iron Man 2.
    The Avengers concept for a movie would have worked best
    after the individual franchises had a few versions out
    and needed a way to reinvigorate each of them.

    • Agreed… in a perfect world, that would have been the ideal way to go at it.

      But I can’t blame Marvel’s eagerness to get this thing going. You never know what will happen within that time frame you’re suggesting. To have sequels for each character – say trilogies (usually that’s when they need to be reinvigorated) – before an ensemble movie, six years would have been needed at the very least. Most likely eight years – so it would be a full century before the Avengers movie finally came out.

      The stars would have gotten older, richer, tired, and lost all their interest in what they were doing.

      And that’s not even counting the potential setbacks ie. Heath Ledger’s untimely death.

      • Er, I mean decade* Lol. Century would be a little too long.

        • No doubt time is of the essence for the studios.
          They have their collective feet on the accelerator
          though and I sense The Avengers is coming to soon.
          Thor and Cap jumping in after only one seems rushed.

          It is not without risk either should The Avengers not be good.
          The individual franchises would be diminished if that is the case.

          As for the century slip, that was easy.
          Hell, it seems like we wait a century
          for some of these films to be made.

      • I think this comes down to the old saying strike while the iron is hot. Doing three movies for Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, and Captain America would put them at something like three to four years down the road until getting to what they seem to want to do as far as the Avengers. Not only is the age of the stars a factor but, Iron Man would have to either delay their third movie or have it come out so far apart from everything else a cameo would be needed anyway to tie the character back in.

        There is also the burnout factor with comic book movies that is always lurking behind these films. With things being re-done already and the potential flood of movies if DC and Warner go ahead with a similar set up for Justice League I think the people at Marvel studios want to get as far in front of this wave as they can so that if there is a drop off in interest and money to be made they don’t have to eat any major losses.

        The third hitch in all of these movies right now is the interesting court cases dealing with who will control these movie rights with Jack Kirby’s family going the same route as the creator of Superman’s family did in suing the companies for money and control. The Superman suit seems like it has pushed Warner/DC into rushing to get another Superman movie out, the Kirby family suit could derail things with Marvel depending on how it goes.

        • True, the court cases is the wild card in many cases.
          Who knows what the Superman case has caused
          to occur and may yet still after Man of Steel.

      • My biggest fear that The Avengers (who are currently filming) stands or falls on Thor and Cap. My second issue each character needs at least 2 films under there belt, however Marvel screwed the pooch by abandoning a Hulk sequel, so Iron Man suffered by picking up the slack. I’m not sure if shield was needed since (correct me if I’m wrong) SHIELD was not in Hulk and it sill set up the Avengers. However the addition of Shield created a way to give Thor the alt ID of Doctor Blake. I’m not sure about anyone else, but Portman and Hemsworth and more on screen chemistry that all three star wars prequels combined.

  24. Perfectly written article.

  25. I think the movie was just fine. The lesson Thor had to learn was not the value of life (which is what you are suggesting, about how fragile Earthlings are, and how precious life is), but rather not being god damn arrogant. He learned humility when he couldn’t lift mjolnir…like a floodgate, the water of realization hit him that he was wrong all those time…then when Loki came and told him that 1) Odin died because of him; 2) Asgard is on a brink of war with Jotunheim; 3) Frigga didn’t want him to return; 4) he can never go back to Asgard…all those informations hit him like a ton of brick and knocked some sense into him that, “yeah, I was a giant ass, I killed my father, I endangered my home, my mother hates me, and I cannot lift my hammer because I am unworthy”…there, that was the point when he learned humility.

    When mjolnir returned to Thor, I think it’s implied that Odin had something to do with that…he did cry while he slept when Thor “died”, and Laufey said that “it’s is said that you can see and hear things around you”…so, Odin, at time could have allowed the hammer to return Thor’s power. When he sacrificed himself to save Jane and the others, and asked for his brother to just end the conflict, which will not gain him anything, Thor was not just thinking of himself, of being a warrior, and certainly not pride and vanity…he was willing to forsake his own life for others…which is what he was “swearing” when he was about to be crowned the new ruler of Asgard…

    It’s really not that subtle, if you think about it. It’s all there.

    Overall, great film, one of the best superhero movies I have seen, and at no point was I bored (unlike all other superhero films, yeah, including the Dark Knight)…

    What it lacks, i think is a better fight with Loki…The fight with the Destroyer I can understand….They were showing that THIS is what it’s like to challenge the power of a god unleashed…Thor brought all the power of the storm, and even the Destroyer was whisked away and casually dismissed by it. Short, sweet, satisfying. The Loki fight however seemed kind of choppy…they square of in Odin’s chamber, Thor get’s thrown out, Loki went riding to bi-frost, they argue some more, a few taunts, they fight for a couple of minutes, and then it’s over. I dunno, it lacked a certain bang. Maybe if Thor just left Loki there pinned by mjolnir, and just used his bare hands to destroy Heimdall’s observatory, that would have been something to see.

    But that’s just a nit…It’s still an awesome, epic movie, which I have seen over and over again…I still can’t get over the horse line.

  26. thor was a really good film not great but it was really good. hope that the leader,a bad @$$ hulk, and ultron are in the avengers film. i really want to see the hulk beat up thor,captain america, and ironman.

  27. I totally agree with Phil. If they don’t do it now, u never know what can happen tomorrow. Everything has it’s ups and downs. To be able to bring the avengers, some of the heroes stand alone’s story would inevitably be hurt. Too bad for that but it’s kind of the price to pay :( I’m hopeful they saved the best for the avengers. Anyway, Great Article!

  28. SHIELD characters have served as “glue” in the comic-book Marvel Universe for decades, it only makes sense they would be involved in Marvel films. The only real tie-ins to the Avengers I saw was Hawkeye and the Fury segment after the credits. All other SHIELD activities fit within the events of the story. If a hammer did land in mexico, they would be on top of it.

  29. I told someone that in between the lines of the Thor movie Avengers was written all over it but he disagreed and was not seeing my point.Thor was good but the shared universe which really affected Iron Man 2 looks a bit risky after seeing these Marvel tie-in to Avengers movies,my perception may change after Cap.America (maybe).The direction it will be taken in(WW2)has made be a bit skeptical.I think WB/DC is taking the right step with their universe and the Justice League movie(the big if movie).