Out of all the MCU’s solo franchises, it’s arguable that the Thor trilogy was the one that struggled the most. Marvel fans have always loved the character and the way Chris Hemsworth plays him, but from Kenneth Branagh’s Shakespearean tragedy to Alan Taylor’s GoT-style medieval fantasy to Taika Waititi’s nutty slapstick comedy, the Thor trilogy has bounced around a few different styles, genres, and tones to see what fit.
As it turns out, they didn’t really figure it out until the third one and even then, some fans are skeptical. Here are 5 Things Thor’s Solo Trilogy Did Right (And 5 It Did Wrong).
10 Wrong: Love interest
By the laws of Hollywood filmmaking, every MCU solo movie needs a love interest. But where some of those movies have developed complicated and interesting relationships that fans have enjoyed following, like Peter Quill and Gamora or Tony Stark and Pepper Potts, others have given us banal romantic interests played by actors who have no chemistry with the lead, like Christine Palmer, or Jane Foster.
Natalie Portman is a terrific actor – one of the best working today, some would say – so she could’ve given the MCU a brilliant character if she was given any interesting material to work with in the scripts.
9 Right: Thor’s relationship with Loki
What makes Thor’s solo franchise unique is that it’s not just about him. Since the beginning, it’s been about his relationship with his brother, Loki, who continues to deceive and betray him.
Their relationship is a little like Jimmy and Chuck in Better Call Saul; you know that one brother is constantly screwing over the other brother and the other brother should just cut them out of their lives, but since they’re brothers, you know they can’t do that. The on-screen chemistry shared by Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston is an integral part of this – if they didn’t have chemistry, it wouldn’t work.
8 Wrong: An uninspired second chapter
MCU fans are pretty much unanimous in the opinion that Thor: The Dark World is the worst movie in the franchise (or, at the very least, that it’s very near the bottom). TV director Alan Taylor was brought in and he churned out a very bland and by-the-numbers take on the character. Loki’s fake-out death is predictable, the battle scenes don’t come close to matching Taylor’s work on Game of Thrones, and Jane Foster is given both her biggest role and her least substantial material.
Being the second chapter (the one that is usually the best: The Empire Strikes Back, Spider-Man 2, The Dark Knight, The Godfather Part II), The Dark World really drags down the trilogy. The third Thor movie had to be out-and-out bananas just to make up for how uninspired the second one was.
7 Right: Family themes
The strength of the Thor saga has always been its focus on family. Since he’s royalty, family has always been an important part of the God of Thunder’s life, and it’s the key to understanding him as a character.
Thor’s relationships with his brother, father, and mother have always been at the forefront of his stories – or, at least, they’ve been at the forefront in the first and third movies, which worked better than the second. A big part of the reason why The Dark World failed is that, even with moments like Frigga’s death, it lost sight of the family themes.
6 Wrong: Pre-Ragnarok comic relief
It’s often said that Thor: Ragnarok fixed the Thor trilogy by making it funny. The problem before was not a lack of humor, just a lack of good humor. The first two movies made attempts at comedy, and aside from a couple of fish-out-of-water gags involving Thor adjusting to life on Earth in the first one, it simply wasn’t that funny.
Kat Dennings and Chris O’Dowd gave it their all, but The Dark World’s moments of humor just didn’t land. They were completely mishandled. Of course, as soon as the brilliant mind of Taika Waititi was hired to tackle the third Thor movie, this issue was under control.
5 Right: Anthony Hopkins as Odin
A lot of the casting in the Thor franchise is spot-on, Hemsworth and Hiddleston being the most obvious examples, but since they’re players in the wider MCU, that’s not really a point in favor of Thor’s solo series, but rather the franchise as a whole.
Anthony Hopkins as Odin, however, is very much a product of Thor’s solo movies, and he did a fantastic job. In a lot of his blockbuster roles, Hopkins seems to phone it in, like in the mind-numbing Transformers: The Last Knight, but in the Thor movies, he always brought his A-game. Whether he was stripping Thor of his powers or dying, Hopkins always sold the weight of Odin’s scenes.
4 Wrong: World-building
Although we know what Asgard looks like from afar with ample sweeping crane shots (plus, we’ve seen various locations close up), the world-building in the Thor movies has left a lot to be desired. Asgard is a fascinating place in the comics, and yet none of the movies have managed to convey that. We don’t get a sense of Asgard the way we get a sense of Hogwarts or the Death Star and that’s a huge disappointment.
It meant that we didn’t really care when Asgard was destroyed in Ragnarok. The Russos have done a better job of establishing New Asgard, the small Norwegian fishing town that the Asgardians have relocated to, in just one movie than three directors did with three movies set largely in the original Asgard.
3 Right: Villains
Apart from Malekith, the primary villain of The Dark World who felt underdeveloped and, as a result, boring, the villains in the Thor trilogy have all been pretty awesome. Loki proved to be such a strong villain that he was brought back as the main villain in The Avengers (as a side-note, there should be more recurring villains in the MCU, because the one-villain-per-movie system is getting to be a drag).
Even the Destroyer felt like a real threat. And in Ragnarok, we got not one, not two, but three great villains: Cate Blanchett’s delightfully flamboyant Hela, Jeff Goldblum’s hysterically unhinged Grandmaster, and a suitably formidable Surtur.
2 Wrong: No narrative consistency
While each Thor movie technically follows on from the previous one’s narrative developments, his solo franchise doesn’t feel like a consistent three-part story in the way that Iron Man and Captain America’s solo trilogies do. Instead, it feels like it was constantly trying to “fix” itself.
Kenneth Branagh’s Thor was too light, so Marvel hired Alan Taylor to take the sequel to darker places. The Dark World was too serious, so Marvel hired Taika Waititi to take the threequel to brighter and sillier places. The Thor trilogy doesn’t feel like a trilogy as much as two write-offs followed by the first installment in a proper Thor trilogy.
1 Right: Finishing strong
The hardest movie in a trilogy to pull off is the third one, since it has the obligation of wrapping up the story and topping the first two. In the Thor trilogy’s case, the latter wasn’t too difficult, but the third movie, Ragnarok, was still faced with a difficult challenge.
Marvel made a wise decision bringing in Taika Waititi to direct the movie as a bright, colorful, zany comedy, because it differentiated Ragnarok from the previous two installments (neither of which are MCU classics) and felt like a breath of fresh air. As it turns out, all the Thor movies were missing was humor.