Marvel Cinematic Retrospective: Thor

Marvel Cinematic Retrospective

Fans today are living in a Golden Age of movies based on comic books. Kids, teenagers, and adults have grown up on the exploits of superheroes since the 1910's, and more recently in film as well. Among the many comic book producers, few were as prominent and beloved as Marvel Comics. It was small wonder that they began to produce movies of their own.

This is a multi-part examination of that effort.


A bit of a departure from the traditional cape and cowl superhero, Thor was an interesting addition to Marvel Comics' heroic repertoire. This founding member of the Avengers made his comic debut in 1962 in Journey Into Mystery #83. Stan Lee, looking for a character even stronger than the Hulk decided to look at mythological gods for inspiration, and decided on the less known Norse mythology. Similar to his mythological origin, Thor is the son of Odin Allfather and the Earth, and blessed with super strength and durability as well as his magic hammer, Mjolnir.

Thor's cinematic debut did not come until 1988. In a move that might surprise fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (but not anyone who's read a few of the Retrospective blogs?), Thor first debuted in The Incredible Hulk live-action series, as a co-star in the movie The Incredible Hulk Returns. Here, one of Bruce Banner's colleague finds an enchanted hammer and becomes bonded with the spirit of Thor, a deity banished here from Valhalla. Together, Thor and the Hulk work to stop a villainous plot before going their separate ways. Below is a shot of Thor and his bonded partner, Dr. Donald Blake.

During the late 1990's, attempts were made at producing a Thor film, first by Sam Raimi and 20th Century Fox, before the rights transferred to Sony Pictures. Development of Thor continued to languish until the rights to Thor passed to Paramount Pictures, who by then had entered into the deal with the then-new Marvel Studios to produce its Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Following the success of Iron Man and Iron Man 2, Marvel decided to continue teasing in more plotlines and characters. In Iron Man 2, Agent Coulson alludes to a situation developing in New Mexico, where it is revealed Thor's hammer has turned up. Meanwhile, production of Thor had begun in earnest, with Kenneth Branagh directing, and starring Chris Hemsworth in the title role. Rounding out the main cast were Tom Hiddleston as Loki, Natalie Portman as Thor's love-interest Jane Foster, Idris Elba as Heimdall the Watchman and Anthony Hopkins as Odin Allfather. The film was a moderate success, receiving more praise over Iron Man 2 although it fell slightly short in terms of revenue.


Thor, as in the comics, returned in 2012's The Avengers as a main cast member. In the movie, Thor is hunting down his brother Loki who is trying to conquer the world. More on that later in our coverage of that series.

Marvel's The Avengers

The next proper outing was Thor: The Dark World. Though released in late 2013, production of the film began practically before the first one had even finished its theatrical run. Compared to Iron Man 2 in 2010, Thor: The Dark World benefited from a concrete production plan for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. More or less assured that the movie would be a hit, and further movies would follow regardless of how the film performed, Marvel and now-owner Disney pushed ahead with production. The previous cast returned alongside new villain Malekith, played by Christopher Eccleston. Here, Thor has to deal with an unknown force threatening Jane and the Earth while Loki must answer for his former crimes. Thor: The Dark World earned a notably higher box office total compared to the previous film, and though not quite as liked critically, Marvel was content to continue its journey through the Nine Realms.


As with his fellow superheroes, Thor returned again as part of the cast for Avengers: Age of Ultron. During the movie, Thor begins to suspect a greater threat working behind the scenes. Carrying on from after-credits scenes in The Avengers and Thor: The Dark World, Thor worries that Earth and Asgard will face trouble, whether it is an impending apocalypse or someone trying to unite the newly appearing Infinity Stones. Maybe he's on to something...


Thor's adventures eventually lead him back home in 2017's Thor: Ragnarok. When their father dies, Thor and Loki must contend with the return of their banished sister Hela, who is determined to rule Asgard at any cost. The two must put aside their differences and work together, along with frenemy the Hulk and new ally Valkyrie to defeat Hela and save the people of Asgard. Notable in the new cast are Cate Blanchett as Hela and Jeff Goldblum as the Grandmaster.


Thor is also instrumental in both Avengers: Infinity War and direct sequel Avengers: Endgame. He is one of the many heroes who challenges Thanos in his bid to control the Infinity Stones.

Future adventures for Thor are in the works. Chief among them is his next announced adventure, Thor: Love and Thunder. 

Not much is known about the movie, though rumor has it that fans will get to see a second incarnation of the character as Lady Thor, portrayed by Natalie Portman. It was also heavily hinted in Avengers: Endgame that Thor might have a future adventure with the Guardians of the Galaxy, but details on that remain unknown.

Stay tuned next month as we cover the "Star-Spangled Man With a Plan", Captain America.

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