THE AVENGERS: The THOR Reaction


The Avengers (2012) – The 6th Marvel Cinematic Universe Film – Directed by Joss Whedon – Starring Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Clark Gregg, Cobie Smulders, Stellan Skarsgård, Gwyneth Paltrow, Paul Bettany, Alexis Denisof, Stan Lee, Powers Boothe, Lou Ferrigno, and Harry Dean Stanton.

Welcome to the ninth character-specific reaction to Joss Whedon’s THE AVENGERS. I’ve already written a 4,200+ word review of the film, but that wasn’t nearly enough to cover everything I wanted to talk about, so I’m going to write character-specific reactions to delve a bit deeper into the film. You can find all of the relevant AVENGERS links at the bottom of this post.

Also, please note that these reactions are evolving as we go. If you see some line I got wrong or a detail I overlooked, by all means let me know. I’ve seen the movie twice, but it’s a long movie and the audience reacts wildly in parts, so some things get lost or forgotten or misinterpreted. And I’m sure some of the quotes are wrong, but I will correct the mistakes as I become aware of them. Don’t be surprised if these reactions grow a bit in the coming days.

Let me be clear about what’s coming: SPOILERS. Lots and lots of SPOILERS. Read ahead only if you’re cool with that. If you haven’t seen the movie and don’t want things ruined, come on back when you do.

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“Selvig?”

“He’s an astrophysicist.”

“He’s a friend.”

The more obvious choice for a starting quote to introduce this reaction to Thor, of course, would have been the much funnier, “He’s adopted” line that follows later during this scene, but for me, Thor’s hard insistence that Selvig is a friend provides a far greater insight into his character. It’s a small moment but probably my favorite Thor moment in the entire film because it speaks so much to his character and the transformation he underwent in his solo movie.

Thor, Cap, and Iron Man all get subtle references back to their solo movies which gives a quick nod to the fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe without dwelling on it. There’s a quick scene here aboard the Helicarrier where Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is given an update on Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and how SHIELD is protecting her from this reappearance of Loki (Tom Hiddleston), but it’s Thor’s insistence that Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) is a friend that makes the Marvel Cinematic Universe feel like so much more than separate parts crashing into one another.

“Selvig?” he asks, instantly concerned.

“He’s an astrophysicist,” Banner explains, not understanding that Thor knows him.

“He’s a friend,” Thor snarls back, and even though he’s committed himself to this endeavor thanks to the involvement of his half-brother Loki, it’s the fact that Selvig has been drawn into this that gets Thor’s back up and binds him to the cause beyond familial responsibility. Thor appreciates the role Selvig played in his own transformation from spoiled god to defender of Earth, and he means to rescue him from Loki’s scheme.

Thor’s role in AVENGERS feels muted to me, as he’s the one member of the team that really does feel isolated from the rest of the group. You would think this role would fall to Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) and the Hulk, but Stark’s fascination with Banner, everyone’s desire to keep Banner from transforming into the Hulk, and Banner coming out of his shell to become a part of this unit bring him into the inner circle, while Thor stands just outside of it, close but distant at the same time.

We see this in two different areas. First, Mark Ruffalo gets a higher billing than Chris Hemsworth on the poster and in the credits; I have no real understanding of the vagaries of the hierarchy of credit allotment, but it does seem odd that Hemsworth is the only one of the Big 3 who’s not listed in the first three acting credits. Secondly, and more importantly, it’s Bruce Banner who gets to stand with Tony Stark and Captain America (Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans) when they have their “we don’t trust Fury” chat. While this important scene is going on, Thor is on the bridge, discussing the bilgesnipe, an Asgardian beast not found on Earth.

It’s a curious decision.

It’s Thor who gets to stand alongside Iron Man and Cap in the Big 3 money shot after their battle in the forest, but it’s Banner who feels like the third component after that. Thor’s involvement in the film seems designed to play off Loki more than it is to become an Avenger.

After Cap and Iron Man “capture” Loki in Stuttgart and stuff him in the back of a SHIELD jet (which still cracks me up – here’s the guy who stole the Tesseract and Steve and Stark have him sitting free like he’s in the back of a paddywagon), thunder and lightning start gathering around them. Steve catches Loki’s look of concern and asks if he’s afraid of a little lightning.

“I’m not overly fond of what follows,” Loki says somberly.

I love that line and it says absolutely everything you need to know about Thor’s power, just like Tasha’s look of fear in that cabin in India said everything you needed to know about the Hulk as a powerhouse. We don’t have to wait as long to get a peak at Thor’s power, as the Thunder God drops down on the jet, forces his way inside, and steals Loki away from Tony, Steve, and Tasha.

Thor’s approach to dealing with Loki is a mixture of grief, relief, and anger. As he tells him when he pulls him off that jet and lands down on a rocky hill overlooking a forest, “We thought you dead.”

“Did you mourn for me, brother?” Loki asks with a sneer.

Thor is clearly emotional about Loki’s return and his alliance with some unknown alien force and his approach to dealing with him is an older brother scolding a younger sibling for doing something dumb and dangerous, but still willing to help the brother right the wrong. To Thor, the solution is simple: get Loki to return the Tesseract and sever his ties with the Chitauri. This is Thor’s attempt to put his foot down, but Loki isn’t having it, and before Thor can make his final appeal – “Listen to me, brother!” – Iron Man has arrived and taken Thor to the forest ground, where they proceed to spend the next few minutes knocking each other around.

I love the Thor vs. Iron Man fight because it starts with a bit of wordplay, including Stark labeling the Thor/Loki matter as, “Shakespeare in the park,” and then quickly descends to a really brutal fight in which neither man pulls any punches. They hammer each other through trees, unleashing the power of Mjolnir and the power of Stark tech on one another and it’s just pure fanboy delight to watch them throwdown. It’s a fight with no lasting physical consequence – we know neither one of them are going to end up with more than a scratch – so we can concentrate on the emotional consequence. Stark takes a full on lightning blast from Mjolnir, and he’s thrilled to hear that the suit is now operating at 400% capacity.

When Captain America arises and challenges Thor to back down, the Asgardian leaps at him and drops his hammer with a thunderous boom right on Captain America’s shield, which sends a shockwave blast across the forest, felling all three of them and bringing some common sense into the equation.

They all head back to the Helicarrier to sit around a table and talk, and this is where Thor’s disconnect from the rest of the group really takes hold. It’s easy to see him as the outsider during that previous sequence, but it’s reinforced here and never really changes. Steve and Stark bond, Stark and Banner bond, Tasha and Clint have a bond, but Thor never really gets to have a heart-to-heart with anyone on the team. He has a comfortable chat with Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) about how Asgardians like to think they’re better than humans but come down here battling like Asgardian beasts. He knows Coulson a bit from his solo movie and it’s Coulson, Selvig, and Jane Foster (who, again, is only seen in the film as a picture on a monitor) where Thor’s bonds of friendship lie.

So where Steve and Tony get paired up, and Tony and Bruce, and Clint and Tasha, Thor’s only real bond are with his brother Loki and then people who are barely in the movie. During the Big Argument scene where Loki uses the power of his staff to exacerbate everyone’s negative feelings about one another, Thor’s only real contribution is to remark that humans are “small … and petty.”

Unless you know the comic book history of the Avengers, my guess is you’d leave Whedon’s film thinking the Big 3 were Cap, Iron Man, and Hulk, not Thor.

After Thor’s “small and petty” line, he’s really just muscle for the rest of the film. He gets a great fight with Hulk on the Helicarrier, and there’s two things that strike me the most about this brawl. The first is that I love the way Thor calls Mjolnir to him, which is made even cooler when the Hulk tries – and fails – to life Mjolnir off the floor – a moment that could only have been made better if Thor called Mjolnir to him at that moment, thus bringing a hurtling Hulk towards him. There’s only brilliant shot, though, with Thor just pulverizing the Hulk’s face on a massive uppercut with Mjolnir that sends the green giant backwards.

The best part of this fight, however, is that Thor enjoys it. When the Hulk delivers a battering blow and Thor checks his face for blood, he smiles. He wants this fight. He wants the challenge, even as he realizes that he’s outmatched. During the fight with Iron Man, Thor’s strength enabled him to crush Stark’s armor, but here it’s the Hulk with the advantage.

Thor gets trapped in the Helicarrier cage made for the Hulk, and is the only one to witness the Loki vs. Agent Coulson throwdown, and in Loki’s attack on the SHIELD agent, you can see that something breaks inside of Thor. He realizes this isn’t just his brother being incorrigible but that his brother really is a monster.

When Thor had challenged the others earlier to remember that Loki was still his brother, and Tasha informed him that Loki had killed 80 people in two days, Thor’s, “He’s adopted” line got a laugh, but now … now Thor knows there’s no going back and he commits fully to being an Avenger. When Fury later says that he manipulated Coulson’s death with the blood-soaked trading cards because the Avengers “needed a push,” we know that Thor has already gotten his push from Loki’s attack and Coulson’s attempt to fight back.

In the big, final battle against the Chitauri, the Hulk once again benefits at the expense of Thor. First, there’s the truly hilarious moment where the Hulk sucker punches Thor after the two of them team up to take down a Leviathan. It’s one of the film’s funnier moments but it does come at Thor’s expense, and then in another of the film’s best moments, it’s Hulk who takes Loki out of the battle. Since Thor’s one real connection in the film is with his brother, it’s a moment that would have worked better – simply from a structural standpoint – if Thor got to take Loki down. Now, I’m not complaining about what we got because what we got might just well be the best scene in the entire film, but it is important to note that it does potentially rob Thor of a big moment.

The same goes for the end of the film, when Thor calls the thunder but can’t shut the portal down. He does stop additional Chitauri from coming through, but stopping more troops isn’t the same as blowing up the Chitauri mothership (that’s Stark’s moment) or closing the portal (that’s Widow’s). What we’re left with, then, is a Thor that never wholly gels with the team (though he and Cap have a nice moment during the battle), and never has a big, signature moment.

None of this makes my enjoyment in the film any less, but it does point out, I think, that Thor is the one main character in the film that is left a bit wanting. I really like Chris Hemsworth as Thor, and he gives the Asgardian a palpable sense of honor and quiet strength. Thor doesn’t need to have the spotlight and Hemsworth makes Thor’s life on the fringes work wonderfully. A somewhat aloof, somewhat reserved, ready for battle, never backing down from a challenge Thor works for me, and of all of the solo movies in the pipeline, it’s THOR 2 that I’m most looking forward to seeing. I want to see Thor continue to develop as a character and Hemsworth continue to grow as an actor.

———

Atomic Reactions: Marvel Comics on Film now available.

____________

THE AVENGERS REVIEW INDEX

THE AVENGERS: THE MOVIE REVIEW
THE AVENGERS: THE HAWKEYE REACTION
THE AVENGERS: THE AGENT COULSON REACTION
THE AVENGERS: THE BLACK WIDOW REACTION
THE AVENGERS: THE NICK FURY REACTION
THE AVENGERS: THE MARIA HILL REACTION
THE AVENGERS: THE CAPTAIN AMERICA REACTION
THE AVENGERS: THE CHITAURI/THANOS REACTION
THE AVENGERS: THE HULK REACTION
THE AVENGERS: THE THOR REACTION
THE AVENGERS: THE LOKI REACTION
THE AVENGERS: THE IRON MAN REACTION

THE MARVEL CINEMATIC UNIVERSE REVIEW INDEX

1. IRON MAN
2. THE INCREDIBLE HULK
3. IRON MAN 2
4. THOR
5. CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER

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10 thoughts on “THE AVENGERS: The THOR Reaction

  1. Just a couple little things that I think maybe speak to some of your issues with Thor. I agree that he really did seem like the 5th wheel at times, but I think that was probably by design. He is, after all, alien. Of everyone involved, he really does have the least stake. He cares about Earth, and has, as he points out, friends among us, but it is clear he is still ‘other’ and at the end of the day, the invasion just isn’t as personal for him as it is for the rest of the team. The stakes for the rest of the players in this game is their home and lives, for Thor, the stakes are more his personal pride and family honor.

    As far as the final throwdown with Loki goes, I think you almost had to have it be Hulk. Stark and Cap had their showdown moments with Loki already in the film, and there is no way you could top the fight Thor and Loki already had in Thor’s solo film. Hulk was the only ‘big’ left to face down Loki.

    And while this gets back to the whole ‘Hulk steals Thor’s thunder’ point, I just remembered a fun little scene referring back to the previous films moment. It was about the only one Hulk got in the movie, but it was individually a better line than all the Thor references combined. As the team learns they’re bound for Manhattan and Banner’s response was, “The last time I was in New York I kind of broke… Harlem.” Never thought I’d hear myself say this, but that line trumps Natalie Portman’s face hovering on a computer screen.

  2. I will not dispute your analysis on Thor’s character in the AVENGERS, but I have to add something. EVERYTHING smelled of an “Up yours, Thor” movie. This movie is for Iron Man and Hulk fans. I’m matured enough to not let the floor-mat-Thor portrayal get in the way of enjoying the movie—a quick two hours, for sure. But let’s look at a few things.
    1) In the woods, Iron Man tells off Thor and turns his back on him. Thor hurls the hammer at his back (Iron Man turns unexpectedly to receive the full blow). Here we have not a noble warrior, but a cheap-attack coward.
    2) Thor hurls lightning at Iron Man seconds later. Love the fact that he unintentionally recharged the gold-red adventure, but that’s it??? Lightning strikes have been known to not only shatter and burn a roof, but also send large portions of the roof a football field away from the house. Iron Man isn’t hurled back? Boy what a “Puny Good”, as Hulk would say.
    3) I STROOOONGLY disagree that Hulk overmatches Thor. Thor stopped Hulk’s downward strike upon him, one arm to one arm. But then uses his second arm on that one Hulk arm. He may have been trying to immobilize the arm, BUT HE LOOKED LIKE A FOOL. Two arms are occupied with one of your opponent’s arm. This leaves Thor open to a punch from the free GREEN arm. Oh, come on—isn’t Blondie supposed to be experienced in battle for centuries?
    4) When Thor climbs on Hulk’s back and used his hammer to – I can only guess— choke ol’ Greenie, the Hulk tries to pull it away from his throat. He fails (again attesting to Thor’s strength). But he jumps up and make Thor crash into two ceilings (not breaking through the second) and Thor is flicked off? By what, the shock?
    5) Everybody likes the (cowardly) sucker punch that Hulk gave Thor. I agree that the humor was at his expense. But that also makes Thor look like a fool. No retaliation? No half attempts to do a Foghorn vs Farm Dog (you had to have watch Warner Brothers cartoon as a kid to get that) running battle while facing the real foes? Thor looks like the little weak school kid that the other students picked on. Oh by the way, what led to that sucker punch also verifies my notion that Thor is, at the very least, Hulk’s equal: Hulk takes one of the scales of that flying dragon-pack mule creature and with both hands rams it into the monsters back. It does NOT go in all the way. Thor, with ONE arm, drives the scale into the beast and kills it. Perhaps Ol’Jade Jaws was upset that he wasn’t the one to stop the creature.
    6) In the battle’s finale (where we get the self-sacrificing Tony who was in most of the film, self-centered… where did the transformation come from?) Iron Man’s power gives out and falls back to the earth. Thor is ready to rescue him but the Hulk-bias scripts had Hulk catch him. Okay, but then it’s time to power him up, right? His energy is gone and the shrapnel in his body should be closing on his heart, right? Thor’s potential contribution is toilet-flushed AGAIN. Who revives and empowers Tony? Hulk… with a holler, No less.
    I am for making another AVENGERS movie, but if they are going to underplay Thor and make him a fool, a coward, or the school kid you’d love to pick on, then LEAVE HIM OUT! Go enlist and then kick Sentry or Blackbolt around. Leave my childhood hero alone.

    Yes, as I said, I DID enjoy the movie. And yes, it’s all about fictional characters. I just could not stand some parts.

    • I’m going to take your comments point by point, and give my thoughts, in the hopes that I can shed some light on the events and make the movie seem more reasonable to you.

      1) The beginning of the fight between Thor and Iron Man closely mirrors the frost giant battle from ‘Thor,’ which begins with Laufey asking Thor to avoid a bloody battle where none is really necessary, and Thor (at Loki’s urging) finally agrees. One of the Jotuns decides to mock Thor’s retreat, “Run back home, little princess.” – this being the straw that breaks the camel’s back, and causes Thor to attack. Thor turns and with a blow from Mjolnir, slams the unsuspecting frost giant, probably killing him. The Jotun might have been able to defend himself, had Thor not been turning away from the battle just before this (cowardly) assault. In both cases, Thor is reluctantly willing to set the battle aside and settle for the peaceful option, but his opponent just has to get in that last insult, to turn a truce into a victory, and they end up taking the hit for it. I bring this up because if the attack is cowardly, then it was just as cowardly in ‘Thor,’ and ‘Avengers’ is at least being consistent.

      The only other defense I can offer is that Iron Man brought it upon himself, by insulting Thor and turning his back. He should have seen that coming.

      2) I assumed that since the Iron Man armor absorbed the energy from the lightning, it thereby prevented the other effects, such as the kinetic energy increase of throwing him backwards.

      3) Since Thor was trying to talk Banner into de-hulking, I would say that he wasn’t in ‘battle mode’ just yet. Even though the Hulk was already attacking him, he didn’t approach it as a fight, because he was trying to keep it from becoming a fight. Of course, once his mandatory ‘This is your chance to back out’ statement is over, and rejected, he allows himself to really appreciate the thrill of the battle. I’d also point out that Thor’s strategy in the comics (at least in the early ones, that I’ve read) usually involved letting his opponent get a few hits in before he really ‘put the hammer down’ on them. He also does this conspicuously in the modern cartoon ‘Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes,’ so I think he’s probably doing the same thing here. Let the Hulk get in a punch, see how hard he hits, and top him.

      4) I didn’t get a good look at what was happening here, so I really can’t make an argument against your point. It seems silly that Thor would be knocked off simply by slamming into the ceiling, when the Hulk’s ridiculously large muscles couldn’t do it. Are you sure the Hulk didn’t fling Thor off with his arms, and just use the ceiling to put more force behind it?

      5) I wouldn’t call the Hulk’s sucker-punch ‘cowardly,’ per ce, because I don’t think he thought it out that much. People talk about how the Hulk is more intelligent and more of a character in this movie, and it’s true, but his battle strategy remains… ‘Hulk smash.’ I think it’s just that he ran out Chitauri to punch, and unlike with Iron Man or Captain America, his memories of Thor are quite aggressive, so he turned on him. But more to the point, I think it’s a testament to Thor’s reasonableness that he didn’t engage in a battle with the Hulk while stopping the Chitauri from attacking New York (although that could easily have been the best part of the movie), but instead kept focused on the fight at hand and allowed the Hulk to do the same.

      Also, I’d like to point out that when Thor and the Hulk are working together to take down the space whale (dragon, leviathan, whatever), after the Hulk jabs that piece of metal into the creature, and Thor hits it with Mjolnir, lightning goes flying from the hammer, indicating that he is not merely hitting this thing further into the whale’s head than the Hulk did, but actually using the metal as a conductor to electrocute its brain. To be fair, I give Hulk half the credit for that kill, for piercing the whale’s armor and giving a Thor an easy road to victory, but it’s also worth noting that even if he weren’t quite as strong as the Hulk, Thor still has the lighting and powerful weather-based super-attacks that easily make him the mightiest Avenger.

      6) Ahh! I agree with you so much! I don’t have many criticisms of this movie, but this is definitely one of them. They had a great opportunity to demonstrate further teamwork, and emphasize how far they’d come by harking back to their very rocky start. Not to mention bringing Thor into the team more. With Iron Man losing power, I thought they were setting up to have Thor save him. It was so perfect, and then they didn’t do it! I’m so confused.

  3. How dumb and rude of me. I was so into my rant that I forgot to thank you for a thorough and engaging review. You certainly gave me food for thought on Thor’s contribution to the movie.

    • Not at all, Henry. I love hearing everyone’s take on the film, especially passionate takes on the film. I’ve read through your comments several times now and I greatly appreciate you taking the time to leave them here for everyone to read.

  4. If I were to identify the Big 3 after watching this movie, it would be Captain America, Tony Stark, and Natasha Romanov. Natasha is integral in bringing the team together, she’s the first person to be brought into the loop after Rogers and Stark have their peace-making over Coulson’s death, seamlessly transitioning from SHIELD agent to Avenger, and (as you point out in one of the other character responses), Hawkeye gets on the team just because she nods her support. She gets the honor of closing the portal at the end, which is certainly as important (if not as entertaining) as the Hulk’s pounding Loki against the floor. In fact, it seems like much of the movie is told from her perspective.

    On the other hand, Banner always seems to be a step or two removed from the team. They always seem to approach him with an attitude of ‘how do we deal with this guy?’ Captain America and Iron Man bicker over Stark’s playful attempts to agitate Banner, and Fury and Natasha are always ready to pull a gun on him at a moment’s notice.

    Thor has his story arc, but it’s separate from the core team, and largely relegated to subtext. He isn’t even in the running.

  5. “…a bit wanting.” is an under statement tbh. I thought that Thor in this movie was really depowered for whatever reasons and didnt reflect the comics at all. This was a guy that was suppose to be able to fight for months without food water and rest, lift the Midgard serpent which is heavy as earth, and for all that he was jobbing to Hulk big time. The only thing that went well in their battle was the uppercut with Moljnir.

    And then when the SHIELD plane was engaging the Hulk, they showed Thor jumping out of the way of the bullets. I mean seriously? For someone that is able to deflect bullets with his hammer….

    Then in final battle at New York when he was fighting alongside Cap. All they showed was him hitting the Chitauri with his hammer. Where’s the Thunder?

    IMO the movie was great, but at Thor’s expense. It really did a poor job of showing how powerful the god of thunder is suppose to be.

  6. All right, it has been more than a year since Lynn accurately wrote ” …. The movie was great, but at Thor’s expense.”

    Question 1: Remember when Capt. America told Thor to “bottleneck” the dimensional opening?

    Thor used lightning to turn the invaders back. Why didn’t this continue, since it was so successful? The source was the environment–that meant that the attack could not be exhausted.

    Question 2: Why in their battles with Thor did Iron Man and Hulk have the last licks?

    ANSWER: this flick was really an Iron Man and Hulk Movie, guest starring the other guys. Specifically addressing Question 1, Thor wasn’t supposed to shine. Tony Stark had to save the day and Banner, in turn, had to save him.

    I shudder to think what Whedon has in store for Thor in Avengers 2. I wouldn’t be surprise if he’s the first to fall before Ultron, and stay down for most of the flick until someone rescues him.

    Well, that’s my gripe with Whedon. My contention with the writer comes in the statement the Thor was outclassed by Hulk. Please view the battle again. Thor, at one point ,stops a downward blow from Hulk’s arm with one arm. Sadly, Whedon then makes Thor out to he an idiot by trapping Hulk’s one arm with his TWO arms. That opened him up to a free punch.

    Later Thor is on his foe’s back while his hammer is around the Hulk’s neck. Ol’ Greenie tries to pull it away from his Adam’s Apple, but fails. Only by jumping up and making Thor absorb the impact of crashing into two ceiling does Hulk escape.

    Now when the writer of this article says things like Thor is at a disadvantage in the strength department when facing Hulk, I think it would be fair to assume that the author is in one of the Scout Masters in Whedon’s Let’s-Dump- On- The- Asgardian Camp.

  7. Sorry, that last remark about the writer being a Scout Master in the Let’s-Dump-On- The-Asgardian Camp was grossly unfair. I am so dumb to have said that.
    In all fairness, the author did say that there were moments in the movie where Thor would have been the logical protagonist, but Whedon chose another Avenger to solve a problem.

    He also says that movie goers who aren’t comic book readers may have to be convinced that there wasn’t just a BIG THREE– Cap, Iron Man and Hulk. There was supposed to be (but the flick fell short in depicting) a CORE FOUR.

    Again, my apologies. The Writer seemed genuinely intent on portraying a balanced review.

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