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.
Join the conversation on Twitter.
“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.
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