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When Chris Hemsworth‘s Thor made his hammer-smashing debut in the Marvel Cinematic Universe in 2011, his character was ripped directly from comic book pages, staying true to his origins and persona – a noble warrior whose sole reason for existing is to protect his home world of Asgard, his people, and the rest of the nine realms. In the greater timeline of the MCU, Thor appears in his own stand-alone trilogy (Thor, Thor: The Dark World, Thor: Ragnarok), two ensemble films (The Avengers, Avengers: Age of Ultron) and Doctor Strange.

Thor: Ragnarok (the last film in the trilogy) is a welcome and drastic change from his previous films. Thor is so remarkably different that we barely recognize the original God of Thunder, especially with his snazzy new haircut. And It’s not just Thor – the entire film has a completely contrasting tone and aesthetic compared to the rest of the trilogy. Director Taika Watiti took Thor out of a dark world of doom and gloom and tossed him into a whimsical rainbow.

Throughout his screen time in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Thor noticeably transforms from a serious, wise warrior into a goofball (bordering on big buffoon) with a magical hammer. Although fans adore this new light-hearted, funny guy version of Thor, we’re still asking, “since when did Thor become a comedian?”

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Thor (2011)

Serious Thor is Serious

For a Marvel movie, Thor is underwhelming and forgettable. Directed by Kenneth Branagh, Thor is a close adaptation to the God of Thunder’s comic book roots, but it doesn’t leave much of an impression.

Thor is first introduced as a strong yet arrogant warrior. Not only is he full of self-pride, but he’s not that nice and enjoys smashing things and yelling. Just as Thor is about to inherit his father’s throne on Asgard, enemy Frost Giants interfere. Thor gathers his warrior pals and immediately starts a bloody, murderous battle (against his father’s wishes).

Because of this betrayal, Odin banishes Thor from Asgard and strips him of his powers. He shoots him down to earth where he is forced to live and learn as a mortal. Once Thor is stuck on Earth, we start to see some depth and change of character. He’s picked up by scientists and quickly falls for Jane (Natalie Portman) showing us his softer side. When he is unable to pull his trusty hammer from the ground, he starts to cry in pain. Who knew Thor had so many feels?

For the rest of the movie Thor is kind, caring, loyal, and smart. Thor is much more than a pretty face, he speaks with an air of royalty and offers sage advice. He even picks up Jane’s book of scientific research and explains in detail how her work connects to the nine realms.

Even though Chris Hemsworth is near perfect at bringing Thor to life, the film itself isn’t that much fun when compared to the rest of the MCU. Thor is visually dark, with a heavy storyline and gloomy tone. There is little to no comedic relief except for the fish-out-of-water bits when he’s stuck on Earth. Although he makes it back to Asgard and saves his home from Loki and the Frost Giants, the film ends with the supposed death of his brother and a shattered Bifrost, meaning he will never see Jane again (this is quickly remedied in the sequels). Well, isn’t that depressing!

In his first live-action adaptation, Thor is presented as an honorable warrior and dedicated protector with a kind heart. He learns how to be humble and what it takes to be a real hero. This is the Thor that we know from comic books, origin story and all. Not much room for jokes.

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The Avengers (2012)

Brooding Thor is Brooding

The gang’s all here! Directed by Joss Whedon, The Avengers is the first time in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that Captain America, Iron Man, Black Widow, Hawkeye, and Thor team up. But it’s Asgard that takes center stage: Loki strikes again by stealing the tesseract and trying to take over Earth in his desperate hunt for a throne. When Loki is first captured by SHIELD, Thor rains down from the sky and scares everyone to death. Surprise! Loki didn’t die when he fell off the Bifrost into dark space.

Thor comes in hot, heavy, and angry. He rips Loki out of custody to take him back to Asgard, but ends up in a fierce battle with Iron Man and Cap. During this scene Iron Man is full of one-liners per usual, but Thor is not laughing…at all. He wants Loki to face justice on Asgard.

At first, Thor comes across as a threatening enemy, but once when he realizes they are all on the same side, he explains Loki’s twisted plan and how he can be stopped. Poor Thor is brooding inside because he blames himself for Loki’s unforgivable crimes and ultimately putting Jane Foster (and the rest of the Earth) in danger.

In the final battle, Loki uses his powerful Scepter to open a portal in New York City, inviting his army of war-hungry Chituari aliens to Earth. Meanwhile Thor and Loki fight on top of Stark Tower. Again, Thor feels responsible so he takes on Loki alone and ends up getting stabbed. Talk about brotherly love!

In The Avengers, Thor is exactly the same God of Thunder we met in his first outing with some added humor. The witty banter between Thor and Hulk is quite funny and the Odinson is often the butt of Tony Stark’s punchlines. There isn’t a huge change in our hero, but the film itself is a lot more fun and entertaining than Thor.

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Thor: The Dark World (2013)

Lonely Thor is Lonely

Thor: The Dark World is so dark that you can barely see what’s happening onscreen. Although I personally love this movie, it’s commonly regarded as one of the worst films in the MCU. Maybe I have a soft spot for the demonic creatures, gruesome battles, death and destruction?

After Loki’s little stunt on Earth, he is locked away in the dungeons on Asgard while Thor tries to bring order back to the nine realms. Thor is sad, lonely, and heartbroken. He longs for his love Jane Foster and refuses to join in on Asgardian celebrations. Meanwhile, Jane is pulled into a dark dimension where the Aether violently enters and infects her entire body.

Thor shows up and whisks her away to Asgard, where they kiss and cuddle and whatnot. Of course, Thor is happy to have Jane back, but he is concerned that this ancient evil has a hold on her. The Dark Elves return to Asgard in search of the Aether and stab Thor’s mother Frigga to death while destroying much of the kingdom. Now Thor is angrier, sadder, and even determined to find a way to save Jane. Eventually, Loki gets stabbed to death (or so it seems) and the Aether enters the body of Malekith, leader of the Dark Elves. Why is Loki constantly dying? It appears Thor is in a constant state of pain, once again blaming himself for the deaths in his family.

Despite all of this, there are quite a few laugh-out-loud scenes involving Thor. For example, he hangs his hammer on a coat rack, then he rides a subway back to the final battle in London. Just like in Thor, the humor is based on him being a fish-out-of-water on Earth, but there is more of it.

Thor is still the same hero we met in his first film, except now he is a bit wiser. Once again, he readily sacrifices his life to save the nine realms from utter destruction and darkness. After a close call, he returns to Asgard, rejects the crown, and vows to protect the universe as long as he is alive. And then he makes out with Jane.

The film itself is dark, but it’s somehow a lot funnier than the first Thor movie. The God of Thunder is very slowly moving into comedic territory.  However, I remember feeling pretty sure that we wouldn’t be seeing another stand-alone Thor movie after this one. Thor: The Dark World just doesn’t measure up the most successful MCU movies. On top of that, the Thor movies weren’t making much money, meaning something had to change for Marvel Studios to commit to another God of Thunder stand-alone.

best august movies guardians of the galaxy

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Yes, I know that Thor is not in Guardians of the Galaxy, but this crazy off-shoot of a typical Marvel movie takes place within the same cosmic realms as Asgard laid the foundation for where Thor would go next. Directed by James Gunn, this is easily the most fun of all the Marvel movies so far – the film is full of jokes, quirky characters, a healthy dose of heart. Guardians of the Galaxy wasn’t expected to do as well as it did, as it felt like an inherently riskier project. It pinpoints a marked change in the Marvel Cinematic Universe by proving that ridiculous “out-there” space movies could delight fans and do well at the box office.

So, what does this have to do with Thor? Well, there are two things of importance here. First, Guardians of the Galaxy pushed Marvel Studios to consider making more silly, creative movies that take place in the cosmos. Ahem…Thor: Ragnarok.

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