The Evolution Of Thor: From Serious Warrior To Silly Superhero

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 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.


The Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

Human Thor is Human

Age of Ultron is a bit disappointing compared to the first Avengers movie. However, Marvel still successfully blended humor, action, and conflict. Plus, this is the first movie featuring Thor that is not about Loki or any Asgard royal family drama.

Rather than taking another backseat in the ensemble, Thor is front-and-center. His apocalyptic visions and knowledge of the Infinity Stones are a main part of the storyline. When the Avengers discover that Loki's scepter is being used in Hydra experiments, Thor and the gang travel to Sokovia to destroy it. Subsequently, they end up destroying a lot of other things as well.

Thor's character in Age of Ultron is more humanized since he has been on Earth since Thor: The Dark World. He starts to fit in, understand the human world, and feel at home. He's even wearing normal clothes! Thor is still the noble God of Thunder, but he's much less angry than we've seen in previous films. His humor and a sense of normalcy take center stage. He's smiling more, laughing, and letting loose.

Even the funniest scene in the movie is centered around Thor. During a casual party with the gang, he challenges everyone to try and lift his hammer. While the Avengers struggle with Mjolnir, Thor teases them with one-liners and clever comebacks as he chugs more beer. This is the first time we see Thor having fun! After four movies, he is finally letting his guard down a bit. Yes, Thor can be silly, too.

Chris Hemsworth in Ghostbusters

Ghostbusters (2016)

Secretary Thor

Ghostbusters isn't a Marvel movie, but it does star Chris Hemsworth as a goofy secretary. Even though Ghostbusters didn't win over audiences, Hemsworth's comedic performance shines through. He is easily the funniest character in the entire movie.

Suddenly, "Secretary Thor" was the token class clown. Audiences loved the hilarious Hemsworth and Marvel took notice.  In an interview with EW, Thor: Ragnarok director Taika Watiti explains that a large part of what his film does is destroy and reinvent the idea of what kind of character Thor is. Waititi wanted to focus on Chris Hemsworth's comedic abilities, as seen in films like Ghostbusters. He wanted to give Thor every possible chance to be silly and play to Hemsworth's strengths.

The Thor Shorts

Goofy Thor is Goofy

We all noticed that absence of Thor in Captain America: Civil War. Thankfully, Watiti directed a series of shorts starring Thor and his roommate Darryl to bring us up to date.

Apparently, Thor decided to take a little "me-time" and settle down in Australia with an everyday person. Thor tells us exactly what he's been up to, which isn't much at all other than making a cradle for Mjolnir, harassing his dorky roommate, and charting the whereabouts of the Infinity Stones. These hysterical shorts are the first time we meet Watiti's version of Thor. We can't ignore the fact that this new Thor often leans on stupidity to get a few good laughs. It's not that Watiti dumbed him down – he's just goofier than he was in previous Marvel films.

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Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

Perfect Thor is Perfect

Thor: Ragnarok is Marvel's silliest movie yet and is currently the best reviewed MCU film of all time. Taking cosmic cues from Guardians of the Galaxy and playing heavily on Hemsworth's comedic chops, Ragnarok is total blast. As a character, Thor is at his very best, sticking to his true nature and purpose while adding in quick-witted, laugh-out-loud humor.

Watiti doesn't destroy the Thor we already know, he just seamlessly blends in fun, hilarity, and all around good times. The clever banter between Thor and Loki is the spotlight. Finally, these two brothers are acting like actual siblings and not mortal enemies. Thor and Hulk/Bruce Banner also have a buddy comedy skit going on throughout the entire film that works flawlessly. Who knew Banner could be so funny as well?

Ragnarok gives us the silly superhero version of Thor that we didn't know we even wanted. However, there are a few moments where his intelligence is compromised for the sake of landing a punchline. This is a bit disappointing because dumb does not always equal funny and Thor is much smarter than an average bonehead.

Still, Raganok is good! It's so different that I'm not even sure it makes sense to call it part of the original Thor trilogy. It's light-hearted, flashy and full of wacky characters and bizarre new places. The evolution is complete. From the time of his brooding live-action debut to this very moment, Thor slowly changed from being an all-too-serious warrior to a silly superhero. Thor films went from being dark and ominous to, well, fun.