This weekend's Thor: Ragnarok is being hailed as the best entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe yet. The flip side to that praise is that Thor (2011) and Thor: The Dark World (2013) are forgotten at best and derided at worst.
But I am here to tell you that the first two Thor movies are actually a lot of fun. And now that Guardians of the Galaxy has gotten everybody on board with the Marvel cosmic stuff and Thor: Ragnarok is destined to put butts in seats, let's maybe revisit why the first two Thors were actually pretty entertaining in hindsight.
THOR IS THE TWILIGHT OF THE MARVEL CINEMATIC UNIVERSE
Okay. I know. That sounds bad. Most men (and some women also) hate those Twilight movies with the sparkly vampires and the shirtless werewolves. Blegh! So gross! Who wants sexy men looking sexy. Just the worst. Wow.
Here's the thing about movies like Thor and Twilight -- they 100 percent are not great at telling stories about strong, independent women, but they are pretty great at providing basic wish fulfillment for anyone who wants to use a character like Bella Swan or Jane Foster or Charlie Sheen in Two and a Half Men (be honest, you know it's true) as their self-insert in order to live out a fantasy. We should demand more from our media, but we also shouldn't shame one another for enjoying the view and imagining we are there. Have you seen Chris Hemsworth? He is quite a view to behold.
Chris Hemsworth is beefy and his smile is nice. He's funny and sweet and, not to put too fine a point on it, but HAVE YOU SEEN HIM, THOUGH? HAVE YOU?! I have. Sometimes he's just there when I close my eyes.
And the thing about Jane Foster is that she was Felicity Smoak before there was an Arrow to star Felicity Smoak (and also some people from a comic book, I guess). Natalie Portman is lovely and she plays Jane as smart but a little lost in this world. She's attractive! She just can't quite get it together some days. You know... like most everyone on this Earth.
The plot of Thor is, basically, Jane hits a man with her van and that man turns out to be the sexiest-looking god of all time who respects her and explains things in a way that isn't gross and he, for reasons unknown, falls in love with her. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
To wit: the Thor movies are wish fulfillment for anyone whose wish it is to be swept up by Chris Hemsworth's strong arms and taken on an extraordinary journey to his bed. I mean his home. Asgard. Where I assume there are beds, but his especially.
To be clear, no one should be arguing that these Thor movies are female empowerment films, but they do empower a woman's right to want to f*** Chris Hemsworth and there aren't nearly enough movies with the common sense to do that.
SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY SMOOSH TOGETHER
Fun fact: Game of Thrones started within one month of the release of the first Thor movie. Game of Thrones features White Walkers who are scary-looking cold monsters. Thor features the Frost Giants which... same.
Thor and Odin and Loki and all the rest are from Norse mythology. At the root of these stories is a fantasy element. There are warriors wielding swords and axes and bows, there are Dark Elves and giant ogres, and basically it gets pretty "Middle-earth in space" up in these Thor movies.
But what makes that so cool is that those Dark Elves? They have space ships! There are speeders and high-tech science gadgets galore in these movies. The Thor movies are like if Tolkien and George Lucas had a kid. There are castles! The castles are in space! There are gods and goddesses! Also, they are basically aliens!
How can any person be mad at two movies that feature stealing a spaceship from a group of evil, dark elves but also Chris Hemsworth and Sir Anthony Hopkins still like riding around on horses?
MARVEL'S FIRST GOOD VILLAIN
It is a truth, universally acknowledged that a Marvel Cinematic Universe in possession of a metric s*** ton of money, must be in want of a good villain. Heroes? Marvel's got 'em on lock. Iron Man. Captain America. Hulk. Nick Fury. Thor. Black Widow. Hawkeye, I guess. But the Marvel movies have almost universally had a villain problem. Obadiah Stane? Justin Hammer? Good grief, they couldn't even get Red Skull right, and they cast Hugo Weaving for that part.
People usually think the Thor movies have the worst villain problem of all, but that's because they think the Frost Giants and Dark Evils are the bad guys when really they're just fodder for Marvel's first genuinely great villain: Loki.
When the Thor movies aren't distracted with a mixture of "what if dwarves but space" or "Jane Foster is thinking about Hemsworth's abs again because she represents us all," they are focused on the struggle between alien god bros, Thor and Loki.
Loki is a secret Frost Giant. It's such a big secret even he doesn't know about it for a long time. But realizing he comes from a lineage which his adoptive pops, Odin, beat the crap out of, super-messes with Loki. Yes, he's a bit of a megalomaniac who wants to rule everyone, but he also has some pretty justifiable angst because the family he's known have been kind of his enemies the whole time and he didn't know about that until just now? And that angst spurns Loki to manipulate and lie and ultimately get his mom, Frigga, killed ... aka the one person in his "family" that he never felt judged by.
But mostly Tom Hiddleston and Chris Hemsworth are just magical together. There's pathos when they fight, there's genuine (if temporary) catharsis when they team up. But even when Loki is being good to Thor, you know the dude will inevitably fake his own death and then secretly take the Asgardian throne from Odin when no one's looking. And that's what makes him such a great villain -- you root for him to do the right thing, but you also love when he screws over everyone with a flourish and a grin.
THOR WAS ALWAYS FUNNY
Everyone's saying that Thor: Ragnarok is hilarious. So funny! HA HA HA! Not to minimize that, but... the Thor movies were consistently the funny Marvel movies before Guardians of the Galaxy came along. I am literally just going to list some funny things from the Thor movies right now:
- Thor getting hit by Jane's van so many times it would be fair to assume he suffers from some kind of van magnetism
- Thor in a hospital shouting, "You're no match for the Mighty..." before being cut off by having drugs jabbed into his booty.
- A tailgate party springing up around Thor's hammer because men can't help but try to lift the heavy.
- Thor going to an animal shelter looking for a horse and, when they don't have one, insisting that they give him a cat or a dog large enough for him to ride.
- Erik Selvig only being able to do his best science pantsless
- Thor very cautiously and politely placing Mjolnir on a coat hanger.
- A transdimensional space fight punctuated by Thor and a Dark Elf sliding downwards, faces smushed against the windows of the Gherkin in London.
- Thor getting on the tube after getting knocked through some walls so he can get back to the fight.
- A giant Frost Giant beast playfully chasing birds like a cat.
And I haven't even talked about the actual comic relief character yet: Darcy, the science intern who doesn't know anything about science. Darcy who calls Mjolnir "mewmew." Darcy who asks Thor how space is. Darcy who hires her own intern even though she, herself, is an intern. Darcy who kisses said intern's intern by dipping him first because, hell yeah, a woman can do the dipping if she wants.
Thor: Ragnarok has a lot going for it, but it ain't got no Darcy, and that's a comedic tragedy.
TO SUM UP
Go see Thor: Ragnarok. By all means, enjoy how colorful and zany and funny it is. Just remember that it was built on the backs of two previous Thor films created by people who understood humor, crafted one of Marvel's most engaging villains, put elves in space, and let us all imagine we are adorable science ladies who get to make out with Thor, the sexy thunder god with the abs and the arms.