I’ll admit it. My wife and I are re-watching all the Marvel movies in preparation for Civil War.
Like Iron Man 2, Thor is mostly good. On this re-watch, Loki came across as more of a tragic figure to me, a son trying to prove his worth to his father, but choosing the wrong way to do it. Thor grappling with his newfound weakness on Earth is still my favorite section of the movie (I’m a horrible person, and laugh every time Jane hits him with her car).
But there’s one glaring weakness in the film: Thor’s Asgardian friends
What Went Wrong
I don’t list them by name, because, well…can you remember their names? Or really, anything about them?
Sure, one is female and one is big and hairy and one is Asian and one is dapper. But that doesn’t tell us anything about them as people, as characters and personalities.
We never get a sense of them as individuals, and we don’t get a sense of them as a team. As a result, every scene with them in it lacks emotional weight. We simply don’t know who these people are, or why they’re friends, and we don’t care.
This is important because several key points of the movie involve them: the expedition to Jugenheim, their betrayal of King Loki, the fight against the Defender in the Earth town. Leaving these characters as bare sketches, as stereotypes, lowers the stakes in all of these scenes, weakening the movie as whole.
How to Fix It
Intro Thor and his team by showing them on a mission. Something small, but enough to see them in action and solidify their camaraderie.
We should see each of them exhibit their abilities. Using the Big One’s gregarious personality and Loki’s lies, the two of them talk the group past some guards. The Asian One and the Dapper One do some scouting, which requires them to scale some stone walls and do a little acrobatics. The Female One sticks by Thor’s side, stopping him just as he’s about to step on a trap. Thor can lost his temper halfway through the mission, putting them all in danger and causing his team to bail him out of trouble.
It doesn’t need to be long, just enough to give us a sense that these people have been working together for a long time, they trust each other (mostly), and they’ve all good unique histories. Maybe each one is from a different world, and so they can all give us some sense of how the Nine Realms work together?
To make room for it, we drop the intro sequence about the war with the Frost Giants. It’s confusing, it’s backstory, and we don’t need it. We do need to see Thor’s team in action.
The mission sequence also gives us a chance to show Thor’s second of three strikes. Odin welcomes them home after the successful completion of their mission (it’s the reason for the celebration in the beginning) but chastises them for taking a risk, etc. He can mention a previous (recent) strike, one that Thor thinks of as an adventure, but Odin sees as a mark of his immaturity.
We still have the Frost Giants sneak attack in the middle of this, and the Defender does its job. But now Thor and Loki get to ask what they were after, and Odin gives them the history, but abbreviated, and without the Earth piece.
With that change, the stakes are higher throughout the movie. When Thor goes to Jotunheim, we understand that he’s disobeying his father again, and dragging his team — who we know and care about — along with him. When Thor starts fighting, we understand that not only has Thor put peace between the worlds at risk, he’s put his team in danger, since we just saw Odin warn them against crossing him a third time.
We totally understand when Odin appears and takes them home, then yells at Thor and takes his hammer. It’s the culmination of a chain of events, not a father suddenly turning abusive because his kid stayed out past curfew.
And when Thor’s friends face off against the Defender, we care a lot more. They’ve broken the terms of their freedom in Asgard to find their friend, only to discover he’s no longer the strong fighter he was. The fight against the Defender will likely be their last, but they’ll fight it together.