In just a few weeks, the next onslaught of the Marvel Cinematic Universe will kick off with Thor: Ragnarok, setting up a years-in-the-making clash with that big purple villain. It’s an important release and a milestone for the character, as it completes his solo trilogy (joining Iron Man and Captain America). But it hasn’t been a smooth ride for Thor since his 2011 debut.
Directed by Taika Waititi, Ragnarok promises to be a different take on the God of Thunder (Chris Hemsworth), one that isn’t brooding and melancholy, but rather upbeat and sarcastic—a far cry from his solo and ensemble portrayals.
But I also don’t think the previous two Thor films aren’t quite as bad as people remember. They exhibit many, many flaws, but there’s also a lot to like, too. And it’s not possible to hate a movie that features Anthony Hopkins (except, perhaps, the recent Transformers), especially when he’s playing Odin, the freaking king of Asgard.
Thor is a lovable goof
The most obvious thing to like in the Thor movies is, well, Thor. Or, rather, Chris Hemsworth, who plays the character to perfection thanks to his God-like physique, charm, and comedic timing—an underrated part of Hemsworth’s personality that’s just now being tapped. When you think of characters being pulled right off the page, it doesn’t get much better than Hemsworth’s Thor.
And Hemsworth—with a convincing wig and a fantastic costume—looks like you’d imagine Thor to look—just as you can’t imagine anyone other than Hugh Jackman as the grizzled, angry Wolverine in this year’s Logan. Getting Thor’s look just right adds to the authenticity of the character.
It has taken Hemsworth time to settle into the role, but he’s become an increasingly important and active part of the Avengers—even when he sneaks away to have cryptic visions in an underground hot spring. We can blame the writing for trying to force Thor to be such a solemn brute. Luckily, that’s just not his or Hemsworth’s personality.
All said, Hemsworth does a pretty good job in the first Thor, which features its share of melodrama. When he’s banished to Earth and fails to lift Mjolnir, Thor is rightfully distraught, throwing his arms back in agony as if his whole purpose for existing has been destroyed.
But he bounces back—and it’s fun as hell to see the alien royalty assimilate to life on Earth with Jane and her crew of scientists. After demolishing a plate of breakfast, Thor slams a coffee mug onto the floor, demanding a refill. It’s his way of expressing his appreciation for a hearty American breakfast, and he truly doesn’t understand why his actions are wrong. He’s like a big child in that way.
That’s the Thor we like—and exactly who we’ll get in Thor: Ragnarok. He grand, romantic, and kind of a buffoon. That kind of personality is contagious—he’s like the bro-ier version of Tom Holland’s Spider-Man, a little cocky but a big softy. And his loyalty to his brother is heartwarming. Other than Hawkeye, none of the other Avengers really have any familial connections.
Beautiful locations and costumes
Before Guardians of the Galaxy and Doctor Strange, Thor was Marvel’s cosmic link, a gateway to the different worlds explored in the Marvel comics. It also helped provide Marvel with a reason to assemble Earth’s mightiest heroes. Without Thor and the Chitauri army, this whole cinematic universe would be absolutely nowhere.
The escape to Asgard ultimately expands the Marvel Cinematic Universe in important ways, providing Marvel with the opportunity to tell stories that don’t involve the virtuous Captain America or, worse, the pathetically one-dimensional War Machine. There’s a reason why Guardians of the Galaxy is so beloved by fans—because we get to visit places like Knowhere.
It’s also really cool to see Asgard and the mythology behind the culture; their ceremonies, the rituals, the costumes. As an example, some of the best parts in Wonder Woman took place in the beginning on Themyscira, home to the Amazonian warrior women. It’s the same way spending time in Asgard. Way better than sitting in Tony Stark’s basement as he dismisses poor Pepper Potts.
Spending time in Asgard also introduced us to the Frost Giants, the nine realms, the Warrior Three, and Sif. We also can’t forget about Malekith, the Aether, the Biofröst and Heimdall. Come to think of it, Thor: The Dark World has introduced some of the coolest mythology and monsters the MCU has ever seen—I love when Algrim turns into a Kursed.
Loki is a great character
Loki, the MCU’s trickster, continues to be a delight, even if he’s not a “good guy.” He’s complex, grandiose, and an utter delight to watch onscreen—mostly because Tom Hiddelston is such a fantastic actor. He rests somewhere between protagonist and antagonist, which is why he’s so fun.
In the first Thor, Loki learns of his complicated past and struggles to accept his fate beside his brother. This leads to some wonderfully delicious conniving on his part, which sees Loki send the Destroyer to Earth, only for that very move to lead to Thor’s powers being restored.
In The Dark World, meanwhile, Loki plots several different ways to overthrow Odin, while helping Thor defeat Malekith. And just when we think Loki has died by sacrificing his life for the greater good, we come to find out it was just one giant trick.
We just don’t get twists that good in any other MCU property.
Thor and Thor: The Dark World are by no means the best MCU movies. But they aren’t quite as bad as people remember them. They’re full of great spectacle and pathos, taking viewers out of the confines of Earth and into a realm where kings and princess battle giant rock monsters.
Before you watch Thor: Ragnarok on November 3, remember how important the first two Thor movies are to the MCU. Not only have they introduced some of the universe’s best characters, but they act as the foundation for where the franchise is headed. And it’s why they don’t deserve your disdain.