Big Screen Avengers 101: THOR Movie Annotations
In the mainstream Marvel Comics universe, basic story is this. The Norse gods of Asgard are actually long-lived beings who live in another dimension and use a form of science so strange and advanced that it is "indistinguishable from magic, even to them." The Asgardians inspired many myths before largely retreating from the affairs of humanity. Centuries later, the thunder god Thor recklessly invaded the Frost Giant realm of Jotunheim, breaking a treaty in the process. Upset at his son's increasing arrogance, Odin, King and All-Father of Asgard, exiled Thor to Earth. To force him to learn humility, Odin took Thor's mystic hammer Mjolnir, removed his memories and power, and changed him into a human being with a crippled leg named Donald Blake.
Don became a physician, focused on helping people whenever he could. After watching him for years, Odin guided Don to find a strange walking stick which, when struck, would turn into Mjolnir and transform the human being back into Thor, god of thunder. From now on, Mjolnir could only be lifted by those it deemed worthy, so Thor would know he could never resume his old, arrogant ways. Over the years, he's protected Earth and Asgard alike from many threats such as aliens, demons, super-villains, sorcerers and even his own adopted brother Loki. He also became a founding member of the Avengers.
Got it? Good. Now on to the annotations!Kenneth Branagh was a fan of the Thor comics when he was younger. Upon being named director of the film, he had Marvel send over a complete copy of the Thor comic series collection to use as reference material. He described the movie as adapting the Thor origin from the Marvel comics but also involving elements that he felt it shared with Shakespeare's Henry V, as that story showcased a young king who wished to live up to his father's example, fell in love with a foreign girl, and had to fight a war that made him reconsider the world. The opening of the film shows us an empty stretch of land just outside a town called Puente Antiguo. Much of the film takes place in this town, which doesn't actually exist but was built by the film crew. Construction took place in Galisteo, New Mexico. "Puente Antiguo" is Spanish for "Old Bridge." This is a joke on the fact that this area seems to be one of Bifrost’s drop-off points, along with Tonsberg, Norway (which we’ll discuss in a bit). Perhaps centuries before, the area's inhabitants became aware of Bifrost and named their home in reference to it. A similar joke is made when the Hulk is found in a fictionalized version of Brazil’s Porto Verde (or “Green Port”) in the film The Incredible Hulk.
Natalie Portman plays Jane Foster, an astrophysicist. In the comics, Jane was a nurse at Don Blake's private practice and harbored deep feelings for him. Don, insecure about his disability, believed Jane would have no interest in him. Eventually, Jane became frustrated with Don's behavior and began flirting with Thor, not knowing they were the same person. Don became more flirtatious with Jane soon afterward and the two began dating. Don even trusted Jane with his double identity and she loved him in both his identities. Later, they went their separate ways, though they would become friends again down the road. Jane became a doctor herself and has been seen in various comics as a physician trusted and consulted by different superheroes.
Initially, the script for this film depicted Jane Foster as a conservative, skeptical scientist who refused to put much stock in stories of gods and myth. Natalie Portman suggested changing the character into someone known for thinking outside the box and used to people not believing her seemingly outlandish theories and ideas. She believed this would make Jane more enjoyable and increased the believability that she would take a leap of faith in trusting that Thor's stories were true.
In this film, Odin apparently loses one of his eyes in the battle with the Frost Giants. In mythology and in the comics, he willingly sacrificed one of his eyes in order to gain greater wisdom and knowledge.
After Odin defeats Laufey, King of Jotunheim, he adopts the Frost Giant’s son, who has been cast away for being a runt. This is the same origin for Loki in the Marvel Comics universe. In Norse myth, Loki was Laufey's son but was not adopted by Odin nor raised alongside Thor as a brother (though they did share many adventures, as friends and as enemies).
If you look at the outer edges of Odin's massive throne, you will see there is a raven perched at each end. In Norse mythology and in the comics, Odin had two ravens that would fly around the different realms and inform him of events far away. The ravens were named Huginn and Munnin (which translates to "Thought" and "Memory").
Chris Hemsworth and his brother Liam both auditioned for the role of Thor. According to Chris, it was a friendly competition and each would have been pleased if the other got the part.
Thor wields the mighty hammer Mjolnir (the name of which means "crusher" or "mealer"). In mythology, this hammer was a devastating weapon of incredible weight that Thor would often use to kill Frost Giants and other enemies. If Thor threw it, its aim would always be true and would strike opponents with incredible strength and then it would return to his hand. In some stories, Thor needed a special glove and a belt that increased his strength in order to lift Mjolnir. When Thor wished to conceal the hammer, it could shrink and slip into his pocket and he only needed to rub the weapon to revert it to its normal state.
According to the comics, Mjolnir is made from Uru metal, a magical ore imagined by Stan Lee that can be found in Asgard. Initially, Stan Lee called Thor's weapon the "magical Uru hammer" because he simply couldn't remember the weapon's actual name.
In the film, Odin says that the hammer was was forged in "the heart of a dying star." When certain stars die, the remains may collapse and form a neutron star. The compressed mass of this is so great that a single teaspoon would weigh billions of tons. In which case, it's no wonder Mjolnir is so heavy, right?
Stan Lee has joked that the creation of the Warriors Three was a way of introducing a version of the Three Musketeers into the Marvel universe. Over the years, the trio has had many adventures with Thor and have sometimes been featured in their own comics. In this film, Hogun is played by Tadanobu Asano, who is not Caucasian like most of the other Asgardians in the film but is Japanese. It actually makes sense that Hogun would be played by a man of a different race and heritage, since in the comics he is the one member of the trio who is not native to Asgard.
Fandral was originally going to be played by Zachary Levi (Chuck, Tangled), but he had to bow out. Stuart Townsend (Queen of the Damned) was then cast for the role but he left soon before filming due to "creative differences." Josh Dallas was then cast as Fandral and based much of his portrayal on Errol Flynn, the actor who was himself a large inspiration for the comic book character. It's fitting then that a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent later jokingly calls Fandral "Robin Hood", which was Flynn's most famous role.
The Destroyer armor is not purely CGI. A life size model was constructed to be used on set.
In myth and in the Marvel comics, the bridge Bifrost is quite literally a rainbow bridge of tangible light. In keeping with the idea that Asgard is a mixture of science and magic and that aspects of it may not literally be the same as the myths they inspired, Branagh decided to make the bridge an energy construct that is stabilized by a solid quartz shell. As the energy and light move through the quartz, it creates a mixture of colors.
To continue the emphasis that Asgard’s magic is the product of technology, Kenneth Branagh decided to interpret Bifrost as a multi-colored Einstein-Rosen bridge that Heimdall activates and aims with his observatory, his sword acting as the key. As Thor and his allies prepare to go to Jotunheim, we see Heimdall activate an energy construct resembling a massive tree. This is a map of the major nine “realms” of the universe, so Heimdall is basically entering in coordinates for the Frost Giant planet.
As Thor explains later, the design of this map is what inspires the myths of Yggdrasil, the World Tree. This is a little different than the comics, where many of the realms are actually other dimensional planes and Yggdrasil is a cosmic force connecting them, sometimes partially manifesting as a literal, physical tree.
The World Tree was divided into three levels, each housing three realms (bringing us back to the trinity knot on Mjolnir). The higher branches held the three heavenly realms, the lower branches held the realms of mortals, and three realms existed beneath the roots. The heavenly realms were: Asgard, home to the Aesir (known in Marvel Comics as the Asgardians); Muspelheim, home of Surtur and his fire demons; and Alfheim, home of the Elves. The mortal realms were: Vanaheim, home to beings of fertility and clairvoyance; Jotunheim, the realm of Frost Giants; and Midgard, also known as Earth. The lower realms were: Svartalfheim, home to dwarves and dark elves; Niflheim, a limbo of cold and mists full of souls that were not evil but did not die a brave death (as opposed to those souls that reach Valhalla); and Hel (sometimes said to be part of Niflheim), where evil souls go and serve Loki's daughter, the mistress Hel (known as Hela in the Marvel Universe).
After Thor and his allies spend some time fighting with the Jotuns, Odin arrives on his horse. Notice that it has eight legs? In Norse myth, the All-Father did indeed ride an eight-legged warhorse named Sleipnir (“Slipper”), described as the best of all horses, a massive gray-colored animal.
Odin places an enchantment on Mjolnir, whispering "Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor." When Don Blake was allowed to reclaim his heritage and finally become Thor again for the first time in years, he saw these very words inscribed on the side of his hammer.Since Thor began his career as a superhero on Earth, two people who have been worthy enough to lift the hammer have been the alien warrior Beta Ray Bill and the hero Captain America. Because of this bond of worthiness with Mjolnir, Thor considers the two to be blood brothers.
Landing on Earth, Thor asks which realm he is in. His first guesses are Alfheim and Nornheim. Alfheim is seen in both mythology and in the comics and is the realm of elves. In the comics, Nornheim is a section of Asgard where the Norns (three women who seemingly control and guide destiny) live. Although Norns do exist in ancient Norse mythology, the idea that they live in a place called Nornheim is strictly a creation of Marvel Comics.
Since Thor is speaking about magical realms, it's fitting that he finds out he's in New Mexico, known also as "the land of enchantment."
The trucker who discovers Mjolnir lying in a crater and is the first to try and lift it is actually J. Michael Straczynski. Along with being the head writer and creator of the science fiction series Babylon 5, JMS has been a comic book writer for years, doing very popular runs in the series Amazing Spider-Man and Thor. His initial story arc in the Thor comics was to have Mjolnir fall to Earth and then show many human beings attempting (and failing) to lift it before finally its true owner comes to reunite with it.
Jane Foster realizes that Thor may have come out of an Einstein-Rosen Bridge, which she explains is a dimensional wormhole. This is a real concept in physics and is one type of wormhole that has been theorized. The Einstein-Rosen Bridge was the discovery of Albert Einstein and Nathan Rosen and the idea was first published in 1935. Later scientists claimed that this type of wormhole would be too unstable to function properly. Despite this, many science fiction stories involving travel between dimensions or between parallel universes often reference Einsten-Rosen Bridges.
The older man who destroys his truck while trying to move the mystic hammer is actually Stan Lee, co-creator of Marvel's Thor and many other superheroes such as Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, the Hulk, Iron Man and the X-Men. He has made a point of having a cameo in many Marvel-based films.
Coulson had a brief adventure in between his appearance Iron Man 2 and the movie Thor. This adventure is seen in the “Marvel One-Shot” short film entitled “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor’s Hammer.” The short film can be found on the Blu-ray of Captain America: The First Avenger. Coulson can also be seen in the short film ”The Consultant,” which is available on the Thor Blu-ray and deals with loose threads from the film The Incredible Hulk.
In this movie, Agent Coulson is joined by Agent Sitwell, played by Maxiliano Hernández. Agent Jasper Sitwell of S.H.I.E.L.D. first appeared in the comics as a blond Caucasian character in 1966. He has been a long-time member of the organization and has encountered many other comic book superheroes, though he hasn’t been seen much in the past twenty years. Along with his sense of humor and occasionally naiveté, Sitwell was known for his interrogation skills and for his long-time relationship as a liaison between the defense industry and Tony Stark. Hernández reprises the role of Agent Sitwell in the “Marvel One-Shot” short film ”The Consultant.”
S.H.I.E.L.D. shows up and Dr. Selvig gets worried. This organization has appeared in the films Iron Man and Iron Man 2. Their weaponry, files and database were seen in the movie The Incredible Hulk. It is a high-tech espionage and counter-terrorist strike force with an interest in advanced technology, alien threats and superhuman activity.
The Hulk was a founding member of the Avengers alongside Thor. Over the years, the two have fought alongside each other and sometimes against each other. Since their strength levels and resiliency to injury are so close to each other, many fans often debate who should be the victor of their fights.Dr. Selvig tells Jane that he intends to call a friend who has experience with S.H.I.E.L.D. Originally, the film was going to show that this friend of Selvig’s was Dr. Hank Pym. In the comics, Pym has indeed had experience with S.H.I.E.L.D. and became a founding member of the Avengers himself, under the name “Ant-Man” (though he was calling himself “Giant-Man” by the team’s second adventure). It was later decided to not make this reference. Edgar Wright is supposed to direct an Ant-Man movie soon.
Apparently, spelling is not a big deal for S.H.I.E.L.D. agents. As we see them checking their security monitors at the base they've set up around Mjolnir, the word perimeter is spelled "perimiter." Oops!
For his fight scenes against the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, Chris Hemsworth worked with trainers on using a mixture of different martial arts techniques with a focus on boxing. Thus, Thor's fighting style is not any distinctive Earth form but could be seen as one that developed on Asgard.
Jane explains that she believes Thor and his people to be from another world or another dimension and that they inspired Norse mythology. She brings up a famous line from Arthur C. Clarke (considered one of the grandfathers of science fiction, alongside Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein) about science and magic. Arthur C. Clarke came up with three laws that have often been quoted by many authors since. The most famous is this third law, which states: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."
Thor mentions the Hubble telescope. The credits sequence that flies through space used many Hubble telescope photos as references.
Thor refers to Agent Coulson as "Son of Coul", believing the name indicates his father's name just as he refers to himself as Thor Odinson (and in the comics and myths, Loki was sometimes called Loki Laufeyson).
The Bifrost bridge is shattered, but Odin states that there is still hope for the future. In the comics, the bridge (and Asgard) has been seemingly destroyed a few times but has eventually always been rebuilt, good as new. And, as Loki himself pointed out, there are other ways to leave Asgard and enter the other realms that have nothing to do with the bridge.
The stinger scene in this movie (a scene placed after the credits) was directed by Joss Whedon, who is directing the upcoming Avengers movie. As such, it has a very definite connection to that film, wherein Thor will meet Captain America, Iron Man, the Hulk and others. The stinger scene features Samuel L. Jackson once again in the role of Nick Fury, director of S.H.I.E.L.D. Jackson previously appeared in this role in Iron Man and Iron Man 2. Nick Fury's name and files were also displayed in the movie The Incredible Hulk. After this film, Jackson played Nick Fury once again in the movie Captain America: The First Avenger.
In the comics, the Cosmic Cube is a device that some intelligent races have been able to develop, each time seemingly by accident. On Earth, in the Marvel Universe, it was created when scientists of A.I.M. (Advanced Idea Mechanics, a division of the group HYDRA before it split off) discovered a strange form of energy and ensnared it into a cube-like containment field. Anyone holding the cube was able to alter physical reality based on their thoughts and could even affect minds, such as transferring themselves into another's body or ensnaring a soul inside the cube.
The stinger scene reveals that Loki is alive and back on Earth, at least in some kind of spirit form. He is also seen in the trailer for Avengers.
And to conclude this, a look back at Odin's weapons vault. In the beginning of the film, we get a few glimpses of other objects in the vault. Not just Thor's hammer and the Casket. There's also a large flame, a glowing orb, a tablet with runes on it, an object resembling an eye, and a jeweled gauntlet. What are these strange objects that Thor implies each have incredible power?
Using all the gems together practically makes you God, although it is important to note that people who have gained possession of the Gauntlet in the past have always wound up defeated eventually (though often not before the universe and innocents have suffered in some way).
But the runes on this tablet in Odin's vault don't reference life, death, order or chaos. The runes mention "Those Who Sit in Shadow." In the comics, Thor discovered that a group of extra-dimensional beings by this name had secretly manipulated the Asgardians for thousands of years, forcing them into a cycle of life and death that fed energy to Those Who Sit in Shadow. Thor was able to break the circuit, defeating these parasites and ensuring that the Asgardians would now be free to find their own fate.
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