The Marvel Cinematic Rewatch: The Prodigal, Shakespearean, Fish Out Of Water Thor

Credit: Marvel
Credit: Marvel

Hello True Believers, and welcome back to the Marvel Cinematic Rewatch!

Now we have hit the era where I personally started getting into the MCU franchise: Thor. This was actually the first MCU film that I saw in theatres. It holds kind of a special place in my heart.

It’s hard to imagine a time when Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston weren’t some of the biggest actors in Hollywood. I hesitate to use the phrase “out of this world” to describe their rise when talking about a movie focusing on alien gods, but their rises were pretty much out of this world.

Still the fact that the project had caught the eyes of such high profile actors like Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins, and Idris Elba wasn’t something to sneeze at. Part of the reason, of course, did come from the director of the film: Sir Kenneth Branagh.

Credit: AP Photo/Matt Sayles
Credit: AP Photo/Matt Sayles

Most audiences would know him from his role as Gilderoy Lockhart from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. For those who knew more of his career, putting the direction of the film in Branagh’s hands made sense. Branagh was well known for his Shakespearean work, including the best adaptation of Hamlet you will ever see in your life. Don’t argue with me about this, the film itself is a four-hour gorgeous marvel and one of those movies you should see before you die.

Credit: Marvel Studios/Paramount
Credit: Marvel Studios/Paramount

The actual movie of Thor has a very Shakespearean quality to it, despite the fact it focuses on Norse gods. They aren’t talking in iambic pentameter the whole time, but the descent of madness that is Loki, Thor’s path to becoming a true King, and even some of the film’s comedic elements comes from Shakespeare in some way.

The scene where Thor enters the halls of Asgard is probably one of the loveliest shots in the MCU. Period.

Credit: Marvel Studios/Paramount
Credit: Marvel Studios/Paramount

This one is a close second.

The Marvel Cinematic Rewatch: The Prodigal, Shakespearean, Fish Out Of Water Thor

Mmmmmm…

Sorry.

Asgard is probably one of the prettiest fictional locales we have seen in the franchise. It just looks like a place where technologically advanced warrior gods would live. Seriously major props to everyone who created that.

Credit: Bec Heim/4YE
Credit: Bec Heim/4YE

Okay enough waxing poetic: let’s talk about Thor.

Prodigal Son Story

The Marvel Cinematic Rewatch: The Prodigal, Shakespearean, Fish Out Of Water Thor

Okay. I talked a lot about Shakespeare. Why am I bringing up a story from the Bible?

Well in my sophomore year of college, I took this class called Parables in Pop Culture to fill a gen-ed requirement. At some point, we were apparently going to do a movie focusing on the Prodigal Son story, but that never materialized due to scheduling conflicts. My professor named a few movies that fit the bill and one of those movies he mentioned was Thor.

So why not look at it now?

Here’s a quick summary of the story. There was this rich man who had two sons. The elder was very dutiful, did everything he was asked, and was generally considered the best son. The youngest was arrogant, prideful, and considered a screw-up. Well the youngest son wanted to go out into the world, so he asked his father for an advanced on his inheritance, which the father gave him. The youngest son wasted the fortune he was given.

Eventually, he was brought down to shoveling out manure, and realized what a moron he had been. The youngest son decided that he was going to return home and beg to be given work. The father finds his son and welcomes him back with open arms, and announces a feast in his honor. This didn’t make the eldest son too happy because again he was dutiful to his father. The father told his son that he will have his inheritance, but it was right to welcome the youngest into the fold because he had returned.

Now what the hell does this have to do with a comic book movie based on a Norse god?

In my opinion, Thor is a very loose adaptation of the Prodigal Son story. It’s not direct for a bunch of reasons (his father banishing him, Mjolnir not taking him back, Thor having to die to be worthy), but the message is the same: humility had to be learned on the part of the son. The father’s welcome is about God’s love, but the son had to learn a lesson as well: how to be humble and kind.

Thor, much like the Prodigal Son, had to lose everything in order to learn humility and kindness. He had to be stripped of his power, his hammer, his nature in order to realize the person he was before wasn’t a very good one. When he realized that, that’s when he made changes in his life.

Much the like the Prodigal Son, who had to be reduced to the lowest of society to realize what a fool he been, Thor had to be made human to realize his own errors. I mean the Prodigal Son just gambled and had a lot of sex, Thor nearly started a war with the Frost Giants.

Credit: Marvel Studios/Paramount
Credit: Marvel Studios/Paramount

A comparison could also be made between Loki and the eldest son in the story. Despite his trickery, Loki does try to be noticed on his own merits. He tries to be a good son to his parents, and is not as brash as Thor is in the beginning.

The Marvel Cinematic Rewatch: The Prodigal, Shakespearean, Fish Out Of Water Thor

The desire to be the good son is twisted and taken to the extreme when he finds out his true nature. He is angry because he sees himself as being less than his parent’s son, much like the brother is jealous about the party for his wayward younger brother in the story.

Or the whole family could use fictional counseling, but it makes sense to me.

Let’s move on.

Fish Out Of Water

The Marvel Cinematic Rewatch: The Prodigal, Shakespearean, Fish Out Of Water Thor

I ADORE THIS TROPE!

The “Fish Out Of Water” is when you take a character and put them somewhere different. Marvel likes this trope a lot. Take a Norse god and put him in a small New Mexican town? Fish out of water! 1940’s supersoldier wakes up in 2012? Fish out of water!

It’s a fun, and pretty popular trope with most viewers and fans.

Of course no one wants to see every little adjustment (that’s what fanfic is for), but I guess I like seeing time-travel/dimensional/alien planet culture shock. It’s a fun trope, and when dosed right gives some really excellent character development.

The Marvel Cinematic Rewatch: The Prodigal, Shakespearean, Fish Out Of Water Thor

As a whole, it seems to be a trope about adjustment. It’s about how to handle being dropped into an unfamiliar, unknown place and trying to get through this strange land in one piece.

Thor explores it the most out of any of the Marvel movies, everyone has gone to painful lengths to avoid it in regards to Steve Rogers. Thor, being not from our world, needs to have those moments of learning the local customs.

The “Another” gif above? It had an accompanying deleted scene, which shows a) Thor’s character growth and b) how he is learning the customs of Midgard.

http://thorlokid.tumblr.com/post/77510643504/thor-deleted-scene

With the Fish Out Of Water trope, the person who is the metaphorical “fish” learns something about himself or herself by adapting to their surroundings. Being thrust into the unfamiliar, it does go with the whole “sink or swim” saying.

A fish out of water is supposed to drown on dry land, but in stories it has two options: drown or adapt.

In Thor’s case, it is the adaptation, which allows for the change in his character.

Honestly? I find it to be a fascinating story. The two origin movies of the MCU (thus far) are both a kind of story of redemption. It changes when we get to Captain America: The First Avenger, but for both Thor and Tony Stark they need to reach redemption in order to be considered heroes.

Credit: Marvel Studios/Paramount
Credit: Marvel Studios/Paramount

Both Iron Man and Thor are movies of emotional transformation. A lot of people tend to praise Tony Stark’s character growth, but Thor is kind of sadly overlooked. It’s a shame because I find Thor’s growth to be just as compelling as Tony Stark’s.

There’s only one kind of failing for the movie to me.

Rushed Romantic Subplot

The Marvel Cinematic Rewatch: The Prodigal, Shakespearean, Fish Out Of Water Thor

I like Thor and Jane together. They’re a cute couple.

I wouldn’t lie, however, when I say that I feel like their romantic subplot in the first Thor movie felt a little rushed.

The romance was DEFINITELY not as rushed as say Bruce and Natasha in Avengers: Age of Ultron (we’ll get to that), but it was still pretty rushed.

It’s the timeline of the movie that bothers me the most.

Thor takes place over the course of like what? Three days on Earth? It’s a stupidly short amount of time for a romance to blossom.

Oh sure we have a couple of little scenes: Jane and Thor on the roof together, Jane and Thor after the diner, and Jane thinking Thor is insane. But, for the most part, Jane doesn’t seem particularly INTO Thor until she kisses him.

She’s more concerned with her research into the Einstein-Rosen Bridge. As a career woman, it makes sense for Jane to be more interested in that.

Credit: Marvel Studios
Credit: Marvel Studios

Sure I suppose you could say she got caught up in the moment, but they made it seem like this grand romance.

And it kind of wasn’t?

Like if Thor was there for a couple months, then I could get it? I just have a hard time believing that three days and you’re in love: lust maybe.

The Marvel Cinematic Rewatch: The Prodigal, Shakespearean, Fish Out Of Water Thor

That being said, I like Jane as a character. I like her and Thor together. She’s smart, clever, independent, and tough. Her and Thor do make sense together, but to have it be considered this grand romance so suddenly?

One of my favorite parts of Thor: The Dark World is that their relationship is developed more, which is what this movie lacked. It was the one major weak point in an overall solid and fun movie. (Also so much better than Iron Man 2.)

And that’s it for Thor. Don’t worry about Loki, Loki Lovers. We’ll be talking about him a lot more in Avengers and Thor: The Dark World.

Next week, we go back in time in the MCU in Captain America: The First Avenger.

Credit: Paolo Rivera
Credit: Paolo Rivera

Don’t forget to wear your glad rags, True Believers. We’ll be talking about the Period Piece, Peggy Carter, and the good guy superhero.

See you then!

Bec Heim
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