- Thor (2011), rated M for action violence
- Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), rated M for action violence
Those of course are the Australian ratings; in the United States, the ratings are:
- Thor – PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence
- Captain America – PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action
As usual, I’ll give the trailers and a clip each at the end.
And as usual, I offer the following disclaimer, just to be safe:
WARNING: POTENTIAL SPOILERS AHEAD. PROCEED AT OWN RISK.
2011 stands as the only year the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) failed to crack the year’s top 10 box office hits (apart from 2010, when they released no films). While it wasn’t a great year for Marvel box office-wise, both the franchise’s films of that year are fantastic.
After successfully defending Earth from a Frost Giant invasion in 967 AD, the Asgardians and their king, Odin Allfather (Anthony Hopkins), withdraw into their home planet, Asgard, the Realm Eternal, for the next millennium or so, and as a result are gradually relegated to myth and legend. In 2011, Odin prepares to abdicate in favour of his son Thor (Chris Hemsworth), but the ceremony is interrupted when a small group of Frost Giants who break into Odin’s Vault but are quickly dispatched. Thor’s coronation is delayed, and he goes against his father’s instructions and leads a small team to Jotunheim – the Frost Giant homeworld – in retaliation.
Both Thor and Mjolnir land in New Mexico, where the former is noticed and helped by a researcher named Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and her friends, and the latter becomes an object of curiosity to the US government – specifically S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Coulson. While Thor tries to adjust to life on Earth and retrieve his hammer (as romance begins between him and Jane), his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) has a sinister scheme of his own.
As I’ve mentioned previously, I’m a sucker for a well-developed fictional universe & mythology, and especially for a film that expands that universe/mythology, probably partly as a by-product of having read so many myths and legends as a kid. And Thor easily provides one of the biggest universe/mythology expansions in a franchise ever (in a single film, at least) revealing a universe teaming with life, and where the old “gods” – the Norse ones, at least – lived their millennia-long lives on their own planet.
Which was the other thing I loved about this movie – as a mythology fan, I enjoyed the whole mythological aspect of it – particularly adapting the myths into a modern-day sci-fi tale. Looking into Norse mythology and cosmology more after watching the film, I was pleasantly surprised at just how faithful Thor is to the legends that inspired it.
I also loved how director Kenneth Branagh seamlessly blends science fiction, fantasy and mythology into a homogeneous whole that effortlessly mixes and blurs the three. I also liked the Shakespearean element – and how it surprisingly manages to fit perfectly into a superhero film.
I ADORE the film’s visuals, which are both incredible and incredibly beautiful; both the CGI and special effects, and the sets, costumes, place designs, and the overall cinematography. It was the most visually beautiful Marvel film until Guardians of the Galaxy 3 years later, and is still among Marvel’s more visually impressive works (although it now has several competitors).
The cast is spectacular. Chris Hemsworth in particular provides a fantastic lead as Thor Odinson, the arrogant 1500-year-old son and heir of Odin and god of thunder who is forced to reconsider his life choices – and goes through a similarly great character development/growth to Tony Stark in the original Iron Man.
Tom Hiddleston is fantastic as Thor’s younger brother Loki, the god of mischief, who is working behind the scenes on a grand scheme. While the villain, he is truly a multi-layered character whom one feels some sympathy for. I loved the intensity of Hiddleston’s performance in the latter half of the film.
I LOVE Anthony Hopkins’ performance as Odin Borson, the Allfather, Asgard’s aging and wise millennia-old King, Thor and Loki’s father, and one of the most powerful beings in the universe, forced to banish his own son for his arrogance. One of my favourite scenes in the film is where Odin strips Thor of his power; Hopkins’ acting is spectacular. His performance in that scene is made even better by character revelations in subsequent films (specifically Thor: Ragnarok).
Unlike many, I rather liked Natalie Portman as Jane Foster, and I rather liked her and Thor’s romance. In fact, in all the superhero movies I’ve seen (which are MANY), Thor and Jane are my favourite romantic pairing.
I also rather like Idris Elba as Heimdall, the all-seeing guardian of the Bifrost.
And as usual, DON’T forget to stick around til the end of the credits; this post-credits scene is particularly intriguing.
As far as superhero films go, Thor will always hold a special place in my heart.
Captain America: The First Avenger
While Thor had me the most excited out of the pre-Avengers Marvel films, I’d argue that the first installment in the Captain America trilogy is the best.
In the 1940s, in the middle of World War II, Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving), otherwise known as the Red Skull, steals the Tesseract – a powerful object once owned by Odin himself – from a monastery in Tonsberg, Norway, and massacres the town’s inhabitants. In New York City, Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is rejected for military recruitment for various health & physical problems. While attending an exhibition of future technologies with his friend, Sgt. James “Bucky” Barnes (Sebastian Stan), Rogers again attempts to enlist. Overhearing Rogers’ conversation with Barnes about wanting to help in the war, Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci) allows Rogers to enlist.
Rogers is recruited into a super soldier experiment program run by Dr Erskine, Col. Chester Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones) and British agent Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell). Rogers is eventually (reluctantly) selected, and is injected with a serum that greatly enhances him physically – but a Nazi assassin kills Erskine and flees with the serum. Meanwhile, Schmidt – head of HYDRA, Hitler’s occult science division – harnesses the power of the Tesseract to create a superweapon to attain his goal of world domination.
I quite enjoyed the film’s retro vibe; it’s 1940s, World War II setting. It makes for a nice change (not complaining about superhero films being set in the present day, far from it; it’s just nice to see one set a couple generations ago).
I also liked how it’s basically a World War II spy/commando/war thriller whose main character happens to be a future superhero. The World War II setting, the semi-Nazi villain, and the sci-fi McGuffin all combine to make an extremely engaging, entertaining, and genuinely interesting (and exciting!) film with a great plot.
Chris Evans is simply perfect as Steve Rogers, a scrawny would-be recruit who becomes the world’s first super soldier, and a war hero. No-one else could’ve done the role as well.
Hugo Weaving is fantastic as Johann Schmidt, occasionally referred to as the Red Skull, a disfigured Nazi occult scientist and head of HYDRA who dreams of ruling the world – and with the Tesseract, he has the power to do it.
I rather liked Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter, a British agent working with the super soldier experiment and thus with Steve – and his love interest. They made a nice couple.
Tommy Lee Jones is always great, and provides a good performance as Colonel Phillips, Steve’s superior and one of the heads of the super soldier program. Stanley Tucci is also great as Dr Erskine, the other head of the program – the man who invented the serum. He briefly becomes a sort of mentor for Steve, and is quite likeable.
I’ve always liked Toby Jones, and thought he was good as Arnim Zola, a biochemist working for Schmidt who is reluctant in his support for his boss.
As a World War II thriller, effects aren’t in high demand, but those used are fantastic.
The film’s action sequences are also awesome – my favourite being the climatic confrontation between Rogers and Schmidt.
The film’s title could’ve done with a bit more thought; Rogers is not the first Avenger born (that’s Thor – by a long shot), nor is he the first to become a warrior/hero – that’s also Thor. Nor is he the first to be called an Avenger – that’s Carol Danvers (Captain Marvel). Nor is he the first approached about the Avenger Initiative – that’s Tony Stark (Iron Man). It would’ve been better to have simply titled it Captain America.
And as usual, don’t forget to stick around ’til the end of the credits.
Captain America: The First Avenger is the best of the pre-Avengers Marvel films, and an awesome World War II thriller.
The Thor trailer:
The Captain America trailer:
A Thor clip:
A Captain America clip:
[What do you think of these films? Be sure to let me know in the comments! Also, send me your review for any movie, and I’ll post it on Blockbusters Reviewed.]