With Thor: Love and Thunder now in theaters, here are 5 reasons why the New Thor films are better than Old Thor films.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe is one of the biggest and most profitable properties that will ever be. Not only does it have almost 40 individual pieces of entertainment, from tv shows to movies, but it also introduced the world to dozens of different, diverse, and fantastical characters. In 2008, when Iron Man came out, almost no one could have predicted the success this franchise would have, and the number of dedicated fans the MCU would create throughout the last 15 years. Before there were cameos and crossovers, which mainly started with The Avengers, audiences were introduced to a few core characters who either had their own solo films, such as Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), and Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr), or were introduced as side characters and had their time to shine later in the MCU, such as Black Widow (Scarlett Johannson) or Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson).
Thor is one of the original characters introduced in the MCU, since his first movie came out 12 years ago, and he is the first Marvel character to have had four movies where he is the lead. Since audiences have been with Thor for so many years, we have seen him grow into someone who’s very different from the god we first met over a decade ago. There was a significant shift in the interpretation of this character and that came with the introduction of filmmaker Taika Waititi, who has directed both Thor: Ragnarok and Thor: Love and Thunder. In these “New Thor” films, we get to see a different Thor that is funnier, more flawed, and ultimately better than his previous appearances. In this article, I will share my thoughts on why New Thor is better than Old Thor, not only as a character but also in the way that the films are crafted as a whole.
Before I get into the individual reasons that New Thor is better than Old Thor, let’s recap what happens in these four films. Starting off with the original Thor, we find the god of thunder cast out of Asgard, his home planet, where he winds up on planet Earth. Here is where he finds Jane (Natalie Portman, of Black Swan), an astrophysicist who teaches him some valuable lessons about what it means to be human, all while falling in love with Thor. As time goes on, Thor has a lot of personal growth and is able to return to Asgard as a hero. The next time we see Thor is in The Avengers, where he teams up with other heroes to take down his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston of The Essex Serpent), who is trying to take over Earth. After those events, Thor is back in Asgard in Thor: The Dark World, where he and Jane reunite under some unique circumstances, and Thor once again has to fight an evil being that is trying to wreak havoc throughout the universe.
By the time Thor’s third film, Ragnarok, begins, he has once again teamed up with the Avengers and beat Ultron, an artificial intelligence being turned evil in a disastrous battle. At the start of this third film, we start to see New Thor emerge. He is now imprisoned on the planet Sakaar but needs to find a way to escape and get back to his home planet to stop Hela (Cate Blanchett), Thor’s sister, who is trying to destroy worlds by any means necessary. From here, we see New Thor join the Avengers in their fight against genocidal warlord Thanos (Josh Brolin), and when it seems as if they have lost everything, Thor goes down a darker path where he gains a lot of weight and spends the majority of his time drinking beer and playing video games. After The Avengers finally beat Thanos, the biggest threat they have faced thus far, New Thor joins the Guardians of the Galaxy to create peace throughout the universe and also find himself, which is right where the fourth film, Thor: Love and Thunder, kicks off.
1. Chris Hemsworth is a Fantastic Comedian
Easily one of the most distinct parts of New Thor movies is how much they lean into comedy. Both Ragnarok and Love and Thunder are actually officially labeled as action comedies instead of just action movies, and are the first MCU movies to do so. With that being said, there are so many scenes where the filmmakers are so reliant on comedy, so much so that the initial reception of these movies, especially Love and Thunder, was more mixed than that of the average MCU film. Some audience members were unable to take the film seriously and felt that these movies did not fit into the larger MCU narrative. Walking out of the theater for both of the New Thor films, I disagreed with both of these criticisms and think that the comedy is extremely complementary to the world that Thor takes place in. All of the comedy in the film lands well overall, and none of that would have been possible without the genuinely hilarious leading man, Chris Hemsworth.
We have seen hints of Chris Hemsworth’s great comedic timing in previous Thor movies, such as when he smashes his glass down in appreciation for a drink in the first Thor, but one of the main criticisms of the Old Thor movies is that Hemsworth’s natural comedic talents were always underutilized. Both Thor and The Dark World are very plot-driven and, even if there is a little room for potential comedic scenes, these opportunities are mainly utilized either to give supporting characters more screen time or to add back story, since we were still getting to know the god of thunder. Loki, Thor’s mischievous brother, carried most of the comedic weight in the past, such as his numerous quirky one-liners, but ever since New Thor arrived, Hemsworth has been given so much more to work with, which not only makes his character more likable but also allows audiences to see what a great actor Hemsworth truly is.
From physical comedy, such as flashing hundreds of people in Love and Thunder when he attempts to sneak into a meeting of the Gods, to his light banter with Loki throughout Ragnarok, we have been able to see so much more from Chris Hemsworth and it has all helped to make New Thor a character we look forward to seeing in future MCU projects, instead of just a character that has to be there because he is apart of the ensemble. These moments of comedy would have been initially funny in almost any movie, but it’s Hemsworth’s portrayal of Thor that makes them really special. There is this confident yet charismatic essence that Hemsworth gives the character that would have been hard for any other actor to replicate, which serves these New Thor films really well.
2. New Thor Films are Unexpected and Fresh
Speaking of comedy, ever since these New Thor movies have been released, one of the best parts of the viewing experience has been that audiences did not know what they were getting into. A lot of movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe have a very similar tone and storytelling style. For example, if you take some of the more recent MCU properties, such as Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, and even The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, they all have the same structure and feel to them. It starts out with an introduction to the heroes, then an introduction to the problem that the heroes spend the rest of their time trying to fix. This is all done in a mainly serious but sometimes lighthearted tone. Since there have been so many entries into this franchise, audiences have gotten used to the typical MCU formula that the Old Thor movies have fallen into as well. There are interesting ideas behind both of these films, but, because they follow the same formula, they end up not being as engaging as most of the other MCU properties. Because of this, both of these films end up lost in the shuffle, becoming two of the more forgettable movies in the larger MCU series.
With the New Thor movies, both entries have truly been something MCU fans have never seen before. What other MCU hero would have screaming goats lead a huge trip across the galaxy like in Love and Thunder? This is mainly due to the comedy-first approach that Waititi has with these films, which allows them to have one of the most unique tones out of an MCU property. From their bold colors to the campy 80s vibe that carries throughout, both Ragnarok and Love and Thunder are more thrilling just because they feel different, thus that much more unpredictable and exciting to watch.
3. New Thor Films Actually Feel Otherworldly
Not only do the New Thor films have a storytelling style that’s not as formulaic as that of Old Thor films, but they also take great advantage of the fact that Thor is a god from another planet. Even the posters for the Old Thor films look gray and unexciting, while the New Thor films’ posters are bursting with color, and viewers can tell that the film will be a more exciting, out-of-this-world experience. Not only do this excitement and energy infect the poster, but the same excitement and energy is also present in the New Thor films themselves. They are both filled with grand production design and some of the boldest cinematography that could be seen throughout the whole MCU. For example, in Ragnarok, the arena where Thor eventually fights Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) is one of the coolest sets that have been introduced by the MCU in recent years, and, on top of that, as an audience member, you truly feel transported to that planet and are fully in the moment. In Love and Thunder, when the climax first begins and the protagonists try to stop Gorr (Christian Bale, of The Dark Knight), they are transported to the shadow realm. Here, everything is in black and white, which is starkly different from the rest of the color film and captures the audiences’ attention so creatively because a bold visual choice such as this one had not been done in a MCU film yet.
The best part about all of this is that these strong artistic displays allow the audience to more easily understand that Thor lives on another planet, and, when the characters travel to different areas of the universe, it doesn’t feel like they are on an earth-based planet. By Earth-based, I mean that any given planet feels like it is Earth, with small variations or just different-looking characters that prove to the viewer that they are somewhere other than Earth. This is including our past experiences with Old Thor on his home planet, Asgard, where the lack of a strong color palette and production design don’t add more wonder or excitement to the films.
4. Flawed Characters Shine Brighter
One of the best aspects of New Thor as a character is that his flaws are as much a part of the overall character arc just as much as his strengths. Most of the time in the MCU, the hero doesn’t have much more to do besides beat the villain, whoever it might be, and maybe some minor character development since heroes don’t really have much room to grow (besides in origin stories). What New Thor movies do so much better than Old Thor movies is that they allow the character to be flawed and feel emotion. For example, in Love and Thunder, it is very apparent that Thor is still hung up on his breakup with Jane, especially with that romance montage in the beginning of the film, and that territory is not usually something a typical comic book movie would cover, let alone an MCU film. After New Thor’s appearance in Ragnarok, other characters in films such as Infinity War and Endgame have had the opportunity to interact with this more flawed character, which if, it hadn’t been for that foundation in Ragnarok, would have not been possible.
Seeing this side of a hero makes New Thor feel a lot more relatable and causes viewers to care about him more than ever before. We can see so much more than just Thor saving the day, and we get a full range of emotions from Hemsworth which, without this bold direction that the last two films have gone in, wouldn’t have happened. Without the more campy and comedic tones, it would have felt out of place to see Thor cry about his break up, or have such a strong romantic connection with his hammer and axe, but since we are seeing more sides of Thor because of these comedic elements, it makes more sense to the audience.
5. It Isn’t Just About Thor (In The Best Way)
Finally, one of the best parts of these New Thor films is that they are less Thor-focused. This isn’t to say that Thor was ever an uninteresting lead, but since both Ragnarok and Love and Thunder give a lot more screen time to their supporting characters than its predecessors, the audience is introduced to many more fascinating characters. The addition of characters such as the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum, of Jurassic Park) and Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson, of Passing) adds a particular type of humor that is rare for MCU films. Both of these characters and more give the New Thor films more unique personalities, and these kinds of characters would not have been introduced in the Old Thor films nor any other MCU property, given that the specific tone that these last two Thor films have allows the lighthearted humor to thrive.
Since the New Thor movies have such a strong comedic tone to them, having more of an ensemble was a perfect choice for Waititi to make. When a lot of comedies only have one or two characters to focus on, a lot of the comedy feels unoriginal and audiences can get tired of seeing the same types of jokes throughout any film. What these New Thors do so well is have an even disperse of jokes throughout the cast, which makes the movies more consistently funny and original.
I hope that, because of these five reasons, it is apparent that the New Thor films are much better than the Old Thor films, and that is mainly due to Taika Waititi taking the reins on Thor’s most recent two films, forever changing the way that audiences view the god of thunder. These New Thor films have allowed Chris Hemsworth to showcase his great comedic talents that have been underutilized in previous MCU projects, making his portrayal of Thor more flawed and beautiful, which makes him so much more loveable. On top of this, Watiti’s direction makes the films feel more like space adventures, which, at their core, they are. Finally, with the inclusion of new characters and exciting new planets and set pieces, these films are the breath of fresh air that MCU needs from time to time.
Thor: Love and Thunder will be released globally in theaters on July 8, 2022.