My last Story Study is appropriately timed, considering Avengers: Endgame‘s release this week! The subject of today’s post not only introduced me to the MCU, but also is the reason I now enjoy the science fiction genre.
My first encounter: As the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies began to release, leading up to The Avengers in 2012, I had declared many times that I didn’t like superheroes and was determined to not watch any of the films. With my mom, I rolled my eyes at my dad and brother’s enjoyment of superhero movies. Little did I know that I would become the MCU’s latest fan victim in late 2011 when Thor was released on DVD. My family rented the movie and, always intrigued by anything related to Scandinavian culture or Vikings due to my own heritage, my interest to watch the movie was piqued. So I decided to give Thor a try—and it changed my life forever.
Thor did two things for me: it sucked me into the MCU and served as my gateway into the science fiction genre. I’m still a diehard fan of the MCU, and Thor is my favorite superhero. I know most people bash the Thor trilogy for being the weakest in the MCU, but I’m still its biggest fan—and not just because of Loki or Thor or their respective actors. Though a very unpopular opinion, I enjoy the Thor trilogy most out of the standalone hero sagas. Best written or crafted? Not necessarily. Other MCU films are better written and perhaps better stories all around. Nonetheless, the Thor series is my favorite of the MCU.
What I love: I credit Thor’s science fantasy genre with first hooking me into the movie. Its unique blend of fantasy and science fiction showed me the possibilities within the speculative genre in a way I had never seen before. I realized that science fiction wasn’t restricted to space-opera-type stories like Star Wars. Instead, it, too, could comment upon wonder, the possibility to magic, and mythology—tropes I commonly associate with fantasy stories and reasons why fantasy tends to appeal to me more than science fiction. Since Thor incorporated plenty of fantasy and mythology elements, it was the perfect introduction to the MCU for me.
Another reason why I enjoy the trilogy so much is Thor’s character arc and journey across his three solo films. Together, the three films relate the story of Thor’s ascent to the throne of Asgard. He almost becomes king at the beginning of the first film, only to be interrupted by the invasion of the Frost Giants, followed up by his own banishment a few scenes later. In The Dark World, he’s offered the throne again only to refuse it. Then he doesn’t take the throne until the end of Ragnarok, fulfilling his delayed coronation at last. From beginning to end, everything in the Thor trilogy revolves around Thor becoming king. In my opinion, this focus and full-circle narrative is one of the best storytelling elements of the Thor saga. I think that’s why I find this trilogy more satisfying than the others—there’s a clear, single arc that binds all three movies together.
Like many, I of course love the Thor and Loki dynamic, especially in The Dark World (where the scenes with Loki are honestly the best part of the film) and Ragnarok. The way the two of them interact and grow as brothers is fantastic and heartbreaking and the emotional heart of Thor’s story.
And, to add a comment upon the MCU as a whole, I’m also fascinated by the Marvel films’ interconnectedness. It’s so intriguing to find the little details in each movie pointing to the other stories and to see the way it all comes together in a larger narrative. I’m in awe of how they pull it off with very few glaring problems.
What critiques I have: Though I was once known for being a passionate Jane & Thor shipper, as I’ve grown older I’ve come to recognize how forced their romantic arc is and how it’s the most problematic of the MCU. Forced, because it’s unrealistic. It happens too fast in the first movie, and in the second their reunion is the worst written scene of the film. Problematic, because of the huge gap between the first and second movies where they don’t see each other. And he’s still thinking of her? Sure. Then why didn’t you go try to see her even for like, five minutes to explain what’s going on? The problem this time gap creates only feeds back into how unrealistic their relationship feels.
Moving on, as I mentioned earlier, the Thor and Loki relationship is one of my favorite parts of the trilogy. Which is why I wish there was more set-up in the first film. In particular, there’s a deleted scene of the two of them before Thor’s (interrupted) coronation that I personally think needed to be kept in. It showed their bond in a way that wasn’t as powerful in the scenes actually in the first movie, and the scene set up Loki’s character better than what remained in the movie. So I just pretend that the deleted scene is canon.
Finally, while Loki is the best villain of the MCU, unfortunately the Thor trilogy suffers from Cardboard Villain Syndrome in its last two movies. Personally, I feel like Hela could’ve been a little better developed, though she’s definitely way more interesting than the Dark Elf in Thor 2. However Cardboard Villain Syndrome is a problem across the MCU as well, so I’m not that surprised to find it in the Thor saga.
My greatest takeaways: Since my obsession with the MCU was born, every novel I write is set in the same universe. I just love the idea of an interconnected story world, though I’m not designing my fantasy and sci-fi series to intentionally come together Avengers-style. Instead, I’ve established certain small worldbuilding details, magic systems or technology, and a few minor cause-and-effect relationships that accumulate across stories to suggest that a character from The Myth-Keepers could easily meet someone from my other (unnamed) fantasy and sci-fi series, or even Our Company of Fools. I think it’s so intriguing, epic, and great fun for fans to be given a puzzle like a connected story universe. As a writer, it’s exciting to think about with my own stories, even if I’m not planning any major crossovers.
Thor also showed me the possibility of creating a science fantasy story and inspired an interest in writing own superhero novels. While I have no immediate plans to work on the project, I do have a series idea for a science fantasy superhero story that was definitely Thor and Marvel inspired.
A final takeaway from the MCU and Thor saga in particular is a desire to create superb villains for my novels. Loki is an intriguing example of a villain-turned-anti-hero-turned-hero (well, maybe…)—and that uncertainty about where he stands proves the point that’s stuck with me. Loki is unpredictable. That makes him an interesting character, and those are the kinds of villains I want to write: well-crafted, not cardboard.
I might be one of the few who absolutely adore the Thor movies most of the MCU, but it’s definitely made a huge impact on my storytelling. For Asgard!
If you’re a superhero fan, which is your favorite? Is there a sci-fi story or subgenre that you particularly enjoy?