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Marvel Cinematic Universe: Everything You Need to Know Before Watching Ant-Man

Matthew Parkinson | 15 Jul 2015 08:00
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Directed by Kenneth Branagh. Produced by Kevin Feige. Written by Ashley Edward Miller, Zack Stentz, and Don Payne. Release date: May 6, 2011.


After being teased at the end of Iron Man 2, Thor gave us our third primary Avengers member. It also, perhaps even more importantly, gave us the first major, recurring villain, with Loki. It established a bigger in-movie universe - Asgard is, after all, not of this Earth - which paved the way for Guardians of the Galaxy, too, as well as the first Infinity Stone, a set of magical items which would become MacGuffins in future films. It was quite an important film for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The Characters:

Thor (Chris Hemsworth): Our leading character. The heir to the throne of Asgard. Odin's biological child.

Loki (Tom Hiddleston): Odin's adoptive son and Thor's adoptive brother. Sees himself as the true heir to the throne. Becomes not only a villain for Thor but for future films, too.

Jane Foster (Natalie Portman): A scientist. Thor's love interest. Under the employ of Erik Selvig.

Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård): A scientist. Hired and works with Jane. "Discovers" Thor.

Odin (Anthony Hopkins): Ruler of Asgard. Father of Thor. Adoptive father of Loki.

Heimdall (Idris Elba): The gatekeeper of the Bifröst Bridge. Sees and hears all, and decides who gets to enter and leave Asgard.

Sif (Jaimie Alexander): Thor's warrior friend and a teased love interest later on.

Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings): Jane's intern. Our comic relief.

Frigga (Rene Russo): Odin's wife. Thor's mother. Loki's adoptive mother.

Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg): A S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, and a recurring character for the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner): Appears uncredited for a brief moment in Thor. Future Avengers member.

The Plot:

Thor, almost ready to ascend the throne of Asgard, makes an ill-advised decision to re-ignite a war between the Asgardians and Frost Giants, which had been in a truce for a long time. As such, Odin deems him unworthy of the throne, strips him of his power, and banishes him to Earth, where he meets Erik, Jane, and Darcy. Thor's hammer, Mjolnir, is also sent to Earth, granting anyone who is worthy of lifting it Thor's power.

S.H.I.E.L.D. takes all of Jane and Erik's equipment after Thor leaves them to go search for Mjolnir. In Asgard, Loki takes the throne after Odin falls ill. Jane decides to take Thor to Mjolnir instead. Thor reaches his hammer, but is unable to lift it, and as a result sees himself captured. Erik gets him out.

Thor learns to be humble through his interactions with his new human friends, eventually becoming worthy of his hammer. He gets his power back just in time to stop a giant mechanical creature Loki sent to destroy him. Thor then returns to Asgard and stops Loki. Odin awakens, he and Thor make amends, and Thor admits that he's not ready to be king.

The post-credits scene sees Erik taken to a S.H.I.E.L.D. facility, as Nick Fury asks him to study a cube-shaped object, later to be known as the Tesseract, an Infinity Stone. Erik agrees, as he is being controlled by Loki at the time, setting the stage for The Avengers, where Loki has control of the Tesseract (which is also a key item in the next film Captain America: The First Avenger, although that film takes place primarily almost 70 years in the past).

Is It Any Good?

I've gone back and forth on Thor since I first saw it. It's at its best when it focuses on the action, the lavish sets on Asgard, and the silliness of Thor being on our planet. Its interactions between father and sons is also quite good. But the human characters are bland, Chris Hemsworth hadn't yet turned into a decent actor, and it's just not as much fun as it should be. It works better in hindsight once we recognize its importance in the franchise. I suppose I'm on-board with Thor.

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