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The most influential comic book movies of all time – Number 8: Thor

Number 8: Thor

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Image via Marvel Studios

This one might not be everyone’s idea of a game changing movie, but think about what superhero movies had meant up until this point. Vampires? Check. Capes? Check. Powers inherited from radioactive animal? Check. But none of them had ever featured a god before, never mind one who carried a dirty great hammer that could shoot lightning. Therein lies Thor’s merit in this list. It was the first in the current generation of movies that dared to deviate from the formula that had so far proved to be so popular. The bright lights, like Spider-Man, Superman, Iron Man and Captain America had all enjoyed their time in the sun, counteracting the darker, more brooding personas of Batman, The Punisher, Wolverine and the Hulk.

Thor though, was an entirely different proposition. Marvel’s Avengers plan would have been difficult to pull off without the inclusion of the God of Thunder. Hence the reasoning for a movie. Would Marvel have attempted it had they not had the game plan of a ensemble movie at the end of it? It’s impossible to say, but there’s no doubt Thor was a harder sell than some of the more well established hero names.

Here was a six foot plus Nordic deity, who wore a helmet with wings on it and spoke in ye olde language. He could fly, lived on a floating city and had a half brother who could bend reality. This was never going to be The Dark Knight mark II. Marvel actually made a smart move in stripping Thor of his powers and dropping him on earth for the majority of the movie, as it made him the underdog and relied on Chris Hemsworth’s acting skills rather than him belting people across the kisser with Mjolnir every five minutes.

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Image via Marvel Studios

Another big plus was the decision to appoint Kenneth Branagh as the movie’s director. A classical Shakespearean actor, he more than anyone else knows how to translate the language, mannerisms and  terminology of somewhere like Asgard to a modern audience and make it relevant to people who would normally be flummoxed by some of the language present. Take for example, Odin’s speech when he strips Thor of his powers:

Thor Odinson… you have betrayed the express command of your king. Through your arrogance and stupidity, you’ve opened these peaceful realms and innocent lives to the horror and desolation of war! You are unworthy of these realms, you’re unworthy of your title, you’re unworthy… of the loved ones you have betrayed! I now take from you your power! In the name of my father and his father before, I, Odin Allfather, cast you out!

Hardly Dirty Harry is it?

In some circumstances it’s enough to put people off wanting to see a movie. After all, if they think it’s going to be “forsooth this” and “yor that” then it’s not exactly going to attract the mainstream audience.

Yet Thor did, bringing in nearly £450m at the worldwide box office, proving it wasn’t a flop or failed to reach beyond it’s target audience. It managed to make people believe that a god (and other gods) could exist on earth, and could also be realised in the same continuity as Iron Man, Captain America and The Hulk. By doing that, Marvel, and Branagh, ensured that Thor could become a believable part of the Avengers team, and that meant the bankability of the character would transcend into Marvel’s big budget extravaganza.

In short, Thor could have easily bombed, and with the failure of such a significant character, The Avengers wouldn’t have been the same, or probably as successful. Marvel had to get it right, or it would have thrown a massive spanner in the works of it’s planned masterwork. Thor is a game changer, because it changed the way people thought that superheroes had to be.

Next time, we’ll take a look at number seven on the list, with the movie that made people believe that a talking raccoon and a tree could be taken seriously.

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