The past few entries here have been pretty heavy, so today I’d like to write about fun things. Sounds like a case for comic book movies!
Rather than review Thor II: The Dark World--we all know it was awesome and if you say otherwise you’re just trying to be the cool naysayer and it’s not working--I’d like to think about what could come next for the cinematic Odinson and how it could connect to the future phases of the Marvel franchise.
Thor has never been at the top of my list of heroes to follow, but we’ve had our moments together. Back when I would get my mom to buy me whichever comic was most colorful at the grocery store, I picked up more than a few early-90s issues of the Mighty One. Later, when I got into the Avengers, I recognized how Thor’s special Asgardian braggadocio and courtly attitude added some needed epic fantasy sensibility to the proceedings. Then there was, of course, “Heroes Return,” when Thor got a new series helmed by Dan Jurgens--the guy who killed Superman--a new artist in always-spectacular John Romita Jr., a new alter-ego, new enemies...the whole nine. I had to pay attention for that. It was a really good run that got me to look a little more closely at the narrative and creative history of the Thunder God.
So I feel slightly qualified to offer a few possible story-elements to fill out the next Thor movie. (Possible spoilers for The Dark World from here out, as well as some comic book storylines from the 80s and 90s.)
Beta Ray Bill wields the power of Thor
The Marvel movie universe has so far conveniently glossed over a significant implication to the inscription on Thor’s hammer: “Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor.” That means that Chris Hemsworth isn’t the only guy in the universe who can potentially enjoy swinging the uru hammer--Beta Ray being another possibility. The alien champion of a race whose homeworld was destroyed by some Asgardian demonic shenanigans, BRB and Thor came into conflict in the comics when the refugees began to encroach on Earth’s airspace. Proving himself noble and valiant, Bill was able to sling Mjolnir with the best of them--convincing Odin to give him his own weapon, Stormbreaker. After their initial dust-up, he and Thor became fast friends and allies.
Why introduce him to the MCU, though? Besides filling out the cosmic scope of the movie universe and Thor’s adventures in it? To show moviegoers the possibility that, should Thor go down, someone else might, just might, be able to pick up his hammer and carry on the fight. This would be a great setup for a future Avengers movie moment, since Captain America is another being who has proven worthy of possessing Thor’s power.
(Some folks are hoping for this to occur in Avengers 2: Age of Ultron, but I think it would come off as too much of a deus ex machina without establishing that a select few beings are capable of the feat besides Thor. YMMV.)
Suggested reading: The Mighty Thor: The Ballad of Beta Ray Bill
Expand (and reduce) the supporting cast
The Thor movies have had a tough row to hoe when it comes to populating Thor’s life. He has no shortage of interesting friends, enemies and romantic interests, but how do you walk the line between Asgardian fantasy and earthly realism? Filmmakers have succeeded fairly well so far (more in the second film than the first, in my opinion), but only if you really shut off certain critical parts of your brain. There’s a lot of stylistic whiplash between the two worlds, especially since our hero, so far, is very solidly part of only one of them. To that point, and since the end of movie two has seemingly set up the main conflict of part III as Thor vs. Loki again, I think Thor 3 should focus on Asgard, reducing Darcy and her intern’s intern and Erik Selvig to cameos while significantly boosting Lady Sif, to the point where she feels like a real person than like a warrior princess archetype. Meanwhile, with the Earth cast reduced (and Frigga gone, RIP), there’s room in Asgard for another ally whose presence I have missed amidst all the Warriors Three slapstick: Balder the Brave! He’s kind, courageous, and easy on the eyes, as well as being a crucial part of Asgardian myth, comic book and otherwise. He’s sort of Asgard’s other golden child--where everyone idolizes Thor and looks forward to his rule, Balder is the one that everyone loves. That makes his tragic end in Norse myth--at Loki’s hands--extra sad, a storyline that would play well on the big screen. (And hey, the Norse death-goddess Hela could have a role then, too! She and Loki would make a great uneasy alliance.)
They could even play closer to the myths than the comics do and make Balder another of Thor’s brothers, allowing for some appropriate and dreamy stunt casting--Chris Hemsworth's brother Liam.
Thor, Frog of Thunder
Loki once turned Thor into a frog. Yup. Awesome, huh? Ignore all that stuff about his frog friend Puddlegulp being another transformed human--talk about mammal-washing what should be an empowering amphibian story. It’s bad enough Thor already comes in as the air-breathing savior, we don’t need the main frog character being another human too! How condescending!
For the record, I’m being entirely sincere about that.
But yeah. It would be stupid for this to be the entire movie, of course. But I think it would make for an interesting middle act--Thor in his righteous rage, having discovered Loki in Odin’s place, very haughtily and arrogantly attacks him with his muscles--allowing Loki to best him with cunning and magic. Rather than kill his brother (because secretly hey he meant all the mushy stuff in Thor 2), Loki decides to teach Thor humility by transforming him into a modest creature and sending him to live among them.
Loki doesn’t account for the fact that Thor is at his best when forced to confront his limitations, and he often finds new reserves of strength in his own humbling. Earning the respect of the frogs, they help him find a cure for his state, blah blah magic handwave, lots of cuts back to Totalitarian Asgard with Sif and Heimdall leading underground resistance and the Warriors Three rallying the hinterlands. Thor’s froggy exploits are played for frog-out-of-water laughs but are strangely emotionally effective at the same time, I’d hope. And at a critical moment during a conflict between a restored Thor and Loki, the armies of frogs arrive to turn the tide! It’s enough to put a frog in your throat.
It could be silly. It could be cute. It could be good, for something different in our superhero movie fare. It would also be a good way to honor the creator behind this story (and Beta Ray Bill), Walt Simonson, who is viewed as one of the visionary artists and writers in the Thor canon.
Suggested reading: Thor by Walter Simonson Omnibus
A rival pantheon
One of the fun things Thor has allowed in comics is the exploration of other mythic pantheons beyond the Norse. Thor has made allies and enemies among many of Earth’s other gods, and among some made up for comic book purposes. Introducing another pantheon would add texture to the MCU’s canon of ancient-gods-as-alien-beings. Would the Olympians be a race similar to the Asgardians who settled in a pocket dimension accessible only from Earth? Would the Egyptian gods of the Nile have mastered the power of life and death?
There are a few good possibilities. If the movie brought in the Greek pantheon, that would give us the opportunity to meet Hercules, an ally and longtime member of the Avengers in the comics. But many of Marvel’s versions of the Greek gods come off as redundant next to the Asgardians, and might not add enough to the movies. Even Hercules is pretty much Thor without the hammer, cape and brains.
The Egyptian gods, frequent foes of the Thunderer, are much more unique and interesting. The snake and death themes prevalent with their leader, Seth, would make for a dark film, along with his powerhouse aides, Grog, Gog and Magog. I have a particular fondness for the storyline centered around Thor #400, which gives the opportunity to introduce a favorite Avenger of mine--the Black Knight.
But perhaps the best route would be to utilize one of the fictional pantheons that has bedeviled Thor through the years. My choice would be the Dark Gods. They were a part of that Dan Jurgens run that I enjoyed so much, but film writers could really take them in any direction, story-wise. Where they would make awesome foes for Thor is in the visual splendor they would afford to the screen. I mean, look at these guys--they’re Kirbyesque wonders.
Suggested reading: Thor: The Dark Gods (though it might be better to track down and read all of Thor vol. II #1-13) and Thor vol. 1 #387, 389-390, 393, 395-400
EGO!! The Planet that Lives!!
(To be serious, I love Ego. He’s so ridiculous. And a friend of mine has hopes that a future Avengers movie could reflect Planet Hulk/World War Hulk, which I think could create some nice synergy with an Ego storyline.)
Suggested reading: Fantastic Four vol. I #234-235
Blake. Dr. Donald Blake.
Part of comic-Thor’s mythology has always been his conflicted relationship with Earth. This has been attenuated by his periods of residence here--either by choice or by decree, either with full knowledge of his pedigree or as an amnesiac. Whatever else happens in Thor 3, I think it should end with Thor on Earth, ready to build a life there with Jane (sorry, Sif), and getting ready to deal with Earthly concerns. This would be a nice change of pace for the character, humanizing him, really locking in his love for the planet, its people, and one particular lady. It’s also not outside the realm of possibility that viewers will have Asgard fatigue after three films based mostly in its fabulous halls. Time to let Thor thunder among the mortals for a while.
Until it’s time for Ragnarok.
I’m off to Miami for Thanksgiving with my boyfriend. Probably no post next week as a result--sorry, my legions of fans! Have a happy Thanksgiving, if such is your cultural norm.