Thor first appeared in August 1962 in Journey into Mystery #83. In the October issue, his scheming half-brother Loki appeared, Thor’s greatest recurring foe. In Avengers #1, Loki tricked the Hulk into going on a rampage. A call was sent out for the Fantastic Four, but Loki misdirected it to Thor, hoping to confront him, but Iron Man, Ant-Man, and the Wasp also responded. They united with the Hulk to form the Avengers. Thor’s friends Hogun, Fandral, and Volstagg, who appeared in Journey into Mystery #119 as well as the Thor movie, were not inspired by Norse Myth but by the Three Musketeers. In the Journey into Mystery Annual #1, Thor ended up on Mount Olympus and became friends with Hercules, who eventually joined the Avengers for a time. In the comics, Thor had a secret identity—Doctor Don Blake, who was frail and used a cane, which would transform into Thor’s hammer, but in the movies this conceit was abandoned.

Odin, King of Asgard (Anthony Hopkins) went to war with the Frost Giants of Jotunheim and their King Laufey (Colm Fiore unrecognizable) to prevent them from conquering the Nine Realms, including Earth. The warriors from Asgard seize the Casket of Ancient Winters. In the present, Odin’s son Thor (Chris Hemsworth) prepares to mount the Throne of Asgard but is interrupted when Frost Giants attempt to seize the Casket. Against Odin’s orders, Thor crosses the Bifrost Bridge to Jotunheim, accompanied by his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston), childhood friend Sif (Jamie Alexander) and the Warriors Three: Volstagg the Valiant (Ray Stevenson), Fandral the Dashing, (Josh Dallas), and Hogun the Grim (Tadanobu Asano). The battle with the Frost Giants is not going well when Odin intervenes and to punish Thor, strips him of his power and exiles him to Earth. The source of his power, the hammer Mjolnir, is sent there as well, but enchanted so that not even Thor can use it. Townspeople played by Stan Lee and J. Michael Straczynski (one of the scriptwriters) destroy their truck trying to pry it out of the ground.

Thor lands in New Mexico, where Doctor Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and Doctor Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgaard), who are studying interstellar phenomena, find him. Thor and Jane meet cute; he literally falls from the sky and she literally runs into him. Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) of SHIELD takes control of the hammer, but since no-one can move it, they build a lab over it in the crater it made when it fell. Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) has a short scene as a SHIELD sharpshooter. As SHIELD is seizing all the research of Doctors Foster and Selvig, Thor learns of Mjolnir’s location and tries to retrieve it, but he cannot move it either and is captured. Selvig frees him with a fast story and Thor contemplates permanent exile on Earth.

Loki discovers he is the Frost Giant Laufey’s son, taken by Odin during the war. When Odin goes into deep Odinsleep, Loki seizes the throne and invites the Frost Giants to invade Asgard. Sif and the Warriors Three convince Heimdall, gatekeeper of the Bifrost Bridge (an impressive Idris Elba) to allow them passage to Earth to bring Thor back home. They cause something of a sensation in the street, and when Loki sends the indestructible metal giant Destroyer after them, the town is nearly wiped out. Offering to sacrifice himself for his friends, Thor breaks the spell and the hammer flies into his hand, as Odin begins to wake. Saying his goodbyes to his Earth friends, particularly Jane, and promising to return, Thor flies to Asgard. Loki betrays and kills his real father Laufey. Thor arrives and fights Loki, but destroys the Bifrost Bridge in the process, stranding himself in Asgard. Odin rises and saves both brothers, but Loki dives into the abyss between worlds. Thor makes amends with Odin.

Back on Earth, Foster and her team search for a portal to Asgard. Selvig is taken to a SHIELD facility, where Nick Fury opens a briefcase and asks him to study the glowing cube within. Loki, invisible, whispers in Selvig’s ear.

The movie was directed by Kenneth Branagh with appropriately Shakespearean panache, and the music was written by Patrick Doyle, who scored Hamlet, Henry V, and Much Ado About Nothing for Branagh. Chris Hemsworth based Thor’s fighting style on Mike Tyson—brutal, yet graceful, with big shoulder swings, his power coming up from the ground. Natalie Portman took the role because she couldn’t resist the idea of Kenneth Branagh directing a comic-book movie. She signed up before reading the script, and she liked the idea that Jamie Foster was a nurse in the comic book and an astrophysicist in the movie. Tom Hiddleston tried out for Thor but Branagh convinced him Loki was his role—he had a lean and hungry look like Cassius in Julius Caesar. He modeled his style after Peter O’Toole in The Lion in Winter and Lawrence of Arabia. Ray Stevenson played Volstagg as Falstaff, and Idris Elba took on Heimdall because Branagh phoned him and asked him to. Anthony Hopkins based Odin on his own domineering and distant father. Jaimie Alexander, who played Sif, said she had four brothers and grew up with Marvel Comics. She had been the only girl on her high school wrestling team, and, let’s face it, who better than Kenneth Branagh to direct a Shakespearean superhero movie? Casting is all.

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