Iron Man Started the MCU, but Thor Made It Work

There's no denying the impact of the first Iron Man film. It kick-started the Marvel Cinematic Universe and gave us arguably the most perfect live action casting of any fictional character in Robert Downey Jr.

But it would take one other movie to cement the MCU as the premier cinematic universe, and I would argue that it opened the doors for everything else that came before it: the first Thor movie.


The MCU wasn't an overnight success. After Iron Man, there was 2008's Incredible Hulk, a fun but flawed reboot that wowed fans but not much else. Then Iron Man 2 came out two years later, which gave us a lot of meme potential ("I vant my burd" indeed) but basically spun its wheels in place.

Thor was arguably the riskiest Marvel movie at that point. Top-billed by a little-known Australian soap opera actor playing a C-list comic book character that literally no major studio wanted to buy the rights to, Thor had its work cut out for it since Day 1. Before Thor, everything MCU was in the realm of cutting edge science fiction. But here was Marvel making a movie about Norse gods fighting frost giants with lightning powers, and it had to prove that the concepts of Thor's comic book world jived with the grounded world of Iron Man.

Turns out, all we needed was a little faith.


Everyone knows the story of pesky studio executives who don't know a Scarlet Witch from a sandwich digging their noses in places it don't belong, but since the success of Iron Man Marvel Studios had the freedom to do their characters justice. And with Thor, they did exactly that.

The movie was cheesy in the right places. Chris Hemsworth had tons of charisma and a natural fit for the God of Thunder. Tom Hiddleston stole the show with his turn as iconic comic book villain Loki. Asgard was as majestic as the comics made it out to be. And hell, it even had the first appearance of everyone's favorite Golden Archer! Marvel Studios did their best to make Thor accessible and fun for everyone. But as a comic book fan, it was all just icing on the cake, because all it took was one scene that showed me Marvel cared.

It was during the first few minutes of the movie, when Thor, Loki, and his Asgardian buddies marched down to Jotunheim to make trouble. Thor being Thor, the entire thing devolved into the fight of their lives. And during this scuffle, Thor took his hammer Mjolnir and twirled it as he whacked frost giants seven ways to Wednesday.

It was probably insignificant to the comic book layman, but you have to understand that Thor twirled his hammer in the comics. Like a propeller if he wanted to fly. Or in front of him to deflect laser blasts and stuff. It was comic book cheese only a fanboy could love. Any other movie company would have probably thought it was corny (and put Thor in black spandex because comics are for kids!). But here was Chris Hemsworth twirling that hammer like it was The Right Thing to Do.

Because of course it was, and Marvel knew it. What was basically a love letter to Thor comic books translated into a $449 million payday, and the ripple effects of Thor continue even today.


Thor's success meant that the world was ready for more than just iron men and angry green goliaths. It meant that talking raccoons and walking trees were welcome in Iron Man's universe. It meant that fantastic-ness of Doctor Strange or Infinity Gems can and will be done right.

And more importantly, it meant Marvel knew what it was doing.

I watched Thor on opening night here in the Philippines this week 9 years ago, and even now I wouldn't say no to sitting down and watching it if it came on HBO. It may not hold a candle to much of the MCU's more successful and critically-acclaimed movies like Civil War and Avengers: Endgame, but the first Thor movie is a trailblazer in its own right, and I'd like to believe the MCU owes its success to it in more ways than one.

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