Thor: Love and Resets?

Thor: Love and Resets?

As the trailers come out for the fourth Thor movie, I've been seeing complaints that every Thor movie hits the reset button so that Thor can learn the same lessons over and over again.  Obviously I disagree, or I wouldn't be writing an essay on the topic.  Well, mostly disagree.

Yes, he's learning the same curriculum every time, but different lessons.

Y'see, the problem is that Thor is insanely long-lived.  While the "only 1500 years" gag in Endgame is likely exaggeration on his part, at the start of his first movie he'd still been running around as a spoiled man-child for longer than there's been an English language.  He's the guy who got his college degree but still lives with his parents because they're stinking rich and why should he exert himself?  Sure, he has to be ready to take over the family "business" eventually, but dad's been running things for five thousand years and shows few signs of stepping down (although some of that is Thor's lack of perceptiveness).  So, party on, Wayne.

With a normal human, the sort of humbling exercise Odin put Thor through in the first movie could well be enough to wake him up and get him to stop being an overgrown fratboy.  The expectation of the audience was, quite reasonably, that Thor finally grew up and he's now a functional adult, if still rough around the edges.

Is he, though?

Not really.

At the end of the first Thor movie, Thor was still a child in a man's body, he was just a less spoiled-brat sort of child.  He still had centuries of inertia to overcome, and he wasn't given a whole lot of chances to model adult behavior in the next few years.  

Here's where one of the problems comes in for those of us who read the comics.  Y'see, the Thor who woke up from being Dr. Blake in Journey into Mystery #83 was basically a functioning adult, just badly in need of some humility.  If MCU Thor had been in that place, it would have been a different story.  In fact, taken purely on its own, the first movie does seem to be running with the JiM Thor...a spoiled adult, but once he's learned some humility he should be okay.

However, subsequent movies demonstrated that he had a lot more growing to do than the Earth-616 Thor.  Yes, he needed more humility, and he did learn that lesson reasonably well (although backsliding does happen).  But he needed sooooo much more before he could really grow up.  He was by no means "okay" yet.

Thor: the Dark World is best left forgotten for many reasons, but it did provide Thor with his next developmental milestone: his first true sense of loss.  He'd always skated through life without real consequences, and if people around him got hurt or even killed, he didn't dwell on it.  But then his mother got killed, and suddenly loss was something that happens to him, not just to other people in the abstract.  He didn't really get much meaningful character development during the movie (did anyone?), but Frigga's death provided the emotional boot to the head required for Thor (and Loki) to start really thinking about consequences.  Really thinking about something other than being the center of attention.  The first movie taught him humility, but The Dark World humbled him.

Taika Waititi seems to have gotten that Thor was only just starting to grow up, because Thor: Ragnarok was all about removing the training wheels.  He lost his hammer and his father in short order, and was forced to fly on his own.  He's constantly grasping for something resembling a support network, hence fixating on Valkyrie and being overjoyed to see the Hulk.  He falls back on childhood games with Loki.  However, by the end, he knew to his core that he couldn't be the carefree prince anymore, he was in charge of a shattered people and has gained vital knowledge of who he really is, as well as some hints as to who he might become.  He passed through emotional adolescence, and was on his way to adulthood.

Then Infinity War and Endgame hit, and Thor had his teenaged angst phase.  He was handed several losses in succession, and it broke him.  He was no longer a callow youth who could bounce back from anything, but if he wasn't a kid anymore he still wasn't really an adult.  He had not yet developed the maturity to handle such massive setbacks.  Retreating into computer games and overeating, he basically sulked for five years...which, given his life's scale, is basically just him having a bad and mopey few weeks.  Eventually he got back on his feet and into the game, discovering he did still have some hope left after all.

And that brings us to the whole "finding himself" motif present in the Love and Thunder trailers.  No, he's not learning the same lesson over and over again...he's leveling up his maturity, and it's taking a while.  He may finally be ready to find who he can be as an adult, as opposed to just the promise and potential.  The Thor who only needed one lesson to grow up is not the Thor we ended up getting in the MCU.

Thor - Lesson 1: Humility.
Thor: The Dark World - Lesson 2: Loss.
Thor: Ragnarok - Lesson 3: Leave the nest.
Avengers Infinity War and Endgame - Lesson 4: Get back up when you inevitably crash.
Thor: Love and Thunder - Lesson 5: Discover what sort of adult you are.

Will the bildungsroman be wrapped up with the fourth Thor movie, or will there still be growth enough for a fifth movie (perhaps "Truly step into his father's shoes" to cap it off, if that doesn't happen in L&T)?  Well, I won't have an opinion on that until I see the movie, eh?

Dvandom, aka Dave Van Domelen, is an Associate Professor of Physical Science at Amarillo College, maintainer of one of the two longest-running Transformers fansites in existence (neither he nor Ben Yee is entirely sure who was first), doesn't watch movies in theaters anymore so it'll be a little longer until he sees Love and Thunder, is an occasional science advisor in fiction, and part of the development team for the upcoming City of Titans MMO.

Thor: Love and Resets? Thor: Love and Resets? Reviewed by Dvandom on Tuesday, May 10, 2022 Rating: 5
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