Based on the famous Marvel comic book character, the superhero film series Thor is proving to be a global box office success. The Marvel Cinematic Universe films tell the story of Thor, crown prince of Asgard and the son of Odin, King of the Norse gods, who are battling against evil forces which threaten the future of not only earth but also the whole universe.

The first film in the trilogy took $449.3 million at the box office, making it the 15th highest-grossing film of 2011, while the second film, Thor: The Dark World grossed a total of $644.6 million worldwide following its release in 2013. The third film, Thor: Ragnarok is scheduled for release in October 2017.

Mythology

The title character is based on the hammer-wielding god Thor of Norse mythology, who is associated with storms, thunder and lightning. He rules the sky and has the power to summon thunder and lightning, using it in any way he deems necessary. His father, Odin, gave him the power to wield a hammer known as Mjölnir. According to mythology, during a thunderstorm, Thor rides through the heavens on his chariot, causing flashes of lightning wherever he throws his hammer.

   
The idea has been developed for the films, with Thor co-writer Ashley Miller aiming to give the superhero a more human touch – such as Odin sending him to earth because he doesn’t have god-like perfection, as he can be brash and over-confident. Miller wanted the audience to empathise with Thor – feeling his struggles as he’s kicked down by life, experiencing his rage and willing him to fight back – so that when he unleashes the storm, it’s like seeing the power of a god at work.

The Cast

Australian actor Chris Hemsworth, who stars as Thor in all three films, almost didn’t get his chance to play the superhero after initially failing to impress director Kenneth Branagh. However, after being given a second chance to read for the role, he was given the part. He bulked up, gaining 20lb to achieve a superhuman physique by changing his diet and working out with weights.

He echoed Miller’s sentiments about trying to “humanise” the character, initially researching the comic books and then developing the character to give audiences an insight into Thor as a three-dimensional person, giving them a better understanding of his relationships with the people around him.

English actor Tom Hiddleston plays Loki, Thor’s adoptive brother and emotionally-damaged nemesis. Originally, he auditioned for the title role but Branagh felt he would be better as Loki. Branagh sent Hiddleston away to watch the iconic actor Peter O’Toole in Lawrence of Arabia and The Lion in Winter – where he gives a raw performance playing damaged characters – to give him an idea of Loki’s emotional volatility.

Legendary Welsh actor Sir Anthony Hopkins plays Thor’s father Odin in all three films. He based the character on his own father, who was strict and appeared cold. The actor said just as his own father continually expressed disappointment – in particular with Hopkins’ behaviour at school – so Odin expressed similar disappointment with Thor, banishing him from Asgard because, in Hopkins’ words, he “screwed up”.

The Plot

The first film, Thor, starts in 965AD when Odin is battling the Frost Giants of Jotunheim who are trying to conquer the nine realms, beginning with earth. The Asgardian warriors defeat their enemy – but in the present day, as Thor prepares to ascend to the throne, the Frost Giants attempt to regain power.

Thor disobeys his father’s command and travels to Jotunheim to confront them, leading to a battle in which Odin has to intervene to save the Asgardians. As punishment for his arrogance, Thor is exiled to earth, stripped of most of his godly powers and with only his hammer, Mjölnir, as protection. As Odin falls into a deep sleep, exhausted from the battles, Loki seizes the throne after he discovers he’s adopted and learns of his real father’s identity. The ensuing power struggle threatens the stability of the whole universe.

Thor: The Dark World begins where the first film ended, as portals linking the nine realms begin to appear randomly, disrupting the laws of physics and releasing an unearthly force, the Aether, whose return heralds a catastrophic prophecy. Thor battles across multiple worlds linked through various portals, while helping his mortal comrades to prevent the Aether from being unleashed on earth.

The forthcoming film, Thor: Ragnarok, is set four years later. Thor, held prisoner on the planet Sakaar, must win a gladiatorial duel in order to escape and return to Asgard to stop a new threat which spells doom for the Asgardian civilization. The cast includes Cate Blanchett as Hela goddess of death, Idris Elba as Asgardian sentry Heimdall and Jeff Goldblum as Grandmaster, an Elder of the Universe. It is set for UK release on 27th October.

As the god of thunder and lightning, Thor uses his powers over the elements against evil, with lightning striking only those who deserve it in the films. In reality, lightning can strike anywhere, leading to catastrophic damage to buildings, serious injuries and even fatalities.

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