Taika Waititi turned the brutish, boorish Thor into something much, much more, and the (Marvel Cinematic) Universe is a better place for it.
Taking a muscle-bound hero and making them relatable, even likable, isn’t an easy thing.
But the roadmap exists, and after the first few Thor forays, including the Chris Hemsworth-led first two standalone films, Thor was a character that lacked nuance, subtlety, and the ever-important relatability.
Now, as Thor: Love and Thunder approaches, it’s hard to even recall a time when Hemsworth’s Thor wasn’t glib, lighthearted, and ready to embody a bit of slapstick even.
Waititi admits it was a big challenge at first to smooth out the rough edges and bring about a Hemsworth that all people could relate to since not everyone can be good-looking and buff.
And that’s where Waititi looked at the relatable characteristics of humility, humor, compassion, and empathy to bring a better Thor to the forefront.
“When you meet Chris, he’s very hard to figure out how to make him relatable. And that was the big challenge, you know,” Waititi said in an interview with Vital Thrills. “He’s… [laughs] Chris is like… You know, I’ve become friends with Chris, and I think just his personality and his energy and who he is, is the kind of person that I’d want to be on an adventure with.
“And yeah, someone who, yeah, you can trust will be there, you know, to kind of look after you. Like a real-life hero. And so yeah, I just wanted to tap into those qualities that he’s got and sort of make Thor more Chris, really.”
As with Dwayne Johnson before him, who used the dual-armed tactics of humor and reverence in his breakout turn in the Tooth Fairy to shed The Rock label and embrace a lighter side, and many others — such as Arnold Schwarzenegger in Twins and Kindergarten Cop — Waititi saw that there was a big teddy bear under the jacked exterior.
Thor’s delight at coffee and smashing his cup to ask for “another” is still one of the funniest, most relatable scenes in his early showings as the superhero.
After the original Thor and the utmost forgettable Thor: The Dark World, Waititi’s Thor: Ragnarok was a revelation that spilled into the Avengers films as well.
Marvel Studios president and MCU overseer Kevin Feige noticed that Hemsworth had a lighter side, too.
“And I saw a clip of [Age of] Ultron the other day, where he’s trying to make [Mark] Ruffalo feel better about smashing a bunch of people, and it’s so funny. And it’s like this expert timing. Taika was like, ‘What are you guys doing with him just, you know, holding a hammer up with lightning? Let’s do that and tap into everything Chris can do,’” Feige said in the Vital Thrills article.
The fourth Thor installment hits theaters oh so very soon, on July 8.