In which a certain magic robot lives up to its name.
3) Asgardians vs The Destroyer
- Thor, at first depowered but later not so much. Played by Chris Hemsworth.
- Armed with: Nothing, and then later Mjolnir.
- Sif, played by Jaimie Alexander.
- Armed with: same sword-staff and shield combo as before.
- Fandral the Dashing, played by Joshua Dallas.
- Armed with: same sword as before, though he doesn’t use it.
- Hogun the Grim, played by Tadanobu Asano.
- Armed with: same mace as before, though he doesn’t use it.
- Volstagg the Voluminous, played by Ray Stevenson.
- Armed with: same double-bladed axe as before. He tries to use it.
- The Destroyer, a quasi-sentient suit of enchanted armor. About ten feet tall, incredibly powerful and laced with spikes down its sides. In the comics it really can’t operate on its own and has to be worn by someone in order to work but here it’s a mostly automated internal security system for Asgard, though it can be remotely controlled by the king, as well. Other than that it’s an amazingly faithful reproduction of Jack Kirby’s iconic design, an engine of pure cosmic destruction. This thing would make the Daleks piss their pants.
- Armed with: aside from tremendous physical strength, it can fire blasts of heated energy directly from its face (which has a retractable plate).
There are also some SHIELD agents and a whole town full of civilians, but they’re mostly just cannon fodder.
The Setup: After his failure to lift Mjolnir and a few careful lies from his brother, Thor has learned humility and resigned himself to being stranded on Earth. So of course that’s just when his friends show up and plead for him to return. With Odin stuck in the Odinsleep (a comatose-like state the All-Father uses to regenerate his godly power), Loki is left in charge and has been making a hash of things, so Sif and the Warriors Three have snuck to Midgard to get Thor up to speed. Wary of his brother spoiling his upcoming plans, Loki dispatches the Destroyer to kill Thor, along with pretty much everything else in sight.
The Fight: After some funny fan-pandering where the SHIELD agents wonder if the Destroyer is Stark technology, the Asgardian relic opens up and starts Destroyerizing them (Hawkeye is off sharpening his arrowheads or something, I guess), and soon enough, the town itself. The ruthless construct is almost as amazing in moti0n as it is in design: it moves with a slow but deadly weightiness, and often lashes out with whip-fast speed. Most of its movements are very unnatural-looking, but that seems less like the product of awkward CGI and more like a deliberate choice to give it a sort of otherworldly creepiness.
Still humble, Thor knows he’d be less than useless in such a fight, and commits himself to helping evacuate the town. This leaves the remaining Asgardians to take care of business. Since they realize even together they couldn’t take the Destroyer head-on, they think up a quick plan to get the drop on it. There’s a brief shot of all four of them striding purposefully down the street in a line and it looks really cool; interesting to think that just five minutes previous the sight of them walking around a mundane Earth town was overtly comical. What a difference context makes.
The Warriors Three serve as the distraction, with Hogun and Fandral tossing Volstagg through the air (kind of weird since he’s the heaviest one, but okay) at the Destroyer, but the metallic beast swats him away before he can do anything. Just as it leans over him to finish the job, Sif comes crashing down from telephone pole and skewers the robot, from the back of the neck all the way through to the pavement.
The construct is only briefly stunned, then it pulls a T-1000 and morphs its whole body into reverse so that not only does Sif’s blade come loose, she’s now also face-to-face with her opponent.
She survives the encounter but the Destroyer resumes Destroyinating with impunity; the heroes now know there’s nothing they can do except run. Things get worse, especially when Volstagg gets barbecued as a face-blast blows up a restaurant he’d taken shelter in. Thor knows that the only way to stop this is to turn himself in.
He pleads with Loki (shown listening on his throne in Asgard) for mercy, for the innocents nearby if not for Thor himself. It seems like Loki listens to the better angels of his nature, but then he pulls a schoolyard “psych!” and the Destroyer turns to backhand Thor at the last second.
The armor’s spiked gauntlets have left deep scars on the hero’s face and neck, and verily this blow seems to have done him in. He “dies” in Jane’s distressed arms, and frankly the death scene is a little too protracted for my liking. Come on, guys, we all KNOW Thor’s not dead, and pretty much everyone guessed what’s going to come next: off in the desert, the hammer begins stirring and returns to its master, because Thor’s humility and selflessness have made him worthy again. Again, this is oversold, complete with a flashback to the moment when Odin laid the enchantment on it, I suppose just in case there are any particularly slow people in the audience who don’t remember something that happened about 80 minutes ago.
Aside from that, there is a nifty little sequence where the hammer leaps to Thor’s outstretched hand, restoring his life and power. There’s several quick close-ups of Thor’s armor rebuilding itself rapidly, and Jane sees her faith in this handsome stranger rewarded (though I think the whole superhero/demigod thing is just a bonus for her; she’s really just happy to have a boyfriend whose idea of “sweet talk” doesn’t consist of explaining all the ways she’s not like sand). The joke of her reacting with an “Oh. My. God.” (get it?) is either groanworthy or adorable, but I think Portman sells it well enough that I lean towards the latter.
To say this changes the balance of the fight is an understatement. Fresh out of his Power Rangers-style transformation sequence, Thor hits the Destroyer in the face with a well-aimed hammer throw which, in another nice touch, also clocks the construct in the back of the head on the return trip. This gives Thor time to form a tornado, which he flies to the top of and sucks his adversary up into as well.
The Destroyer unleashes a few more blasts, which Thor bats away, then he charges straight down, driving Mjolnir into the armor’s face even as it unleashes more energy. The combined strength of the blow plus Mjolnir redirecting Destroyer’s own energy back at it makes the armor explode real good. Thor calls off the nasty weather and does his cool guy thing, walking towards the remaining bystanders very casually even as the last suspended car comes crashing down behind him. Fight’s over.
[Epilogue note: shortly after, Hemsworth undersells a slight paraphrase of one of fandom’s favorite Thor lines in recent history, quietly muttering “I would have words with my brother.” Ah well.]
Mixed feelings here. There’s a lot of cool stuff going on: the other Asgardians being cool & professional, Thor’s mostly excellent re-ascension, a faithfully-rendered Destroyer wreaking merry havoc. There’s the aforementioned cheesy/condescending stuff that doesn’t work so well. But the main problem with this fight is that while it’s a suspenseful event for our characters, it’s just not exciting as a fight. First the Destroyer is unstoppable, then Thor is unstoppable, then it’s over; there’s no real struggle or back & forth. Ideally once Thor was restored to full power maybe he could have traded some genuine blows with the Destroyer, or at least taken more than 30 seconds to beat it. It’s a very slow build-up with a very quick resolution.
Also noteworthy: this is the only time in this superhero movie where the protagonist does “superhero” things– i.e., protects innocent humans from an enemy that’s too much for them to handle. But of course the reason the enemy is only there in the first place is because it’s looking FOR the protagonist. Again, this is an unusual superhero movie.
Coming Attractions: Brother vs brother!