Today we’re reviewing probably the most overlooked MCU installment of 2019: none other than Thor 4: Men in Black International. Being released between such major blockbusters as Avengers: Endgame and Spider-Man: Far from Home, it’s not a big surprise that this film didn’t get as much attention as others. Still, Thor 4 is a fun, fast-paced MCU adventure that brings some much needed levity after Endgame and that fans would do well to revisit sometime soon.
Following the success of 2017’s Thor: Ragnarok that shook up the franchise with a much more lighthearted, comical tone, Thor 4 brings back Chris Hemsworth as Thor along with Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie. The chemistry in Thor’s and Valkyrie’s interactions is easily one of the strongest highlights of the film. Both lead characters are displaced children of Asgard, a home now in ruins, and both are struggling to find a new home on Earth while also coping with a few major tragedies and learning to trust each other more.
That being said, this installment is a departure from previous Thor films for sure in that the characters don’t actually seem much like traditional Asgardians here. The story is set within the five-year time gap shown in Endgame, closely following the opening segment where Thor kills Thanos–but before most of the, er, major character growth that Thor has undergone five years later. In the chaos caused by Thanos’ snap destroying half of all life in the universe, many alien species have secretly come to Earth to seek refuge from their destabilized worlds (a destabilization which Captain Marvel also alludes to in Endgame). In this film, S.H.I.E.L.D. recruits both Thor and Valkyrie as agents to help contain and monitor these alien species and maintain the galactic peace. We get the fun of seeing Thor wielding not his hammer Mjolnir or even his ax Stormbreaker, but high-tech alien guns. However, it’s a regrettable oversight that Thor’s new alien companions Korg and Miek are absent from this film, as they would have fit perfectly into this landscape.
While super-spy organization S.H.I.E.L.D. plays a major role, and Thor and Valkyrie both spend much of the movie in sharp-looking secret agent suits, it is strange that the spy organization is never actually referred to by its proper name as in other movies. Some fans believe that the organization seen in Thor 4 may have been a separate branch of S.H.I.E.L.D., or perhaps even S.W.O.R.D. (the Sentient Worlds Observation and Response Department), S.H.I.E.L.D.’s space-focused counterpart as seen in the comics. The post-credits scene of the subsequent Spider-Man: Far from Home, showing Nick Fury and his spy operation in space, seems to lend further credence to this theory.
Similarly, because of Fury’s current space whereabouts, he is actually not present on Earth during this movie. Instead, this branch of the super-spy organization is led by a new character, portrayed by Liam Neeson. This seemed like a fitting choice, because we’ve often thought that if the movies had decided to go with White Nick Fury from the original comics, then Neeson with an eye patch would have been the perfect choice for that role. However (spoiler warning), Neeson’s character actually ends up being the villain of this movie, revealing himself to be in League with some Shadowy figures. Ultimately, this branch of S.H.I.E.L.D. has been infiltrated by a mole (probably HYDRA), a completely original and surprising plot point that definitely hasn’t been used in every other show, movie, or comic about S.H.I.E.L.D. up to this point.
While it’s a departure from the roots of the franchise, to be sure, Thor 4: Men in Black International is still a fun, funny action adventure, and a uniquely rare glimpse into the post-snap landscape of the MCU. It also makes us much more excited for the upcoming Thor 5, and Natalie Portman’s revenge against her long-lost lover.
Photo: Sony Pictures