Marvel’s Thor Movie Backstory Was Way More Intense 36 Years Ago

Thor’s MCU movie backstory is significantly different in his first movie appearance, making for a way more intense origin on several levels.

Split image of Thor In The Incredible Hulk Returns and MCU Thor looking confused in Thor 4

MCU’s Thor has been through some of the franchise’s most drastic ups and downs during his 13-year tenure – but his movie backstory was actually even more intense almost four decades ago. Thor’s first movie appearance came far before his MCU timeline debut with 2011’s first Thor movie – 23 years before, to be exact.

1988’s The Incredible Hulk Returns was the first glimpse of Thor in Marvel’s films, with the movie reportedly intended to work as something of a backdoor pilot for a prospective 80s Thor series. This approach would also be taken with Daredevil, who would appear a year later in The Trial Of The Incredible Hulk. While neither appearance blossomed into an actual show for the respective Marvel heroes, they do mark a fascinating point in the franchise’s history – especially for the way The Incredible Hulk Returns approaches Thor and his backstory.

Thor’s First Movie Backstory Is Completely Different To The MCU

Lou Ferrigno's Hulk and Eric Allan Kramer's Thor in 1988's The Incredible Hulk Returns

The Incredible Hulk Returns sees a very different version of Thor’s story emerge, compared to both the MCU edition and the conventional comic origins. In The Incredible Hulk ReturnsThor’s soul is held within Mjolnir, and instead of a conventional Asgardian, he’s an immortal Viking warrior banished from Valhalla. Donald Blake still exists in the movie, but is instead a former student of Banner’s, who finds himself bound to Mjolnir and thus to Thor, who is a separate entity that Blake can summon by calling upon Odin.

All in all, it’s a much bleaker backstory for Thor himself, who essentially has no control over his own life at is instead at the whim of a person he does not particularly like upon the point at which audiences first meet him. While Donald Blake and Thor end the movie on better terms with one another, the idea of being someone who essentially exists in limbo until or unless summoned is a concept that from some perspectives seems more in line with a horror thriller than a light superhero romp.

Why Thor’s First Movie Backstory Is So Much Darker Than His MCU Counterpart

Hulk and Thor outside in The Incredible Hulk Returns

Though it might seem perplexing that The Incredible Hulk Returns sought to tweak Thor’s story so drastically in some regards, these choices do make sense when remembering the primary focus of the installment is supposed to be the Hulk. With this in mind, the Thor changes look set to simplify his story, limiting the amount the movie had to explain Thor’s extensive mythological background to audiences who were perhaps more focused on the Hulk.

While this does mean the first movie Thor is very different to the MCU iteration, the decision does add more dimension to the character’s movie history, showing an alternate take on the beloved hero. Interestingly, the MCU also arguably swapped this dynamic between Thor and Hulk’s story, with Hulk instead appearing in Thor: Ragnarok as a secondary hero intended to assist the God of Thunder’s own arc. However, some aspects between the two version of Thor remain the same – including Thor’s jovial and noble nature – meaning the original film Thor may have inspired features in his successor despite their differences.

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