Warning: This post contains major spoilers for Avengers: Infinity War. If you want to avoid them come back after you have seen the movie.
The audience was raring to go right from the start when I saw Infinity War on opening night in a giant, packed theater. When Hulk attacked Thanos they yelled and applauded, when Captain America showed up they got even louder, and they never stopped. However nothing came close to their absolute eruption when Thor landed in Wakanda. He had already been the best hero in the movie, and now he was here with his amazing new axe to save the day when he was needed most. Watching him arrive was more like being at a sporting event than a movie. But while the crowd was cheering for the god of thunder, they could just as easily have been cheering for Chris Hemsworth himself, who was giving a performance even more impressive than anything Thor did.
It's easy to see why Thor was Infinity War's MVA—Most Valuable Avenger (Tony should make that his password). He not only got what seemed like the most screen time, he got the best screen time. He was the most powerful hero in the movie (he took the full force of a freaking star, which somehow feels underappreciated), he was bold and brave (even knowing what Thanos was capable of he went looking for him), he was super funny (insert any of his hilarious one-liners), he was an inspirational leader (like when he told Peter Dinklage's Eitri, "I know it feels like all hope is lost. Trust me, I know. But together, you and I, we can kill Thanos."), and obviously he got the single best entrance into a battle scene. Thor really Thunder God-ed the crap out of this movie.
Of course, the character has always been brave, strong, funny, and inspiring. Still, this might have been the most powerful he's ever been, and the most comfortable in his own skin. But even more impressive than the changes we saw in Thor were those we saw in Hemsworth. For the first time in his MCU career, he got to show off how truly talented he is as an actor (and without being overshadowed by someone else).
Hemsworth has been a great Thor from the start, and a huge, important part of the Avengers. It's why he has become a genuine Hollywood A-lister. Yet he's primarily viewed as an action star—funny, handsome, brawny, and with a real screen presence, but maybe not a "serious actor." Certainly not the way Tom Hiddleston has been thought of, even while playing Loki. Hiddleston's performance, while also requiring lots of fighting and humor, has been praised for its depth and nuance. Hemsworth is a great superhero, everyone acknowledges that. But Hiddleston? :puts on monocle: He's a great actor.
But Infinity War, which asked Hemsworth to do so much, is his true breakout performance. It gave him the chance to earn the recognition he has always deserved for being a great actor period, and he took that opportunity and outshone dozens of other co-stars. This movie asked him to do more than anyone, both physically and emotionally. He had to mourn, overcome that loss, lead and inspire, and carry major parts of the film emotionally, all while still being 100% believable as a literal god in the action sequences.
It's a fantastic performance from the start, as we see when Thor screams in agony through a metal gag as he watches Loki die. But the scene that opened my eyes (or, more fittingly, eye) to how good Hemsworth really is was Thor's conversation with Rocket about how to defeat Thanos. The discussion starts with Thor being glib and funny, but the more Rocket questions him, the more we see just how much pain he's in as he finds a way to keep going. Thor tells the sweet rabbit, "I'm only alive because fate wants me alive," and that Thanos will "be the latest to feel my vengeance" because "fate wills it so." This is the bravado of the character we've always known and loved, a superhero willing to face any danger. But when Rocket asks him Thor what might happen if he's wrong, we see something new in Thor. He's broken, but strong.
"Well, if I'm wrong," he says, "Then what more could I lose?"
Suddenly a tear rolls down his face, and the almighty Thor is as vulnerable as any mere mortal. It's a beautiful, heartbreaking moment, where so much is conveyed with so little. It's powerful because it's not the loud, brash, larger-than-life Thor; it's quiet and human. And we see it via Chris Hemsworth acting against a CGI raccoon. He's not sharing the screen with Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins, Cate Blanchett, Robert Downey Jr., or any other great actors in the MCU. It's just him, showing he can carry the emotional weight of the story as well as he has ever carried his hammer.
In a movie with almost everyone in it, Hemsworth was asked to do everything, and he excelled at all of it. It's no easy task to make an audience cry or laugh, let alone make one scream out in pure joy. But he did all of that. That's why he was Infinity War's MVP. He's always been a great Thor, but now we can clearly see that he's a great actor, too.
What did you think of Hemsworth's performance in the movie? Tell us in the comments below.