Thor is much different from the rest of the Avengers canon. First, the film is more fantastical. Here, we have left the groundings of science and weapons that we've known with Iron Man and Black Widow, and even the accidental scientific occurrence that created the Hulk. Here, we enter realms of extra-dimensional beings whom primitive cultures worshipped as deities, and it is here that Thor earned the reputation of the god of thunder.
From childhood, Thor is certain to be king of Asgard. He is a warrior, and he is proud of it. His perception of leadership is that of a warrior, and his response to provocation is to meet it with force. When he chooses to attack the enemies of the Asgardians, and thus place the realms of the universe at the brink of war, Thor's father, Odin, deems him unworthy of the immense power he wields, and banishes him to Midgard, or Earth.
By the end of the film, Thor recognizes where he has gone wrong. He sacrifices himself to save the lives of his friends, as well as the lives of other innocent people, telling his evil half-brother Loki that the people around him have done nothing wrong, and offering his life in their stead. This act of self-sacrifice regains his power, but he must again make a sacrifice: destroying the only bridge that will lead him back to the woman he loves in order to save the lives of an entire race, although that race are sworn enemies of his own people.
Along with self-sacrifice, Thor recognizes here that all life, even the lives of his sworn enemies, are worth preserving (he even attempts to save Loki before he falls to what appears to be his death). He is willing to give up his own life to preserve others. Interestingly, Thor must also sacrifice his pride. He fulfills everything he promises throughout the film, until he meets Jane Foster. In the end, he finds himself unable to fulfill the promise he made to return to her. Thor dies to himself, in a way, in order to save the lives of innocents.
Thor is unique in the characters that will appear in this weekend's Avengers film because he is the hero that has had to earn the right to be a hero. All of the other characters (at least as much as we've seen...the Black Widow is developed, but we have little backstory, and Hawkeye is not developed at all at this point) have had heroism thrust upon them through events outside of their own control. Along with being (arguably) the most powerful of Earth's Mightiest Heroes, Thor is also the character that respects his power the most, because he has seen what happens when he mis-uses it. Thor shows the nature of a hero when he learns to respect his power, and to respect the value of all life around him.
The last in my series of retrospective posts is tomorrow night: Captain America. Then, the weekend is finally here!
Photo Attribution: popculturegeek