MOVIE REVIEW: Thor
We’ve hit the spring-summer stretch of blockbuster movies, and that can mean only one thing: superhero movies! This year Marvel has three lined up to counter DC’s Green Lantern: X-Men First Class, Captain America, and Thor! Thor would seem a bit of a gamble, as he’s never been nearly the big-name character for Marvel that Spider-Man, Iron Man, or the X-Men have been. As a mythic hero, it would take some outstanding writing to make Thor a character audiences could relate to and consequently a huge new franchise. Luckily, Marvel Studios was up to the task and managed to put together a movie that isn’t quite “mythic”, but is still satisfactorily great.
- The real star of this movie, at least for me, was Tom Hiddleston and his masterful portrayal of Thor’s conniving brother, Loki. Hiddleston plays the role expertly, subtly depicting Loki’s charm and manipulations from beginning to end. Thor is in no way suitable to be King at the start of the movie, so it’s easy to symapthize with Loki’s desire to “save” Asgard by sabotaging Thor’s ascension. Loki’s quest for acknowledgement as being equal to his brother is relatable and beautifully handled, making Loki perhaps the most believable villain in any superhero movie. Loki’s lies, trickery and deceit are all showcased in this movie and really shine, and I’m thrilled at the possibility of seeing the villain return in the Avengers movie. Anyone worried that Loki would be botched like popular villains in previous Marvel movies (this means you, Venom and Dr. Doom) can rest easy–I loved Loki just as much, if not more, in this movie than I ever have in the comic books.
- The story arc and character development of Thor himself are a ton of fun. Thor starts out as an ambitious, headstrong hot-head of a God. Through his banishment to Earth and hilarious interactions with the New Mexico townspeople, he learns to curtail some of his brashness and arrogance and look for intelligent solutions to conflicts. Chris Hemsworth does an outstanding job of depicting Thor as a rash youngster with big dreams of saving people and being a great leader while messing up frequently along the way. While not born to play the role of Thor as Robert Downey Jr. was born to be Tony Stark, Hemsworth makes the role his own and does a great job with it.
- My favorite run on Thor ever is J. Michael Straczynski’s take on Thor from a few years ago, where he placed Thor and the Asgardians into a small-town Oklahoma setting and comedy ensues. The atmosphere of this movie felt warmingly similar to that–probably because Straczynski wrote this movie himself. It’s funny and it works charmingly–the Asgardians interactng in Manhattan or another big city would have seemed derivative, but this was the perfect setting to endear us to Thor and the other Gods on a human level.
- Besides Loki, some of the other casting was terrific. Fandral of the Warriors Three and Heimdall were particular great at capturing the spirt of those characters. Joshua Dallas’ Fandral is every bit the dashing swashbuckler that he is in the comic books, whereas Edris Elba’s Heimdall (though a different nationality) is the stalwart and intimidating all-seeing guardian of the Rainbow Bridge that Thor fans would expect him to be.
- The, uh, dreaded Frost “Giants” are about a half a foot taller than a regular person. What? Wouldn’t “Frost Tall Guys” be more appropriate then?
- While fun, I don’t know that the entirety of Thor’s character arc was totally sensical, if not unbelievable. At the start of the movie, Thor wants to massacre the entire race of Frost Giants, who are depicted throughtout the movie as unsympathetic and purely evil. After making out with Natalie Portman, Thor likes humans and belittles Loki for wanting to wipe out the Frost Giants. Uh… what? Is there a total disconnect here for anyone but me? I understand that Thor is now ABOVE genocide, but I don’t know why or how his interactions with the humans on Earth have made him change his view of the Frost Giants as a race that’s anything more than an evil menace.
- The first 5 minutes of the movie give a quick rundown of the history of the Asgardians, Frost Giants, and Earth. As someone who’s read a couple hundred issues of Thor over the years, I was still was confused by how jumbled and convoluted this explanation was. Like, supposedly the Frost Giants attacked humanity from their “dark and cold home”, but then the Asgardians showed up and sent them back to “their world”. Huh? And then the Asgardians took the treasure chest of the Front Giants’ magic. Or something. Wha? And then the Asgardians went back to Asgard and never went to Earth again. Why? To me, this whole intro was just a mess. It reminded me of the prologue to Fellowship of the Ring, except this time done poorly.
- So The Destroyer… is… a… uh… robot…? I guess? They didn’t really explain it at all, so I’m not sure. It’s been a couple years since I read anything with The Destroyer, and all I remember is something about it being a suit of armor that could suck out and be powered by people’s souls or something. Although not here, apparently. As far as I can tell, its only origins in this movie were CG graphics.
- Volstagg (the Voluminous) of the Warriors Three is usually one of my favorite Thor-related characters in the comics. He also has one and only one distinguishing characteristic: he’s comically fat. In this movie, he wasn’t nearly fat enough, and he wasn’t nearly funny enough. Or funny at all, for that matter. If they weren’t going to make Volstagg fat and funny, they might as well have not had him at all. And since they obviously were gonna have the Warriors Three, they might as well have made him fat and funny.
- Natalie Portman plays Jane Foster, the female lead character. Her character is a dedicated scientist who is skeptical of yet attracted to Thor and, well… that’s it. She apparently had some issues with her past boyfriend, but we don’t really get into those at all. And her father was also a scientist which probably motivated her to become one, but we don’t touch upon that much either. She’s into Thor because, uh, he’s hot, and… well, he’s hot. Natalie Portman’s characters and acting ability typically don’t set the world on fire, and this is no exception to that.
Overall: Don’t let my criticisms fool you–As a superhero movie, this very likely is my favorite one ever. The character arcs for Thor and especially Loki are some of the strongest seen in any superhero movie. However, as a movie in general, I can’t grade this any higher than a ‘B’. Natalie Portman’s character is static and uninteresting as a female lead, a lot of the concepts in the movie don’t make sense or aren’t explained at all, and Thor’s romance with Natalie Portman and fundamental change as a character are more than a little fishy. This was a really fun summer flick and a must-see movie for comic book fans, but aside from a compelling