So, some of you may remember that I said I wouldn’t go see Thor in theater unless it started getting some serious praise, like The Dark Knight serious praise.
Which, naturally, is why I found this headline over on io9 last Friday:
. . . in some circles, this might be called destiny.
When it comes to mythology, the spelling of names changes as much as the origin of gods. It all depends on who’s doing the telling. I was introduced to the Norse myths by the works of Kevin Crossley-Holland, and it will be his spelling that I will use in this review. Please do not comment to tell me that Mjollnir is only spelled with one ‘L’. You will only irritate me, and I will be forced to use my scathing wit upon you, and really, who wants that?
Thor (Chris Hemsworth) gets his ass tossed out of Asgard for being an arrogant sonofabitch. He has to learn humility (and love) while stuck on the realm of Midgard (Earth) before he can return home and save everyone’s collective asses. It’s a redemption story, see . . . with really big hammers.
1. I was originally reluctant to see this film for a number of different reasons. I never read the comics, but I love the mythology and I was worried that I would be incapable of letting go when the writers inevitably changed everything about my favorite characters. (I still have trouble watching Disney’s Hercules, if only because I’m caught between wanting to break out into hysterical giggles and also trying to have a damn seizure when Hera is shown to be a loving, doting wife. And not to mention, why is Zeus orange again?)
Additionally, I haven’t been terribly thrilled with a lot of Anthony Hopkins’s work lately, and the idea of him playing Odin struck me as exceptionally bad casting. And I was definitely less than impressed with what I’d seen of the costumes and scenery prior to watching the film. They had the throne of Asgard in the Exhibition Hall at Comic Con last summer, and when I saw it, I remember thinking, Jeez, that movie’s going to SUCK.
That all being said . . . I really ended up enjoying the hell out of Thor. I had a few problems with it, mostly small ones, but overall I’m very glad I saw this one in theater. It’s not The Dark Knight (sorry guys) but I’d definitely put it up there with Iron Man, easy.
2. As far as the purist in me goes . . . there are definite changes you’re going to notice if you’re a fan of the mythology. (Again, I have no knowledge of the comics at all.) But they’re mostly understandable changes. No need for Freyja in this one. No Fenrir or Sigyn. Certainly no Balder . . . he would never work in this particular version of events. But I was generally okay with what they did. I particularly like Loki . . . but we’ll get to Loki.
3. The acting in this film is, overall, excellent. Almost everyone’s good—including Anthony Hopkins. His Odin is certainly not the Odin that I remember reading, but this new, more peace-happy Allfather works better for this storyline, and Hopkins portrayal of him is both strong and consistent without any of the scene-chewing that I had feared.
Chris Hemsworth, too, is very strong as Thor. Thor’s not the easiest part to rock, actually, because he’s kind of a dick in the beginning. In fact, watching the first half hour of the film, I was struck by the idea that Thor acts a little like an ugly stepsister in a fairy tale, all want want want, with little to no interest in how his actions affect others. Whereas Loki (the evil one) starts the film as the quiet, meek Cinderella who is patient and passed over for the favored sibling. Of course, this changes as the film goes on, but Hemsworth has the not inconsiderable challenge of making a brash and spoiled brat likable—a challenge that Hemsworth rises up to. He has an endearing smile and a good sense of comic timing, both of which help to soften his character a bit.
As good as everyone else is, though, I have to give the biggest props to Natalie Portman and Tom Hiddleston.
4. Jane (Natalie Portman) is another character who could be very hard to like, at least for me. As both a Love Interest and an Intelligent, Modern Female, Jane could easily swing one of two ways:
A. The kind of girl who needs to proclaim, “I’m a Scientist!” at least eight different times during the film. She probably won’t understand what feelings are or has otherwise buried them away, only to be reconnected with her heart by the man near the end of the film. Oh, and she’ll have glasses. Those always cement intellectual credibility.
B. A useless bimbo.
But Natalie Portman manages to avoid both of these stereotypical possibilities and make Jane a person, an adorable person, even—although she does have very poor driving skills and a tendency towards reckless behavior, by which I mean she’s sort of a Darwin Award waiting to happen, especially in that first scene. Still, Portman infuses Jane with giggly life. She’s a girl with a crush, sure, but she’s not so vapid that I wanted to slap her. (The same could not be said for Dr. Chase Meridian in Batman Forever. Oh. My. God. Every time Nicole Kidman opens her mouth in that movie, I want to leap into the TV screen and beat her senseless with Batman’s utility belt. Jesus.)
Anyway. I’m sure that a lesser actress would have made Jane a very flat, boring character who I would have despised, but I came out liking Jane despite myself. Such is the power of Natalie Portman’s infectious charm.
5. And then there’s Tom Hiddleston, who plays the most sympathetic and nuanced version of Loki that I’ve ever seen or read.
I’ll admit, I’m a little biased here. I’ve always had this thing for trickster gods, Loki especially, and I’ve been dying to see a movie that really allows him to be more than a one-dimensional character. Thor is that movie. Hiddleston gives a phenomenally layered performance as Thor’s mischievous, intelligent, envious younger brother, who really wants nothing more than to make his father proud. There’s one scene in particular that really gets me near the end of the film, and I know it’s an old story, sibling rivalry for parental attention, but man, does it work in this movie.
6. Although all of this isn’t to say that Thor doesn’t have faults. One of my nitpicks is definitely Jaimie Alexander as Sif.
Sif is a relatively small character in this movie, so she shouldn’t bother me at all, but . . . I don’t like her. In the mythology, Sif is Thor’s wife, but in the movie, I’m guessing they’re friends who once hooked up? Or she has some unrequited thing going for him? It’s not anything that’s really directly addressed, but the way she talk about Thor during the whole movie, the way she acts with Loki when Thor is exiled on Earth . . . she doesn’t strike me as a badass Viking Goddess as much as a snide little girl who’s really only concerned about the guy she’s still in love with. Which doesn’t sit well with me because she’s supposed to be a badass Viking Goddess. I expect a little more from her than a pout or a weak sneer.
7. I’m also still not crazy about some of the set and costume designs. The inside of Asgard is cool enough, and I like Bifrost (the Rainbow Bridge that connects the various realms) but that outside shot of Asgard, the whole gold palace thing?
It looks monumentally fake to me. It also looks cheap. Palaces of gold really shouldn’t look cheap. It kind of sends the wrong message.
And I’m sorry, but I just can’t get over Odin’s eyepatch.
I got used to all the helmets—although I freely admit to openly sniggering at Odin’s the first time I saw it—but this eyepatch just drives me nuts. Every time it popped up on screen, I wanted to rip it off Anthony Hopkins’s face and then jump on it. A lot. And possibly blow it up with dynamite after that.
On the upside . . . Loki’s helmet kind of rocked.
8. The biggest problem Thor faced, though, was Thor’s actual redemption.
Say 80 minutes of the film has gone by. Thor has, up till now, been a somewhat likable yet still totally arrogant little shit who needs to learn that he isn’t quite as cool as he thinks he is. Five minutes pass.
Thor is now a completely redeemed, wise, and humble young man ready to go back to Asgard, please!
It’s no fault of Chris Hemsworth, but the redemption of his character comes and goes like a snap of fingers, that fast. He isn’t humble, he isn’t humble, he isn’t—wait, no, now he’s suddenly humble. You can kind of argue why he has a change of heart—I’ll talk more about this in the Spoiler Section—but, really, there’s no escaping the fact that his emotional transformation is just too sudden. The movie doesn’t quite earn that moment, and it’s unfortunate because it’s kind of a central one to the whole story.
9. What else . . . shit, I still haven’t mentioned half the other supporting characters. Kat Dennings as Darcy is a lot of fun. She provides a great deal of the comic relief, and as such snags some of the best lines in the film. I also enjoyed Agent Coulson more this time around, as he was given a little more to do here. And then there is Idris Elba who ROCKED as Heimdall . . . but we must have a word about this because there was quite the controversy about the casting of a black man as a Norse god.
And this is how I figure it: if Kenneth Branagh had wanted to make a very close, very literal interpretation of Norse mythology . . . yes, I would have had a problem casting Elba as Heimdall, for the same reason I’d have a problem casting a white guy in the role of Anansi. But, come on now. This is an film adaptation of a comic book adaptation of a bunch of different Norse myths, and I think accuracy got lost somewhere in there between Loki and Thor being brothers and Odin disliking war. Okay?
Now, that all being said . . . Heimdall is badass.
Seriously. Do not fuck with Heimdall. Nothing keeps this guy down. Nothing.
10. Also surprisingly badass? The frost giants.
I was very enchanted with the idea of a frost giant when I was young—I was particularly intrigued by the idea that the world was fashioned out of a dead frost giant—and while the ones in Thor aren’t at all how I pictured them . . . I kind of love them. They’re ominous and blue and creepy, not unlike the CGI Smurfs.
11. I saw Thor in 2-D, and really, I’m glad for it. For starters, I heard that the 3-D sucks. Also, I was told that Thor never throws Mjollnir at the camera. I certainly don’t remember a shot like that. What the fuck is the point of going to see a 3-D Thor if nobody’s going to hurl a giant hammer at your face? Honestly.
12. This film has one of those secret, additional scenes after the credits, and I’m sure most of you will probably watch it, but I kind of wish I hadn’t. Other than being more spoilery than I actually cared to see, I just thought it took away from the end of the film . . . but that is for the Spoiler Section.
13. And so before we get to that, let me leave you with this thought: I originally didn’t want to see Thor at all, but I ended up liking it so much that I may have to go back to Target and buy myself this hat:
Although, admittedly . . . Loki’s hat would be much cooler.
If you do not want to be spoiled for this film, I’d advise you to turn away now.
Okay, so let’s begin with Loki. A few of the frost giants mysteriously gain entry into Asgard to try and steal this blue jewel thing that’s like their power source or something. At first, I assumed that Loki was behind this attempt as a big part of his master plot . . . get the giants to enter Asgard, get Thor to flip his shit and disobey Odin, become the King himself, etc, etc. But it turns out that Loki only let the giants in to screw up Thor’s ceremony, and he never expected Thor to get his ass booted out of Asgard at all. Then Loki finds out that he is actually a frost giant himself, and that appears to be the breaking point for him—not only is he actually the “monster” that he grew up hating and fearing, but he realizes that he could never be equal with Thor in their father’s eye, never loved as much.
So Loki creates an evil plan that will force his father to love him more. At first, it seems as though Loki is letting Laufey, the King of the Frost Giants, into Asgard so that Laufey can assassinate Odin while he’s sleeping. (Odin’s pretty much comatose at this point cause he’s . . . old, I guess, and generally sickly?) And at first, I didn’t like this because—much as Thor’s redemption seems too quick—Loki’s descent to the Dark Side seems far too sudden for the character that’s been created.
But it turns out that Loki double-crosses Laufey and kills him just before Laufey can kill Odin. Why go to all the trouble? So Loki can a) start a war where they will annihilate the frost giants once and for all, and b) look like a hero. (And an amusing side note here: in the mythology, Laufey is not Loki’s father. She’s Laufey’s mother. Laufey is a giantess, not Colm Feore. Heh.)
Anyway, while Loki’s plotting up all this mischief, Thor is stuck on Earth, kicking the crap out of people, demanding horses, and trying his best to get run over by Natalie Portman. Eventually, he tries to break into a Shield base in order to take Mjollnir and return to Asgard. Unfortunately, Mjollnir is doing its best sword-in-the-stone impression, and Thor is still too unworthy too pick it up and regain his powers.
This crushes Thor’s spirit a bit, and Loki popping by doesn’t brighten things up any. Loki lies that Odin is dead and that their negotiation with the Frost Giants is conditional on Thor’s staying in Midgard. Suddenly, Thor sees the error of his ways and starts acting like the humble hero that he’s supposed to be instead of a giant turd. And I get that hearing Daddy’s dead—coupled with not being able to pick up Mjollnir—are big moments for Thor, but nevertheless, in the very next scene, Thor is suddenly acting like this gentle, obliging guy, and it’s just too soon for that.
Heimdall (who guards the Bifrost) allows Thor’s friends to go find him and tell him what Loki’s been up to. So Loki sends . . . a giant robot??? to kill them all. (I’m sure the giant robot has some kind of Norse equivalent, but I didn’t catch what it was supposed to be, so . . . sure. Giant robot. Why not?) Sif and the other, cooler friends fight the robot for awhile, but it’s totally kicking their asses, so Thor specifically goes to Sif and tells her that she has to run, that he’ll handle this. (He also tells the guys to run, too, but he clearly wants Sif to survive more than anybody else because . . . she has a vagina? I don’t know. I hated this bit. Let me reiterate: fucking Viking Goddess. She isn’t supposed to need special protection just because she’s a woman.)
Anyway, the friends retreat (about ten steps) so that Thor can walk up to the giant robot and plead with Loki, who’s controlling it from Asgard. Loki, quite naturally, uses the robot to kill Thor, or try to. Mjollnir, sensing its master’s martyrdom, flies out of the rock into Thor’s hand, reviving him with all powers and costuming fully intact.
Thor promises Jane he’ll return to her (liar) before taking off for Asgard where he immediately starts battling with Loki. Well, technically Loki’s battling with Thor. Thor still loves Loki and doesn’t want to fight, but Loki’s past that stage of the game now. The scene where they confront each other is really quite powerful. Hiddleston does a great job of seeming both mad and desperate as he cries and screams at Thor.
Eventually, Thor is forced to destroy the Bifrost in order to stop Loki from attempting to exterminate all of the Frost Giants, thus cutting himself off from Earth forever (until the Avengers movie).
At the end of the battle, we have one of those scenes where one guy is holding another guy who is holding another guy off the edge of a cliff. Odin, who has woken up in the nick of time, has hold of Thor, who is dangling over the side of what’s left of the Bifrost. Loki, meanwhile, is holding on to Thor’s wrist. Loki tries to appeal to Odin, but Odin just says, “No, Loki,” not all growly or anything, just, “No, Loki, you totally missed the point of my every lecture.” At this rejection, Loki willingly lets go of Thor’s wrist, falling back into the cosmos, and it’s a sad moment.
I’m not going to say what exactly happens in the after-the-credits scene . . . and I refuse to make a second Spoiler Section . . . but I didn’t like it mostly because I thought it took away from this great, climatic moment. I have thus decided to ignore it, as I ignore most after-the-credits scenes. They’re almost never worth it.
Thankfully, the same cannot be said for Thor itself.
Very enjoyable superhero flick. Not perfect, maybe, but pretty damn good. Great acting performances really elevate this film, as well as creating a three-dimensional villain.
War is not fun. Don’t be a giant prick. Love your brother and don’t try to kill him, even if he is kind of an insufferable ass.
Also, don’t let Natalie Portman drive you anywhere. Don’t even let her in your car. She is deadly. Cute but deadly.