Thor (Avengers Countdown)
April 29, 2012
Thor (2011) - Review reworked and reposted.
“There’s always a purpose to everything your father does.”
Synopsis: The powerful but arrogant Thor is cast out of the fantastic realm of Asgard and sent to live as a mortal on Earth.
Let’s be honest here: Thor is kind of a lame superhero. In Marvel comics, Thor is the mythological Norse God of Thunder, Son of Odin, and wields an awkwardly giant hammer like a yo-yo. Put this shiny armored dude in a lineup next to Iron Man and Thor looks dorkier than Tobias Fünke. So naturally, I was very skeptical as to how Marvel was going to pull off of Thor film. After finally seeing the film, my hat is off to Marvel Studios and director Kenneth Branagh, because Thor is one solid movie.
Thor is an excellent example of “willing suspension of disbelief.” You can skeptically complain “those helmets look dorky, Thor’s costume is too shiny, and frost giants? …this movie is crap!” Or you can choose to enjoy the fantastical setting and see if Thor delivers on its premise. So much of our enjoyment is based on choices: we can choose to be overly critical or choose to enjoy something new and different. If you’re willing to suspend your disbelief, Thor packs a wallop.
The film explains that Thor and his fellow Asgardians are an extra-terrestrial race whom the ancients mistook for gods. Thor describes Asgard as “a place where science and magic are one in the same.” Asgardians have immense physical power but also wield incredibly technology like the “Rainbow Bridge” that teleports adventurers between planets/dimensions. Science Fiction has a long-held tradition of explaining ancient deities as powerful alien beings (see Star Trek: The Original Series), so Thor’s extra-terrestrial explanation felt natural and familiar.
Marvel Studios once again proves that they can line up a terrific cast. Chris Hemsworth is likeable, heroic, and stunningly perfect as the brash and arrogant Thor. Tom Hiddleson is subtle, creepy, and ‘Wormtongue-esk’ in his portrayal of Loki, who will make a key reappearance in The Avengers film. Anthony Hopkins is iconic as Odin, a father trying to raise two sons while keeping peace between realms. Natalie Portman‘s nerdy scientist pleasantly surprised me, and her small stature makes Chris Hemsworth look all the more godlike in proportion.
Thor’s honorable relationship with Jane Foster (Portman) was a ‘stark’ contrast to Iron Man’s hedonism. There’s a brilliant moment where you think Thor and Jane will break for a self-indulgent kiss or a lusty romp in the bed, but Thor gently kisses Jane’s hand instead. This concept of honoring women and sex has practically disappeared from our culture; allowing Thor’s respect to not only surprise us, but to critique our lustful expectations as audience members.
Themes: Character, Humility, Stewardship
All of the Marvel Studios films have a strong emphasis on character and integrity, but Thor takes this to a new level. His entire banishment to Earth is the result of his prideful and reckless actions. Before Thor can be a steward of Asgard, he must learn humility. Odin exiles Thor for his own good, and the Queen reminds Loki to trust Odin’s wisdom: “there’s always a purpose to everything your father does.”
If you haven’t seen Thor yet, definitely check it out before seeing The Avengers this summer. From what the trailers have previewed, several things from Asgard return to play an important role in the upcoming film.
Thor is truly a unique superhero movie. Kenneth Branagh is far more interested in themes of honor, pride, and family than pandering to a superficial desire for explosions and lusty sidekicks. The action is present and Mjolnir pack’s a wallop, but hammer swinging isn’t what Thor’s here to do. Its a journey about father’s and son’s, responsibility, and integrity. And ultimately, Thor is a hero who must be humbled before he can become a champion.