A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 563 – Thor

Thor – September 14th, 2011

I have read in a few places that Natalie Portman’s reaction to the concept of of this movie was something akin to “This is too bizarre to pass up.” The ‘this’ in question being a Marvel comics-based movie, directed by Kenneth Branagh, with Anthony Hopkins as one of the leads. And I would have to agree. Aside from being more than happy to watch another Marvel movie leading up to The Avengers there was no way I was going to miss something like this. After all, even if I wasn’t all that familiar with the character of Thor outside of the more, shall we say, traditional mythos, I hadn’t been too familiar with Iron Man prior to its big screen debut and now I’d put the first movie up amongst my favorites. And I greatly enjoy Branagh’s work. So. Sure thing, right?

Now, I know reviews were mixed, but I loved this movie. It’s got flaws, sure, but what movie doesn’t? Aside from Iron Man, of course. The very concept of Norse mythology as done by Marvel tickles me, I admit. Powerful aliens inspiring myths of gods and giants and all? I love that idea. So I’m not fussed over the depictions of traditional Norse figures. And I’ve made my feelings known when it comes to Marvel and continuity and alternate realities and books vs. movies and the things done in the process of adapting a written work for the screen. So I won’t be wasting my time quibbling over anything like that. And not to put too fine a point on it, but anyone who’s bent out of shape about things like Heimdall being played by Idris Elba (who was fucking awesome) needs to do some serious introspection about just what their problem with that is.

This movie does feel a little divided to me, and consequently I found myself remembering it being longer than it actually is. The story is mostly Thor’s, of course, but because it takes place in two worlds – ours and his – and because before he arrives here he has to get kicked out of his world it all ends up having some very distinct sections to it. There’s an attempt to alleviate this effect by beginning with Thor’s arrival on Earth, whereupon he’s hit by a van driven by some of our other main characters. Then we head off into flashback territory to learn about the background of Asgard, Odin, Thor, Loki, the frost giants of Jotunheim and see the events that brought Thor to Earth. Eventually, once we meet Odin and his sons, Thor and Loki, and see Thor go to Jotunheim and start a war because he’s got an out of control temper and some fairly strong battle lust, Odin banishes him from Asgard. And we’re back to the beginning, with a naked Thor crash landing on Earth in just the right time and place to meet astrophysicist Jane, her mentor and her grad student assistant.

I don’t think it’s particularly important to go into the hows and whys of Thor ending up with Jane, Erik and Darcy. That section of the movie is good for some laughter and humor, but from a plot standpoint it’s not anything unusually interesting. Their reactions to him are fun, but the real good stuff begins when Thor tries to get his hammer back. Odin had cast Mjolnir down after banishing Thor, making it sort of like a less pointy Excalibur. Only someone worthy of it will be able to pick it up out of the ground it landed in. Of course S.H.I.E.L.D. shows up (as foretold at the end of Iron Man 2) and sets up camp around it and takes all of Jane’s research. It is a pivotal moment to see Thor try and fail to pick up Mjolnir. This is his lowest point, there in the S.H.I.E.L.D. camp. Mortal, unable to claim his hammer, told by a visiting Loki that his father is dead and his mother wants nothing to do with him, he really has nowhere else to go but up. That’s the arc here, showing his rise, his hubris, his fall and his rise again. It’s not a terribly original plot arc, but I think it suits the subject matter. After all, it’s an arc used by many heroic quest stories. Take a look at Hercules and his twelve labors, for example.

Back in Asgard Odin has fallen into a deep sleep and Loki, upon discovering that he’s actually a frost giant, takes the throne for his own nefarious purposes. Now, I know that the mythology here is very much a Marvel interpretation, and they’ve never really tried to claim that their version is “real” or whatever. So I can run with this version of Loki being evil as opposed to just a trickster (a cruel trickster who gets people killed, but still). But I think it’s worth pointing out that the traditional Loki is indeed a frost giant and was invited into Asgard by Odin. Anyhow, Loki’s now gotten rid of Thor and he’s sitting pretty on his throne (seriously, pretty, and bearing an eerie resemblance to figure skater Johnny Weir) and off go Thor’s friends (Lady Sif and the Warriors Three, all of whom are awesome) to find him and bring him back. Upon getting to Earth they find themselves attacked by a big metal dude sent by Loki and Thor saves a bunch of people and gets Mjolnir back and gosh there’s a lot that happens in this movie.

Because, see, after that battle, there’s even more in Asgard again, with a showdown between Loki and Thor and the breaking of the Rainbow Bridge and all. The distinct acts, the changes in location, the multiple action scenes, they all make this movie feel very full. Which is almost certainly why I thought it had to be longer than two hours. Well, that and I’m probably biased when it comes to Branagh and expect everything he does to be like his Hamlet. Anyhow, it’s not. And that amazes me. Not only is all the story and moving back and forth fit into a fairly short running time, but there’s a lot of characterization too. In my opinion, a lot of it is very elegantly done. Take Jane, for example, who gets instant backstory with a convenient change of clothes she has for Thor, left by an ex-boyfriend whose name they later use as Thor’s alias. The movie has lots of little things like that, seemingly throwaway bits and pieces that end up forming a cohesive whole.

I honestly don’t care what other people think of this movie. I found it highly entertaining, well cast, amusingly written and visually gorgeous. My only criticism is that the romance between Jane and Thor seems a little rushed. It’s not like they have a love at first sight sort of thing going, but by the end there’s a sense that this is supposed to be an epic love for the ages and there’s just not quite enough in the movie to support it. It’s entirely possible that the support ended up on the cutting room floor. But really, that’s it. That’s my only negative. Otherwise I love this movie and I think it’s more than worthy of being in the Avengers list. I do feel back for poor Clint Barton, sidelined into an uncredited (though lengthy) cameo, but them’s the breaks. At least he’s in here. And having seen it again, with the promise of Captain America in the near future, I’m absolutely pumped to see the whole team together.

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September 14, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , , ,

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