Movie Review: Thor

Title: Thor

Director/Stars: Chris Hemsworth (Actor), Natalie Portman (Actor), Kenneth Branagh (Director)

Genre: Comic-book Action

Read: May 9, 2011

Summary: Weird.


Other than Marvel’s apparent desire to pull a kind of cinematic equivalent of the 1980s “Secret Wars” there really aren’t a lot of reasons why this movie needed making. It’s actually kind of bizarre, and I can’t really imagine that the Thor (as in comic) audience is immense. Although maybe I’m wrong. But I’m going to comment on it both a writer/viewer and as a historian of the mythological. Despite being a big Marvel fan in the 80s, I never read Thor itself.

It’s competently cast. Everyone plays their roles as they should, and it’s actually a kinda fun movie to watch, particularly the parts with Thor in the “real world.” This is reminiscent of the scenes in Superman 2 where General Zod kicks ass in that town after arriving on earth.

But notice I say “the parts in the real world.” Because a good percentage, at least half, of Thor takes place off in the strange CGI worlds of Asgard and Jotunheim. After a two-second intro with Natalie Portman (hot but wasted) on Earth we are instantly transported into a giant backstory tour of these bizarre places, complete with voiceover by Anthony Hopkins as “all-father Odin.” There is no attempt to fit this information naturally into the narrative, just a ginormous CGI info-dump. The whole mythology has my head spinning, and I love mythologies. It certainly borrows liberally from cookie-cutter components of Norse myth, but its more like Stan Lee learned what he needed to know from Deities and Demigods (a favorite book of mine circa 1982!). I’m still coming to terms with the weirdness of fusing Norse myth and some kind of alien outer space cosmology. I’m not even really sure which it was supposed to be. Are they aliens that mankind interpreted as gods (most probably) or actually just gods?

There is a lot of cool looking stuff, but there is certainly no attempt to capture the nature of ancient polytheistic deity where gods ARE/EMBODY/SUBSUME multiple aspects of natural and physiological phenomenons. Not that I expected this. Still, one can always hope. There are occasionally masterpieces like Pan’s Labyrinth.

Well in any case, while the imagery is kinda like Valhalla meets Star Wars episode 3 cityscape, the whole Asgardian world just doesn’t make any sense. These like super immortal aliens lounge around with their dark age Viking stylings. And they love hand to hand combat. At least they mostly have beards (HISS directed at films about clean-shaven Ancient Greek men). The action in Asgard/Jotunheim also suffers from the way too much CGI factor, particularly the parts on Jotunheim where the five heroic actors are the only non computer elements. The giant legion of frost giants and the bigass ice-troll creature had that weightless feel. Not as bad as in a repulsive pile of excrement like Van Helsing (the film), but bad.

Still, along with the competent casting we do have competent — albiet uninspired — writing. The film, despite the INCREDIBLY weird mythology, is watchable and makes complete sense when taken at a scene by scene level. This is far far more than I can say of a turd like the aforementioned Van Helsing or various Michael Bey type movies. Maybe it stems from the odd choice of Kenneth Branagh as director (he must have needed to refresh his bank account). In Thor, the characters and their relationships are perfunctory, but they do have a kind of (cinematic) clarity. This basically made it fairly enjoyable. And to tell the truth, if they had built the whole film out of Thor on Earth, focusing on his relationship with the underused Ms. Portman, it could have been a good film.

Instead it was interesting, in a weird crazy mythological way.

If you’re curious about some real myth, check out Satyr plays!

9 comments on “Movie Review: Thor

  1. Randeep Dhaliwal says:

    Awww what! Van Helsing wasn’t that bad! It was just good dumb fun. As opposed to Thor, which was just dumb. Everything about it seemed bland topped off with some CGI. I don’t mind though, I’m not much of a Marvel guy. Except for the Punisher.

    Ooh! Yes. Okay, just remembered. You know what’s a giant pile of turd? Both failed attempts at the Punisher movie (the one with Thomas Jane and the other one with that Ray something something dude.) Those were terrible and butchered everything about the Punisher. I found that watching Shoot ’em up with Clive Owen is basically the ideal Punisher movie, with the minor problem of him not wearing the Punisher skull. Seriously, watch Shoot ’em up, it’s hilarious because of its ridiculousness.

    • agavin says:

      I found Van Helsing nearly unwatchable. I liked the premise, but the execution was atrocious. You could barely follow the action within the scene, and then between scenes it made NO sense.

      • Randeep says:

        Really? It mostly made sense to me. Some bits didn’t, which is why I read the novel afterwards, which was a decent enough read. More or less the movie but with some extra bits and pieces. It wasn’t the worst thing I’ve seen.

      • agavin says:

        There is worse. Transformers 2. 2012. Batman Forever. 10,000 BC. But I found it up there. 🙂 Although for incomprehensibility, try Vin Diesel’s Babylon AD!

      • Randeep says:

        Oh god. I just remembered that the Matrix Revolutions and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull exist. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!

        Also, I remember my friend telling me that he fell asleep during Babylon A.D. and walked out when he came to, trying to get a refund. It was rather hilarious.

      • agavin says:

        Oh yes. All pretty wretched too

  2. CMrok93 says:

    I had a real good time with this and I wasn’t expecting to but this really kept my interest. Mostly because the tone was so light and very simple. Can’t get any better than that. Good Review!

  3. […] for two Natalie Portman movies in a row! She was wasted in the previous Thor, but shows off some serious chops here. This is clearly in a different […]

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