At no point is Thor anything more than overwhelming average. It was a decent script and a capable cast but neither deserves any great praise. (6/10)
Thor was a new experience for me. Usually, when I watch superhero movies, I usually have some sort of forehand knowledge to help me make sense of the movie. I definitely knew Thor was a superhero but I didn’t really know much about his supporting cast of characters or his rogue’s gallery of villains. Thus, I look at Thor from the perspective of the purely uninitiated and I have to say that I found it rather lacking. Superhero movies have a fine line to walk between – they must be action packed fun fests but at the same time that’s not all they can be if they wish to be taken seriously by anyone who isn’t already a fan. The legions of fans for the more popular heroes means that the movie has to be careful in not upsetting them by veering off cannon too much. Thor does a good job insofar that it is certainly entertaining enough, but it lacks any kind of distinguishing characteristic that would separate it from another action packed movie.
Plot wise, the movie was rather hit and miss – there were some interesting bits, but large parts of it were very predictable. While superhero movies aren’t really known for plot twists or for being unconventional, I feel Thor stuck a little too close to the tried and tested. One of the things I did like was how they made Asgard a different planet rather than a different ‘realm’ or ‘dimension’ of Earth. Technically, nothing’s changed – Asgard as a planet makes as much sense scientifically as the concepts of heaven or magic. But still, it was something fresh. Now that I think about it though, I don’t know if the comics themselves presented Thor as an alien and whether the movie was just reflecting that. Well, either way it’s a neat idea. Sadly, the Asgard-as-a-planet thing is the only fresh aspect in an otherwise stale plot. Don’t get me wrong, most of writing and plotting wasn’t outright bad but it wasn’t anything special either. Things like Loki being a Frost Giant or Thor’s pseudo-sacrifice letting him become Thor again felt so predictable, that I’m not sure whether or not we were supposed to see them coming. The Jane and
Tarzan Thor romance didn’t really work for me either. Thor and Jane spend precious little time interacting beyond Jane going “Thor, you so crazy heehee” and Thor squinting at her as if he’s not sure if she’s trolling or just really really stupid. Then again, we all knew how that ‘relationship’ would end, so I guess it doesn’t matter whether they really like/know each other or not as long as we get our big kiss before the big showdown.
There’s also this cliché that comes up every time a being from a different time period or planet is brought into the modern world – they spend lots of time, on screen no less, acting like idiots. It’s perhaps a reasonable and realistic measure of how real people in such situations would behave, but it’s very irritating to watch. Thor is NOT retarded dammit. He’s just not sure how things work in our world – there’s no reason for him to look mind-blown when someone tells him it’s not cool to smash glasses after drinking from them. To their credit, the script-writers seem to have tried to keep those scenes as short as they could have. At least we didn’t get a montage of him trying to pay the bus fare with the skulls of his defeated enemies.I’ve also found the roles of Sif and the Warriors Three to be almost totally irrelevant to the story. In a classic case of using sex to sell, we get to see Sif’s picture on some Thor posters when in fact she has less than 15 minutes of screen time. Seriously, the only purpose she serves (apart from wearing that armour) is to tell Thor that Loki lied. I don’t know if I’ve convinced you whether or not the plot’s as dry as the Mojave but let me just try to summarize the moral story of this movie: an arrogant prince gets humbled and exiled, but then is redeemed through self-sacrifice and goes on to defeat his archenemy. Not quite, groundbreaking stuff is it? I do understand that even the great classic can be undone by breaking them down that far and a lot of Thor’s appeal is visual rather than intellectual (if that’s the right word for it). I don’t want to be too harsh – it’s not all that bad. Most of the time, the actors and the special effects keep you from realizing how forgettable the plot would be otherwise.
Anthony Hopkins is Odin. I don’t know what to make of this strange new world we live in, but Dr. Hannibal Lector Sr, is now a Norse God. I wonder how he fell far enough to play supporting roles in superhero films. I’m not dissing superhero films or anything but his role here seems neither meaty nor challenging. I guess even Oscar winners need to pay rent. Speaking of Oscar winners, we have Natalie Portman too. Now, I’m a fan of hers – I like the fact that she’s got such a wide acting range – she’s done ‘comedy’ in things like “No Strings Attached” (I’m not blaming her for the script there either, she must have a bad agent or something), action in those Star Wars prequels (a really bad agent) and the delicate genre of drama/mind-fuck in “Closer” and “The Black Swan”. She does a good job here as Jane though her role doesn’t need her to do much apart from gasp in shock or whimper and gush at the right times. Her interactions with Selvig and Darcy gives her character a little more depth and humour and I can’t quite shake the idea that Jane would make a more interesting character than Thor himself if she were given as much screen time. Hopkins, to no one’s surprise, does a very credible job as Odin despite being put in the cheesiest costume since Adam West’s Batman. Seriously, Google “Cheesiest costumes movies” and look in the first row – it’s Anthony Hopkins! The costume must have got to him because sure enough, his delivery was pretty clumsy in some places, especially when he made his big proclamations. I don’t know if it’s possible to NOT be over the top when making big proclamations, but if anyone could do it, it would be Hopkins. Chris Hemsworth also has very little to do in this movie – for a lot of the movie, I suspect that he’s not really acting at all. He must play the role of handsome dude being swooned over by women everyday in real life. And that’s pretty much what Thor becomes throughout the middle part of the movie. He even gets to talk like He-man for a lot of it. On the plus side, Hemsworth definitely looks the part of Thor. If nothing else, the producers/director/studio/whoever, certainly got the casting right – handsome, muscled, blonde, tall – yup, that’s Norse God material right there, folks. Hiddleston’s role as Loki was a lot more challenging in my eyes. He had to portray Loki’s intelligence and cunning while also giving him credibility as a villain. He’s not always successful at it though – there are times where Loki comes across as a stereotypical comic book villain, complete with the cringe-worthy laughter. Ironically, Hiddleston as Loki is most menacing when he’s acting like one of the good guys. There’s that calmness on his face and eyes that don’t reveal any thought or emotion that reminds viewers who the bad guy is even when he’s rescuing his father and doing things right. In fact, Hiddleston was doing very well until around the halfway mark in the movie – for the first half of the show, I was wondering whether the audience would be made to sympathize with the villain more than the hero (that would have been an interesting direction to take in this kind of movie), because for the first half of the movie Loki was being the voice of reason and Thor was the God of Douchebaggery. Right up until, Loki gets a costume change, makes Evil Plans and ends it with Evil Laughter. I want to comment on Idris Elba as Heimdall, the keeper of the gates (he’s Asgard’s Hagrid basically, but with less hair) because I just discovered that there was some furore over the fact that a black man is playing Norse God. I miss Stringer Bell and my momentary joy at seeing him was overshadowed by the fact that he’s basically an overpaid security guard. Leaving aside the in-story justifications that Asgard is not Earth and therefore not restricted by the ethnicity that Norse people on Earth would have had, I find it ridiculous that even in the 21st century anyone would have to justify this.
If I were someone who cared about the portrayal of Norse Gods, then I should be much more incensed by the incompetence that Thor and Odin (both huge figures in Norse mythology) show than the race of a relatively minor character. I wonder how the Asian dude playing one of the warriors Three got off the hook? I don’t really have anything to say about Elba’s performance, since he had even less to do than Thor, though he delivered his lines with a calm confidence that felt just right for character of his status and position. The stand out performance was Starsgard whose character, Dr. Selvig acted and reacted to the situation in a believable and yet entertaining manner. He was perhaps the only sane character in the hero’s group (Thor – temporarily infected by interplanetary stupidity syndrome, Jane – ogling Thor, Darcy – spaced out/baked out of her mind). Selvig’s measured responses and strong advice to both Thor and Jane rescued the film for me, which was surprising because Selvig is a secondary character at best and not one that would be expected to carry the movie. He doesn’t quite carry it, but he is a major part of its success, in my humble opinion.
I felt the movie was let down by its visuals. Take the costumes for example – they suck. Not just a little, either – they look utterly ridiculous with those helmets and the shiny armour. It’s a sign of the times (Twilight, I’m looking in your general direction) that shiny stuff is no longer intimidating, but amusing instead. I’m sure I remember a time when a big buff dude in shiny armour earned respect instead of ridicule but shiny vampires have ended that era. Polished armour says that you haven’t been fighting often enough to not have had time to polish your armour. The special effects too were nothing spectacular – the exception being Thor’s hammer. Thor’s first fight in Jotunheim was pretty exciting though and gave the readers a good taste of the sort of power a god wields. Similarly impressive was Thor’s fight against the Destroyer, though that had a good deal to do with the ‘Worf Effect’ (*insert token warning about TVTropes ruining your life*) in which a enemy is shown to be very powerful early in an episode/movie only for the hero to defeat it later and reveal how powerful he truly is/has become.
I know I haven’t had a lot of good things to say about the movie, but as I’ve said before, it’s a movie that doesn’t do a LOT of stuff wrong, but it doesn’t do anything special either. That said, I gave it a 6 because I felt that the acting and the special effects. I’m a fan of the dark and the gritty and Thor had none of that. What it did have was a story with a happy-ending and straightforward story arc about humility and redemption. Thor is a good way to spend an afternoon, but nothing worth coming back for. Remember to stay until after the credits.
And the late, great, Roger Ebert