Film Review – Thor
Thor (2011) is a film that I walked into wanting to like, I really did. I was hoping to see a slam bang, no holds barred superhero movie with lots of fun action set pieces, and for a while there, that’s exactly what I got. However, I came to realize something as I sat through director Kenneth Branagh’s movie, something that made me feel very discouraged. What I came to realize was: this film actually assumes that its audience is stupid. Believe me, for a film in which a mythic God gets thrown down from the heavens to become stranded on an isolated planet requires just a little suspension of disbelief, but the amount of twists and turns that the characters in this film take is simply baffling. There doesn’t seem to be a thread of continuity anywhere amongst these people; it seems the only reason the actors do what they do is because…well…I’m not so sure.
There are good aspects about the movie—one being its lead actor. I think Chris Hemsworth was the appropriate choice to play the mythological Norse deity. He has the physique, voice, and of course the golden locks required for the role. Thor is brave, but cocky and brash. Hemsworth does a good job, exuding a person with a massive ego, as the opening scene involves him blowing kisses to the crowd, and winking at beautiful women after what appears to be a recent victory. Thor looks up to his father Odin (Anthony Hopkins), whom he shall soon replace as king of Asgard, and wishes to battle the evil Frost Giants of Jotunheim just the way Odin did long ago. But Odin has grown wise in his old age, and advises Thor not to search for battle when there is no need to. Thor sees things differently (of course), and through his own big-headedness leads a small band of warriors, including his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) to Jotunheim for a massive battle against the Frost Giants and their leader Laufey (Colm Feore).
I actually enjoyed the comic book epicness of these early scenes involving Asgard and Jotunheim. The art direction and special effects make these worlds very appealing visually. Asgard has got to be the richest place in the entire universe, as everything seems to be made out of solid gold. Jotunheim, on the flip side, has a very cold and rugged feel to it, and the look of the Frost Giants is intimidating, to say the least. The epic battle of the first act is well staged and choreographed, despite the fact that most of it is noticeably fake. The most uniquely interesting visual aspect of the film, to me, is the Bifrost Bridge, a large machine at the edge of Asgard’s world. This machine acts as a means of transportation, sending and receiving travelers to different reaches of the universe. There, a large warrior by the name of Heimdall (Idris Elba) guards the Bifrost Bridge with a mighty sword, seeing all that is happening and protecting Asgard from evildoers. He is the one who allows Thor and his soldiers to travel to Jotunheim in the first place, in an attempt to prevent any kind of breach of their home.
You may be wondering why I spent such a long time describing the first act of the film. The reason is that the rest of it falls apart at the seams. Odin, angered that his son went against his orders and attacked the Frost Giants (which will assuredly lead to war), takes Thor’s power away from him (including his massive hammer), and banishes him to the most vile, despicable, isolated place he can think of: Earth. From here, the movie takes a left turn and dissolves into what is basically a fish out of water story. On Earth, Thor meets a ragtag group of scientists, including Dr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard), assistant Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings), and Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), who will become Thor’s love interest. The four of them join forces to regain Thor’s hammer from the secret agency S.H.I.E.L.D.—led by special agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg)—in hopes of returning Thor home to prevent Loki from ascending to the throne and accomplishing his own selfish plan.
One of the big problems that this movie has the moment Thor lands on Earth is…he landed on Earth. There is no reason for this section of the movie to exist. The most interesting parts do not happen on Earth, they happen on Asgard or Jotunheim. I was much more interested in seeing these large, mythical palaces and strange, alien places. I had very little investment in seeing Thor walk around aimlessly in the New Mexican desert. Sure, there are some funny bits involving Thor trying to adapt to human living conditions, but who cares? The last thing I want to see is a superpowered being not having his super powers, and instead serving humans eggs and pancakes for breakfast. Thor is brought up to be the most ass-kicking being in the universe, but spends much of the middle section of the movie waltzing around, acting like a drunk fool in front of the humans, or trying to spark up whatever non-believable romance he’s written to have with Jane. The film would have benefited from having this entire part removed, and setting the entire film within the fictional realm that Thor came from, there was no need to bring him down to us mere mortals.
But that’s not where the problems stop. It seems that the writers of the film (Ashley Edward Miller/Zack Stentz/Don Payne) did not worry about any of the main characters having any sort of believable continuity. The characters’ motivations are all over the map here. First, a character will want to attack a certain group of people, eliminating the threat of being invaded, and then a scene later, will want to defend them. Thor gets banished from Asgard by his father, but then will call someone a liar for saying that he was banished from Asgard by his father? Loki, seemingly jealous of Thor becoming king, sets up a scheme that could threaten the peace of their home, but turns around and fights them in hopes of showing his father that he wants to protect the peace. And if that’s the case, why does Loki hate Thor so much, if Thor was banished for pretty much doing the exact same thing that Loki had planned all along? And what exactly is going on with the final confrontation? What is at stake, and why are the two fighting if what they want is the same? Can’t we all just get along?
Despite looking good, having a charismatic and convincing lead, and some well-made action scenes, Thor falls a part at the most basic level: the level of common sense. Don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly all for a good, dumb, popcorn movie, but not one that freely changes its characters and assumes that no one will notice. There were too many inconsistencies to simply ignore, too many questions that are left unanswered to make this a truly enjoyable experience. With a summer season chock full of superhero movies, this is perhaps not the best one to start out with.
Final Grade: C+