What can we tell you about Thor? As a mainstream comic books fan (Superman, Batman, and their kind), Thor was never really on my radar. But the idea of a gung-ho Viking ‘god’ being exiled to Earth, hooking up with a hot scientist and fighting with his own nefarious brother? Sign. Me. Up.
So I hit the cinema on Friday night with absolutely no expectations whatsoever.
It’s quite liberating not knowing the backstory for a superhero, because you don’t spend the movie nitpicking over how the characters have been adapted or whining when elements of the story don’t match the original comic book mythology. I said this the other day when I wrote about the Green Lantern movie. Another comic book story that may benefit from not having such a wide fanbase.
Anyway, Thor has quite a simple storyline: it’s essentially an origin story for the character which balances the action nicely between Thor’s (Chris Hemsworth) home world of Asgard and right here on Earth. Add in some excellent battle sequences and some Norse-God-out-of-water humour, and you’ve got a fun superhero movie to go with your big bucket of popcorn.
The thrust of the movie is that Thor is next in line to the throne of Asgard (once Daddy Odin pops his clogs – or is that mixing in a Dutch metaphor for a Norse god?). However, the impulsive warlord takes four of his mates and brother Loki to pick a fight with the Frost Giants which goes rather badly. Requiring a bailout from Daddy Odin and a breakdown in the already ‘icy’ relations with the Frost Giants. Odin, naturally, is enraged, and exiles Thor to Earth, removing his powers and embedding Thor’s hammer in a rock until – in an Arthurian twist – Thor has learned his lesson and is worthy of yielding it again.
On Earth, Thor is immediately run down by storm-chasing scientist Jane (Natalie Portman), and this marks the beginning of a much more relaxed, human part of the story. Thor himself changes almost instantly though. Gone is the bravado and bluster of the Asgardian heir, and at times he relaxes enough to chat with Jane.
Of course, there’s plenty of fun to be had with a powerless god in a desert backwater: the highlight is Jane constantly (read:twice) knocking Thor down with her van. But there’s also the moment when he walks into a pet shop and asks for their best horse. When he’s told that they only sell cats and dogs, he simply requests one of them that’s big enough to ride.
The Asgardian storyline develops gradually. I don’t think they really name Loki (Tom Hiddleston) until it’s starting to become obvious that he’s the villain of the piece. The name itself would have been a red flag to anyone who knows even a little bit about Norse lore. The notorious trickster, he’s given some nuance when we discover that he was a child of the Frost Giant race, adopted by Odin. Imagine sibling rivalry, then multiply it by discovering you’re adopted and you’ll never be the king of Asgard.
Nevertheless, as much empathy as you might feel toward Loki, he’s clearly going all-out to discredit his brother and sell out Asgard to the Frost Giants.
In order to finish off Thor once and for all, Loki sends a Destroyer down to Earth to wreak havoc, wreck a small town and flatten Thor. His Asgardian compadres make the journey to Earth to find him, which results in some strange stares from the local townies. It’s vaguely reminiscent of that time General Zod and his chums went for a stroll through a similar dusty midwest town.
The Destroyer is a thing of beauty. Now, it wouldn’t look out of place in a Michael Bay movie, given the amount of damage it can cause. It’s like a giant, fire-breathing suit of armour. But I loved the quote from one of the SHIELD agents – “Is that one of Stark’s?” Nope, it’s a ginormous metal killing machine from another realm, son.
Thor ends up taking a knockout punch from the Destroyer, which effectively kills him. Which coincides with him being humbled and worthy. His hammer returns to him forthwith, giving a spine-tingling sequence in which he comes back to life and his armour forms around him and Jane gets a glimpse of the god that he always claimed he was.
Unfortunately, Thor has to go back to Asgard and deal with his weird family drama, now knowing that Loki had planned his exile. However, in order to stop the Frost Giants invading Asgard, he has to destory the rainbow bridge that is the gateway to the other realms. Yes, that’s right. He has to cut off his only way back to Jane in order to save Asgard.
Honestly though, did anyone shed any tears for Jane? It’s the one aspect of the film that didn’t gel very well for me. Thor arrived, somewhere along the line the two developed ‘feelings’ for each other. It was hardly a timeless romance, was it? Plus, she was the first woman he clapped eyes on when he landed on Earth – play the field, Thor!
Summing up, I loved the contrast between the lavish CGI sets of Asgard and the more humble surroundings of the desert. The blue and gold citadel was spectacular to see, as was the grim realm of the Frost Giants. The movie was wonderfully pompous and mythological in those scenes, but more relaxed and humourous in the desert. It was nice to see the impulsive Thor getting knocked down – literally and figuratively – but always maintaining his bravery.
It may not be everyone’s idea of a top notch superhero movie, but Thor managed to tick all the boxes – impressive CGI, excellent battle sequences (did I mention Thor bursting out the back of a giant beast’s head with his hammer? Awesome!), a touch of light romance. And that’s without even mentioning the wonderful Kat Dennings, whose quirky assistant character was far more interesting than Natalie Portman’s Jane. All in all, a thoroughly recommended popcorn movie. Go out and see it.