I saw Thor on Sunday afternoon May 15–in a small theater, no 3D or anything fancy. I liked it. It was a simple plot. Thor defies Odin’s will, almost causes a war between Asgard and the Frost Giants, and gets banished to Earth (Midgard, really) as a human being where he must stay until he learns a bit of humility and the true meaning of service and sacrifice. Meanwhile, in Asgard, Loki, who has always been secretly jealous of Thor (and with good cause, I think) takes advantage of Thor’s absence and Odin’s sudden collapse to take the throne.
Thor isn’t stupid, but he isn’t subtle either. Whatever he wants he goes after directly. When he learns that his hammer is only a few miles away, he goes straight after it, in spite of the fact that it’s being guarded and researched by the forces of SHIELD. Penetrating the security of the world’s greatest espionage outfit as if was hardly there, Thor makes it to where Mjolnir is embedded in a stone (shades of Excalibur!), and confidently tries to pick it up, only to find he can’t move it either. Only at that moment does he realize that he is unworthy of the power of Thor, and it breaks his heart.
The movie isn’t deep, but it moves right along. The actors all play their parts well. The special effects are outstanding and brilliant, although audiences are so jaded by special effects extravaganzas now that everything is taken for granted and nothing impresses anyone any more. The movie has some flaws–others have documented them, so I won’t bother. Yes, I saw the problems that the critics have mentioned–they didn’t bother me. It’s nitpicking to denigrate a movie because it’s set in an imaginary town in New Mexico–because Jane Foster is an unbelievable astro-physicist instead of a humble nurse.
THAT ISN’T WHAT THE STORY IS ABOUT!!!
The story is about the grownth of Thor’s character–how he loses his arrogance and learns the true meaning of friendship. The story is about sibling rivalry. Loki is motivated to villainy because he envies Thor, the favored son. The story is about friendship–and what friends will do for each other. Thor has four great friends in Asgard. They are the warriors three, Fandral, Hogun, and Volstaag along with warrior goddess Sif. He also gains three great friends on Earth–Jane Foster, Darby, and Eric Selveig (spelling?). Seven great friends–it’s the magic number, O my readers! Director Kenneth Brannagh is playing with mythic archtypes here. I suspect that is why he took the job–because he could say something about the nature of godhood and mythology itself–lay it between the lines, and have fun doing it.
This is a movie for comic book fans, and a great one for them. The inclusion of the Warriors Three made the movie for me. When they accompanied Thor to attack Jotunheim on their own, it was pure delight to see them battling their way through wave after wave of Frost Giants. And Sif! I’m in love with Sir! She has always been my favorite character in the Marvel Thor mythos. Comic fans know that she is the goddess who truly loves the God of Thunder, and destined to be his bride. Then they brought in the Destroyer–a minor villain in Marvel’s pantheon of threats, but such a delight to be recognized by the true comic fans in the audience. And there was the cameo appearance of Stan Lee. I think he was on screen for all of 2 seconds, and if you blinked, you missed it, but it was a comic high spot in the early movie. Stan is always great–it could be asserted that he is the Odin Allfather of contemporary superhero comics. At any rate, he is a great man, and I, along with millions of other comic fans old and young, admire him tremendously.
The critics are divided. Some have given Thor 4 stars, some only 2. Movie fans are divided. But comics fans are delighted with Thor. It was a blast to see how the scriptwriters played with the Marvel version of Thor, retaining some old elements, and incorporating new ones. It was a laugh when Thor wound up wearing physician Donald Blake’s old clothing, and when Dr. Selveig rescued him from Shield by trying to pass him off as Don Blake. You have to be an old comics fan, or a dedicated student of the past, to understand how important Don Blake and Jane Foster were to the early history of Thor in Marvel comics. The average movie-goer isn’t going to get the injoke. The comic fans will.
I don’t know if Thor is a good movie or not. I enjoyed it. It is a FUN movie. It is a MORAL movie. It is all about character growth wrapped in special effects. It is warriors and wizards. It’s about FAMILY. When it comes to Family, the gods and goddesses of Asgard are all too human.
One thing the nitpickers might consider, Thor is a particular version of Jack Kirby’s original conception of Thor as a superhero. It has been brought into the 21st century Marvel universe. This version of Thor might not jive with your version of Thor, or your concept of what makes a good movie, but it’s just as valid.
Oh, and stay till the end of the credits. If you don’t stay, you’ll miss an important clue to the next movie in this progression of movies about the Marvel heroes. Sit through the endless scrolling of names. Enjoy the music. And see the kicker at the end. It is so worth it.