By the hammer of Thor!
If I haven’t mentioned it, I’m a graduate student. This comes with precious little amount of free time, even less expendable income, and a slow, tortuous picking away at your very soul. Needless to say, I don’t often get to see movies when they come to theatres. This is one in particular, however, that I wish I had, not because it is a fantastic piece of cinema, but because of an important back story that would have made the far more engaging Avengers even better to watch.
Call it a guilty pleasure, but sometimes there’s nothing I enjoy more than seeing a super hero in distress gallivant around the screen in tight costumes and exhibit disturbingly unreal yet magnificent feats of strength. Make it a super hero and his delightfully sinful little brother and I’m hooked.
Of course, I shouldn’t reduce such a fun summer blockbuster to displays of testosterone. Unfortunately, with one shining exception, it’s what it seems to be. As a comic-based movie nerd, I’m more than willing to drink the kool-aid, so to speak, when it comes to fantastical bridges to different realms, over the top action sequences, and mysterious government operations. However, Thor pushes the boundaries of these types of events for my own taste, and does so with little to no explanation.
Much of Thor’s back story takes place the realm of Asgard, one of the nine realms that occupies the Marvel Comic universe. The movie tells the story of Thor’s (Chris Hemsworth) fall from grace after he defies his father’s wishes and travels to Jotunheim, home of the Asgardian’s sworn enemies the Frost Giants, in order to exact revenge for actions that threaten the peace between the two realms. Exiled to Earth, he encounters Astrophysicist Jane Foster, played by Natalie Portman, as well as members of her research team including her intern Darcy (Kat Dennings) and Dr. Erik Sevig (Stellan Skarsgard), who I can only presume is her primary investigator for some sort of doctoral research. We mustn’t forget the conniving plans of Thor’s brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) to usurp power from him and in doing so earn his father’s love. Conniving isn’t likely the best word. Sniveling and altogether devious, perhaps? Those descriptions are most certainly meant to be a complement and a testament to Hiddleston’s portrayal of this character. He is more than believable, he’s one of the only characters I actually found myself drawn to and caring about, despite his anti-hero status. Beneath Tom Hiddleston’s inferiority complex-laden Loki is a dark and powerful presence that becomes all the more apparent in the Avengers. And I must say, I rather delight in it.
Despite what is a rather marvelous and delectable performance by Tom Hiddleston, the rest of Thor is largely flat and easily predictable. Thor must obviously learn humility (and perhaps generate a few additional brain cells) during his time on earth. There is also, of course, a love interest and kiss that is so fraught with awkwardness, I almost burst out in laughter. Jane’s astrophysics research, at the beginning so important to her, becomes incidental and subservient to male-centric plot developments. While she could have been developed as a strong, intelligent, and powerful woman, by the end she is largely relegated to a giddy, swooning girl who holds little sway over the muscle infused presence of Chris Hemsworth’s Thor.
Chris Hemsworth is believable as Thor, but he isn’t likeable and lacks depth and emotion as a character. I’m not sure if this is the actor’s fault, or the writing. I don’t believe for one second that he has fallen deeply for an equally two dimensional Natalie Portman as Jane Foster. As a movie, Thor’s usefulness seems to be almost entirely as a set up for the far more enjoyable Avengers, and is primarily one for not for the title character, but rather Loki. Having seen the Avengers I knew his intentions from the beginning of the movie, but I find his back story and especially his relationship with Odin, Loki and Thor’s father, to be far more interesting and engaging. It provides a real motive for Loki and makes his role in the Avengers all the more full of depth and clarity. To put it mildly, Loki’s got some serious daddy issues.
Will I see the follow up to Thor when it hits theatres in 2013? You bet.