“Thor” is a very different super hero movie. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anything quite like it. I knew nothing about Thor going into the movie last Sunday, other than he’s part of the Avengers, he will be making a return next summer in the Avengers and he has a big, heavy hammer that does a lot of cool shit. He’s also occasionally mentioned in a Wu-Tang song (thanks RZA).
It took me a few minutes to figure it out, but I finally decided that what separates Thor from other super-stories is the fact that he was born that way. He doesn’t go through a period where he’s testing his powers, where he’s discovering how to use this new found freedom, where he’s bitten by a spider or falls victim to radioactive sludge that melts his DNA.
Instead, Thor is able to do all his super shit from jumpstreet, and its only when he’s stripped of that power that he learns to use those abilities for something else than his own vanity. It’s almost a superhero/origin story in reverse, but there’s so much shit happening behind the scenes of that main narrative that the superhero lesson is almost hidden, somewhat smartly, from the audience.
That took a little getting used to while watching the movie, and was sort of jarring, in a way. As an audience, we’re asked to simply take it for granted that Thor can basically do anything with the help of his trusty hammer. We never see him being given the hammer by his father, we never see where the hammer originates, we never really know where that power comes from or how it works. Thor simply has it. And that’s a lot to ask an audience to accept, especially when you take it away from him about thirty minutes into it, and make him impotent when he’s cast down to earth. Generally, a superhero movie works the other way, where the hero has to learn how to live with his newfound power. Instead, Thor has to learn to live like one of us, and that even as a God, his role in the grand scheme of the universe is really quite small.
Don’t get me wrong. Narratively, it’s all been done before. But it’s incredibly impressive the filmmakers were able to make this origin story work within the larger context of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the Avengers. There are a few moments where it comes off as forced. But that’s ok. Because the movie suggests that Thor will play a very large role in the Avengers movie, and that his home world of Asgard is a sort of, cosmic cog, of everything. The Avengers is supposed to be a movie about science and magic existing in the same construct, and Thor does a good job of making that a little more possible in my eyes. Until I saw Thor, I couldn’t imagine Tony Stark and Thor and Samuel L. Jackson and the Incredible Hulk all being in one room. Now it seems a little more possible, if not plausible.
It’s not perfect. Could be there’s too much story crammed into its two hours, too much time spent on earth, and maybe one too many Dutch angles (which, to his credit, director Kenneth Branaugh does make you forget about after you see one after the other). But overall, it was a good use of my $5 (before noon at AMC) and I felt like I was watching a SUMMER MOVIE, which is a cool feeling.
Also, a word about Asgard: it’s awesome. It exists on a space island where the ocean pours into the cosmos and is linked to everything through a rainbow-bridge-flux-capacitor-thing staffed by Stringer Bell, who wields a pretty big, and bad ass, sword. The design of the world seems familiar, like it’s a mash of all these different cultures and ideas and architecture, but it also seems new. And when they travel on the rainbow bridge time machine (I’m simplifying it, forgive me), they fly through the stars in a rainbow tractor beam that will take them anywhere. It’s pretty freakin’ sweet. And the bridge, it’s not just some cool looking thing, but is crucial to making Thor into who he is and helps to set up what I imagine will be one of, if not THE, villains for the Avengers. And if I could have my druthers, I would somehow transport Tony Stark to Asgard and let him run wild on all the magical women and weird shit he would undoubtedly encounter, and make Thor chase him around space as he tries to fuck his way through the Nine Realms. In 3D.
I’ll say this: The movie exceeded my expectations. Acting was good. Effects good. Story good. Music good. Villain was awesome and sympathetic. And most importantly, it makes me want to see more. More Thor and more Avengers. Marvel continues to handle its movies very well, and my expectations are now heightened for Captain America, due later this summer.
Now if I can somehow learn to pronounce Mjolner.