Thor works as a visual effects extravaganza but fails as a movie because its fundamentals are all wrong. Its problems are rooted in the mythology that inspires it, and through the writing and production phases it shoots off the rails with poor choices and even poorer execution. This is a movie I enjoyed the first time, and now, after six or seven viewings, it’s all unravelling.
Thor is a crummy choice for a superhero. He is invincible, which brings to mind Superman and The Hulk. Superman, however, can be defeated with Kryptonite. The Hulk is vulnerable when he’s Bruce Banner. Thor is invincible 24/7. He is so invincible the writers of this movie have to pen in a plot where he is banished to Earth without his powers so that he can stumble around New Mexico and do silly things like smash a mug on the floor, thinking it’s a polite request for another round of coffee.
He is also not very interesting as a character who fights evil. He is driven, almost blindly, by the need to show off his masculinity in war. He’s always up for a fight.
He is defined by his mighty hammer, not by any personality trait. He lacks humour, a gentle spirit, and the kind of softness human beings require. Sure, he’s not human — you argue. No, he’s not. And yet… he speaks perfect English, looks like Chris Hemsworth, knows how to drink a friend into a stupor, finds pleasure in human acts of affection (like kissing), and fails to marvel at human machines, like cars. Perhaps it’s all beneath him. Maybe the horses he rides back in Asgard are fuelled by V8s.
Asgard is the home of the Norse gods, a family that includes Thor, his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston), his father Odin (Anthony Hopkins), and all his warrior friends, of which are included a sassy dame with dark hair (Jaimie Alexander) and a Japanese fellow (Tadanobu Asano). Last I heard, Japan waited till the end of the 42nd millennium to ship ambassadors over to Norway and Sweden to begin the interracial breeding. Thor has jumped the gun. Here is a movie that could have gotten away with an all-white, all-blonde cast, because you can’t get more white and blonde than characters from Norse tales, but in the interest of racial preservation, we’re dealt a myriad of colours. None of them fit or make sense (Asano doesn’t even attempt a non-Japanese accent).
The plot requires a lot of action, and a romance. The action we get in batches because Thor is so power-hungry. After spending years forging a peace with the Frost Giants of Jotunheim, Odin orders his son not to wage war against them. No sooner has Odin finished this command does Thor fly to Jotunheim with his friends to do precisely that.
The Giants grow angry, and suddenly there’s a whole plot to assassinate Odin while Thor is thrown, hammer and all, into New Mexico, where he lands wearing human clothes and bumps into Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), the young, lithe astrophysicist who might want to look up the meaning of “astrophysicist”.
Jane is struck by this modern-day Hercules, who’s “pretty cut” for a “homeless guy”. Thor wanders around the sleepy desert town (set) thinking he’s still the Thor of Asgard, and Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) of S.H.I.E.L.D. arrives to confiscate Jane’s equipment and research for… well, I don’t know what for. He returns everything later.
Meanwhile, back in Asgard, Loki is up to no good. He discovers a dark secret about his parentage and decides to be the bad apple of the family by inviting Laufey (Colm Feore), king of the Frost Giants, to his parents’ bedroom to kill Odin.
Thor falls in love with Jane. The New Mexico town (set) gets blown up by a giant humanoid machine with no eyes and poor aim. Thor returns to Asgard to deal with Loki and breaks the inter-dimensional space bridge known as the Bifrost, forever stranding him on Asgard and Jane on Earth. Loki picks a fight and Thor resolves all daddy issues by making his father proud. At the end, he perches on the edge of the broken bridge and gazes mournfully into the cosmic chasm below, while the seas all around him flow off an endless waterfall into nothingness. And all I thought was: Gee these effects are cool, but with no means of evaporation and precipitation, isn’t Asgard going to suffer from an irreparable drought in a few days?
Best Moment | That’s a tough one.
Worst Moment | That’s also a tough one. There are so many.