It was high time The Boy and I had a movie date night. After all, the last movie we saw in theatres was such a disappointment (and we saw it in IMAX too!) that we needed something to dispel the horror.
Before I get to my thoughts on Thor, however, I need to tell you a story. We were watching the previews at the last movie when the trailer for Thor came on. Being the comic book/graphic novel movie nerd that I am (guess who has Priest next on her list!) I was instantly riveted. More build-up for the coming Avengers/Justice League madness! I started chittering excitedly at The Boy, who looked pointedly at me and stated that if I wanted to see the movie that was fine, but would I please just admit that I was only in it for the Heath Ledger look-a-like lead? I was speechless. This was the Mighty Thor! I mean, yes, for the past few years Marvel has been kind of flooding the screens with mediocre superhero movies, but still! Of course, then he leaned over and said he’d go see it with me, but only because of Natalie Portman. Well. And with that out of the way, here’s what we thought of the actual movie.
Amid generally good reviews, I actually had some pretty high expectations for this movie. FATAL ERROR. People, learn from me on this. Love comic books though you might, Thor is pretty much what all the recent Marvel movies (exception: Iron Man) have been: a light action movie with about 80% adherence to the books, a heavy reliance on special effects, and very basic character development and dialogue.
It’s not a bad movie, not by a long stretch. Their portrayal of Asgard is absolutely beautiful (if not the way I always pictured it; where was Yggdrasil?) and all the characters’ roles are clear-cut and well-executed. Fight scenes (with the exception of the first one) are fairly clear (we are going against a Hollywood trend of crappy lighting in fight scenes here) and I love the way the Frost Giants were done — Colm Feore is wholly unrecognizable!
Fun inclusions? Actual screentime given to Agent Coulson, who throws in a number of cross-hero references (again, more build-up for the eventual Avengers release), as well as the little interactions between the humans. Stellan Skarsgård is fantastic and subtle (the reviews don’t lie!) while Portman and Dennings kept the movie from taking itself too seriously (very important).
Where I was disappointed was with the watering down of the Norse gods. I know, I know; it’s Hollywood. Worse still, it’s Hollywood’s rendition of the comic book interpretation of mythology. What was I thinking? It angers me though to see Odin as the gentle, wise patriarch; no salt, no vim, none of his wry fire. Worse was seeing Loki — tricky, charismatic Loki! — done up as the mousy, pallid Lesser Brother. Why does Hollywood feel the need to make villains look sickly and greasy? First Snape, in Harry Potter, now Loki. It’s as though they’re worried that if a villain is good-looking or likeable it’ll tear the story apart? ARGH.
Aside from that, I actually have very little to criticize in the movie. The Boy felt that Thor’s heroic transformation wasn’t gradual enough, that it was more of a flash epiphany than a growth arc. Personally, I think that for an action movie, they spent a respectable amount of time on developing his (admittedly still two-dimensional) character. As a comic flick goes, it was enjoyable all-round.
One side-note that both of us remarked on while watching the credits * was that J. Michael Straczynski was one of the writers for this story. Who is JMS? Sci-fi nerds will know that Straczynski is the driving force behind the TV series Babylon 5, which The Boy recently convinced me to watch with him. JMS was the main writer, producer and overall creator of the series. One of B5’s biggest differentiators among similar space-operas is its very tightly-woven plot (the story arc was planned across 5 seasons from the very beginning), its beautiful multi-faceted characters (who grow!), and Straczynski’s eery attention to detail and symbolism.
(* – Marvel movies are the only ones where The Boy will sit through the credits with me — and if you’re wondering about teasers at the end, yes there is one.)
Naturally, when we saw that he was one of the writers, we started mentally skimming through the movie for any tell-tale signs or signatures. (Shadow vs Light! True self vs Ego! Mirrors, colours, touch!) In the end, we decided that possibly his work could be seen in the amount of time given to Thor’s personal growth, but that any other subtlety would have been edited out. It is a comic book movie, after all.
Last word? Light-hearted fun that’s safe for kids. I wouldn’t buy it, but it would make an alright rental, or an entertaining outing. Old system 6 / 9.