The Mighty Thor
In the name of Valhalla, I deem this film worthy of the gods. I apologize. I just couldn't resist that opportunity, but "Thor" is surprisingly better than I may have feared. To be honest, I did have my doubts about this film, since Marvel Studios did drop the ball when they made " The Incredible Hulk" and "Iron Man 2." I know many fans claim those were great films, but I beg to differ. In my mind, Marvel Studios has only made one great film which was "Iron Man." The others were average at best. I know I'll get some flak for saying that boldly, but please hear me out before making judgment. When "Iron Man" first came onto the scene, it was not only innovative, but it was also clever and witty. Plus, it was one of the few superhero films that showed you don't need a dark character as your protagonist, to make the film enjoyable to watch. Not only that, but it was the first superhero film to ever address directly some of the fears of modern technological warfare; particularly war profiteering of lethal weapons.
Then the "Incredible Hulk" came out. Sure, it had it's moments, and incorporating elements of the old sixties TV series was a stroke of genius. But what about the story? If you honestly broke down the plot to the "Incredible Hulk" to it's simplest context, then you'd realize it's nothing more than a over hyped rip off of "Iron Man"; being sold as somewhat of a quasi-sequel in attempt to appeal to both fans and haters of Ang Lee's "Hulk." As for "Iron Man 2", please don't even get me started on that film. "Iron Man 2" had so many freaking things going on in the film that it could've easily have turned into another "Spider-Man 3" or "Batman & Robin." In fact, the only thing that saved it was that Jon Favreau is a such a good improviser when it comes to directing films on the sly, and some of the acting performances of the movie. If it wasn't for that, then I doubt fans would be so eager to ride the whole Marvel Studios bandwagon. As it seems in their eyes, Marvel Studios can do no wrong; even when they mess up a few things. Sure, it's okay if they change a few things about the original story, but it's never okay if any other studio does it. However, that's another topic to discuss at a different time.
What does all this have to do with "Thor?" Well, I'm about to get to that momentarily. To be honest, I've always thought "Thor" idealistically would make a great superhero film. Why? The comic book not only pays great homage to legendary Norse mythology, but it's also one of the few comic book titles that weaves fantasy, science fiction and superhero lore seamlessly into one story. For those pondering, this film is not based on the traditional "Thor" that some of you may have bothered to read about in old history text books. No, this is Marvel's "Mighty Thor"; which was inspired by that same mythology. Years ago when Stan Lee was starting out, he came up with the concept of creating a god for the Marvel Universe. Seeing as how "Hercules" had been done before, he decided to go with "Thor", the Norse God of Thunder. Stan Lee picked Thor's story not only because of his unique preference of using a hammer as a weapon, he also picked him because he was relatively unknown to American culture at the time; hence making him perfect for Marvel. Granted, Marvel would still end up creating their own version of Hercules eventually, it was Thor who became one of the key founding members used to establish the Avengers.
According to the original comic mythology, Thor was portrayed as a very powerful yet arrogant Norse god, who was heir to Odin's throne in Asgard. However, due to his arrogance and stupidity, he reignited an ancient war with one of Asgard's enemies. From there, Odin punished his son by stripping him of all his powers, and banished him on Earth. Upon Thor's arrival, Odin created a mortal body for his son in the form of Donald Blake, who would have no previous memory of his life in Asgard. Years later when Donald Blake graduated medical school, he was trapped inside a cave as he tried to hide from an alien invasion. From there, he discovers a staff that he taps against a rock out of frustration, then he's magically turned into the Norse god, Thor. Donald Blake uses the powers of Thor to fight crime, and later joins the Avengers in pursuit of establishing justice on Earth.
In the film version, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is a powerful yet arrogant god who reignites an ancient war with the frost giants, whom have been at war with Asgard for years until Odin (Anthony Hopkins) finally established peace in the last great war. Unfortunately due to fatal mistake by Thor, he causes the Frost Giants to take back their truce with the Asgardians; thus angering Odin so much that he banishes his son to Earth. Like the comic book, he strips Thor of all his powers and separates him from his hammer. Unlike the comic book, Odin doesn't bother stripping Thor of his memories, nor does Odin bother putting him into a new human body. No, Thor still keeps his normal body, but he does land in the middle of the desert to be discovered by astronomer, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman). Unaware of his true origins, Jane offers to take care of him as long as he's able to explain how is it he survived inside what seemed to be a tornado when he fell down to Earth.
Of course, lets not forget about S.H.I.E.L.D. here, as they too have a huge role to play in "Thor." Before he lands on Earth, Thor's hammer, Mjonir, lands in the middle of New Mexico before he does. This prompts S.H.I.E.L.D. to construct a military facility around the hammer for observations. Without giving away too much, it turns out Thor's banishment was all part of an elaborate scheme by Loki (Tom Hiddleston), to not only kill the Frost Giants but to take over all of Asgard as well.
As I mentioned earlier, Marvel Studios really hasn't created too many great superhero films; outside of "Iron Man." I know many fans will argue otherwise, but do you honestly think people are going to remember "Thor" or "Iron Man 2" in say....fifty years from now? Do you honestly believe people will look back upon "Thor" as fondly as they do Christopher Reeves' "Superman" films that still survive the test of time to this day? This is exactly what I'm talking about here. The reality is no matter how much fun these Marvel films are, most of their stories are never going to stand the test of time. The reason is that back then, the "Superman" films were so focused on the idea of establishing who the character was, audiences couldn't help but fall in love with his story. Same thing with "Batman Begins" and "The Dark Knight", as the story isn't focused to be some sort of elaborate set up for a superhero film crossover. No, it's generally a story about a man that suffers a huge loss as a child, then shows the natural progression of how he ends up taking the law into his own hands. It's because these stories are primarily focused on establishing the character's identity that we want to root for them, and why they'll be able to survive the test of time, as the stories lend themselves to a lot of great memorable scenes in cinematic history.
Hell, even "Iron Man" had that same thing going for it too. Sure, there were small references to the eventual lead up to the "Avengers", but it was never the focal point of the film. If anything, the movie was focused on Tony Stark's journey as he discovers the tyranny the weapons he's created has caused, and uses all his resources in an effort to prevent war and terrorism. Something that highly resonates in today's society.
Don't get me wrong, I thought "Thor" was a very entertaining film, and it was a lot of fun to watch as well. In fact, I think in terms of the pure entertainment factor, I think "Thor" would definitely earn a perfect review from me. Seriously, the fight scenes were very well choreographed, and the special effects are top notch. I even loved how they manage to work in a cameo of Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner); although one could say his role in the film was completely unnecessary, as it did hardly anything to enhance the film.
Another thing I loved about this film was the depiction of Asgard, as it was every bit as beautiful as one would imagine it. Hell, I haven't seen a more beautiful fictional world since "Superman: The Movie", where depictions of Krypton as a crystal city blew away people's minds. Well in "Thor", the golden celestial mesh of "Lord of the Rings" meets Norse Mythology is truly something to behold, as I don't think Marvel could've designed a better Asgard. Of course, what's even more amazing is how they managed to make it as non campy as possible. Not an easy thing to do considering they still had to include the rainbow bridge linking Asgard to other worlds.
Unfortunately, I can't say the same thing about Earth. After seeing how beautiful Asgard truly was in the film, when they pan down to a small deserted town in New Mexico, it just seems rather stale by comparison. Don't get me wrong, I understood what the director was going for here. As it's fairly obvious that he wanted to make Asgard out to be this uber advanced culture, while making Earth seem vastly more primitive by comparison. Of course, I'm sure budget reasons had a lot to do with it as well. However, a part of you just wish they could've made the setting on Earth seem a lot more beautiful, as it's kind of a let down once you see Asgard.
Unfortunately for our thunder god, my complaints don't stop there. Although I won't say the story for this film stinks but at times it felt rushed; particularly when elaborating on the romantic relationship between Jane and Thor. As one could tell the relationship between them often felt forced, and unnatural at times. Sure, Chris and Natalie do their best with the mediocre script they had to work with but in the end, it wasn't enough for audiences to feel any kind of connection with the characters' relationship. If anything, you wonder why the hell would Jane fall in love with someone if she thought they were insane throughout the first part of the film? I don't know about you, but I don't buy into the whole "love at first sight" nonsense either, as we all know it's just a cheap writing device that allows writers to skip any kind of genuine build up of a relationship in stories.
As for S.H.I.E.L.D., they seemed like they were there for no other reason than to establish and remind audiences they exist in the same universe as "Iron Man." Gee, as if audiences didn't already know that. To make matters even worse, "Thor" almost becomes too campy when it gets to around the Earth scenes; particularly during the scene where Thor tries to retrieve Mjonir from the S.H.I.E.L.D. base. Don't get me wrong, it was cool to see Thor kick some a**, but it wasn't plausible. For one if Thor lost all his powers, and a simple shot from a doctor's office can hurt him, then wouldn't it stand to reason that bullets would still be able to hurt him too? If so, then why didn't any of these S.H.I.E.L.D. agents use them? They work for the government for Pete's sake, so one would expect them to shoot Thor on sight if he tried to do that crap to a real government agency. To make matters more interesting, Hawkeye had his pantented bow and arrow aimed at Thor the whole time, but he wouldn't fire because Agent Coulson wouldn't give the order to. No, he wanted to see what Thor would do, and wanted to see if he could lift up the hammer. Then when it became obvious that he still hasn't earned back his honor yet, he couldn't do it, and the agents took him out.
First of all, I know this is a comic book film, and people don't expect any kind of realism or plausibility from most of them....BUT COME ON! We all know that if this had been a real government agency, then Thor never would've even gotten to the hammer in the first place. Plus, I doubt the agent in charge of either the FBI or CIA would not give the order to fire at a intruder if their marksman had a clear shot to stop him before anymore agents got hurt. However, I guess the agents at S.H.I.E.L.D. are far more lenient...I suppose. Although I doubt fans are going to care that much about that one scene, but it does reduce what could've been an epic superhero movie to almost bordering on the edge of camp.
All gripes aside, I thought the movie was fairly entertaining, and I was highly impressed with a lot of the special effects and Asgard depictions. Another great thing that this film had going for it was the acting. All the actors do an excellent job portraying their respected roles. Plus, casting Sir Anthony Hopkins as the mighty Odin was perfect, as he was able to create a larger than life authoritarian presence one would expect of a god.
Although I did complain about this film quite a bit, I actually did enjoy it a lot for what it was. Unfortunately, since it seems almost half the movie was used as some sort of elaborate set up for the "Avengers" film, it doesn't quite reach the same level of greatness one would expect. Seriously, out of all the fictional stories out there, I always thought "Thor" had the potential to deliver something truly unique onscreen if it ever had a chance to do so. Unfortunately, the potential doesn't quite match up with what the movie actually is. However, I'm sure fans will still come to love it anyway.
If you're expecting to see a great superhero film along the lines of "The Dark Knight", "Iron Man" or even "Superman: The Movie", then you'll be very disappointed. However, if all you want is to be entertained, then this is the film for you. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying there's anything wrong with watching a movie for pure entertainment value, but it could've been so much more. Overall, I'd have to give this film a two and a half out of four. It's a fairly decent film for what it is, but I wouldn't expect much more out of it. By the way, don't see this film in 3-D, as the cinematography is barely noticeable. Trust me, you'll thank me for it later.