" Throughout the ultimately-positive journey it does take a number of very unnecessary sojourns back into the painfully campy realm... "
Title: Thor by Paramount Pictures
Format: Marvel Comics Movie
Reviewing Monkey: Mojo Jojo
As is all too rare now-a-days, I honestly didn't
know what to expect when I rolled out to the press screening for Thor. On the
one hand, as a comic book guy, I've seen no-less-than four iterations of the
Asgardian legend: some gritty, some hokey, some memorable, and some entirely
forgettable. On the other hand, as an armchair historian and lover of Norse
(Viking) mythology, I am also intimately familiar with the "source material"
that the comic books sort-of draw from, and how much they differ from the funny-pages
Now, normally, that last bit probably wouldn't seem terribly relevant, until you realize that the movie was written by the intellectually-geeky master of Babylon 5, J. Michael Straczynsky, and directed by Shakespeare's own Kenneth Branagh. Then, suddenly, you begin to see the possibilities of a movie that could merge the comics version with the historical version into something potentially great.
Sadly, that doesn't happen. Instead, it ignores every thread of its mythological "roots" and plays out like vary standard comic book faire.
Thor is the story of two ancient races that, though older than time, have sci-fi levels of technology that they choose to use as though they were wielding medieval magic. This, of course, is never explained.
The first race, the Asgardians, are the "keepers of light and truth and cotton candy and unicorns," and represent everything good in life. They live in a fanciful kingdom among the stars and mostly yearn for peace for all mankind. The second race, the Frost Giants, are foul blue creatures that live in a world made up of nothing but ice and are painted as villains in every meaningful way movies have always painted things as villains: red eyes, pointy teeth, and clothes made up of nothing but loin clothes.
For reasons that aren't explained, the two races hate each other and were fighting forever, until finally Anthony Hopkins (who's supposed to play Odin, but is so un-Odin-like that I couldn't stop thinking of him as just Anthony Hopkins) defeats the giants by stealing the center of their power and enforcing an awkward peace. Though, for the record, how this object--which looks like a glowing brick--is the center of their power is never explained. Nor is it explained why a sci-fi race needs a single object that doesn't seem to actually do anything to make their society function. But I digress...
Anyway, the races are basically getting along fine, until Thor (Chris Hemsworth) enters the picture. Thor is Odin's brash, hot-headed son who--for reasons that aren't really explained--has wanted nothing his whole life more than to go kick the already forced-into-submission asses of the giants his father techno-magically emasculated. And, eventually, with almost no provocation, he gets his wish and re-opens hostilities between the two races.
As punishment, Anthony Hopkins...er...Odin takes away the technology that gives Thor his powers and banishes him to Earth, where he's supposed to learn humility and responsibility. He does so by falling in love with Natalie Portman and trying to save her from all manner of unspeakable evil.
It is, if you can't tell by the unrelenting sarcasm in this review, a horrible plot told through a mostly horrible script. In fact, the first twenty minutes are so bad I literally had to be reminded that it was my job to sit there and watch it.
But then, somewhere around the half-hour mark, something magical happens: the movie gets its ridiculous backstory and horrible pre-amble out of the way and becomes a very fun, very entertaining human-tale of narcissism, loss, and redemption. It creates a number of characters that we actually end up caring about, finds several layers of plot worth exploring, and eventually finds its way to a pretty solid home.
Of course, throughout that ultimately-positive journey it does take a number of very unnecessary sojourns back into the painfully campy realm...but, even so, ultimately ends up being a movie that's probably worth paying to see.