I don’t care much for superhero movies. The concept is boring to me. I also don’t much care for Norse mythology, so Thor was pretty far down on the list of superhero movies I would want to see. But Natalie Portman is my favorite actress, and she plays the eponymous hero’s love interest, so when it came on TV the other night, I figured I’d check it out.
The first thing that struck me was how bad the digital special effects were. The city of Asgard, where Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Odin (Anthony Hopkins) and the rest of the Norse Gods live looks like the City from The Wizard of Oz, only less believable. The enemy creatures that Thor and his comrades fight early on looked pretty fake, and of course, the color palette was the standard blue and orange that I’ve blogged about before.
The first half hour of the movie was pretty tedious, with lots of comic-book fights and bad special effects. The essence of it was this: Thor is persuaded by his brother Loki to attack the enemy “Frost giants”, but it turns out to be a huge mistake, and Thor is banished and deemed unworthy to wield his hammer. He is forcibly cast out of Asgard and crashes in the New Mexico desert, his hammer landing not far away.
At this point, we leave the hokey special effects behind for the most part, and the movie turns into an enjoyable romance between Thor and Dr. Jane Foster, (Portman) an astrophysicist who observes him crashing to Earth after his banishment.
Against the advice of her colleague, Dr. Selvig, Jane takes Thor to the site where his hammer has crashed. Meanwhile, Thor’s brother Loki is busy taking over Asgard while Odin is in a coma. (Or something. I had trouble following this part.) Loki, it becomes clear, has been orchestrating the whole thing to gain power.
Back on Earth, Thor tries but fails to pull the hammer out of the crater in which it is embedded. It becomes clear that, per Odin’s command, he is not worthy to wield the hammer. When this happens, Thor despairs and is taken into custody by government agents, who earlier had confiscated Jane’s scientific notes and equipment in order to study them.
Thor is rescued from them by Selvig, and is able to take back Jane’s notebook. He and Jane then share a romantic interlude, after which Thor’s friends from Asgard return to let him know of Loki’s treachery. Then Loki sends this big metal robot-soldier thing down to Earth to kill everyone.
Thor walks up to the robot and addresses Loki, asking him to spare the lives of Jane and her friends. In exchange, he tells Loki to take his life. The robot does so, and strikes Thor, knocking him to the ground. But, as Jane kneels over the apparently dying Thor, the hammer comes soaring out of the ground and flies into his hand, transfiguring him into the God of Thunder.
I won’t lie; it’s a powerful moment. Thor has become worthy, through sacrificing his life for his loved ones, to wield the hammer. Of course, he revives and is able to fight off the robot. He shares a passionate kiss with Jane before returning to Asgard to fight his treacherous brother.
Unfortunately, in the course of defeating Loki and waking Odin, Thor destroys the bridge between Asgard and Earth, meaning he and Jane are separated at the film’s end. But it ends on a hopeful note, with a shot of Jane and her friends making progress in their research into the portals between realms, and Jane smiling as Thor does the same across the Universe.
As I said, I don’t like superhero movies, but this isn’t a typical superhero movie. It was directed by the Shakespearean actor/director Sir Kenneth Branagh, and the Bard’s influence is quite clear. You have a Prince struggling to be worthy of the throne, a usurper taking the throne from the rightful King, and intrigues that lead to wars between kingdoms. It’s a strong, character-driven adventure story. The chemistry between Portman and Hemsworth is spectacular, and the supporting characters all hit just the right notes. The mood is light and adventurous, while still having some very powerful scenes. If you can get past the weak special effects, it’s a very enjoyable romp.