Thor–Movie Review

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2.5 Stars

I went into Thor with rather low expectations, partly because when I was a kid I thought that Thor was the silliest of the Marvel superheroes. A Norse god just didn’t seem to belong in the same sci-fi universe as the other characters.

Furthermore I had read Bulfinch and the Marvel version of Thor just didn’t seem right. Thor shouldn’t look like a blond surfer. The original Thor was a working man’s god, with a big red beard and muscles like a blacksmith, not a bodybuilder. He was a man of few words, slow to anger but terrible when aroused. He rode around in a cart drawn by goats, and probably smelled like them.

Well that’s not what this movie is about, and I should try to judge it on its own terms. This movie takes the thin material of the comic book and sets up a premise that might well make a good story, if done right.

About a thousand years ago Earth was the scene a battle between two advanced civilizations. First the frost giants from the world of Jotunheim invaded, hoping to colonize our world after suitably cooling the climate. The King of Asgard, Odin Allfather (Anthony Hopkins) led an army to Earth that drove the Jotuns back to their home world, seized their main power source and forced them to accept a peace treaty. After this the Asgardians (I think they should be called “Aesir”, but never mind) returned to their own home world, leaving only confused legends among the simple people of Earth, who had taken them for gods.

In the present day the aging Odin is grooming his son Thor (Chris Hemsworth) as his successor. Thor is a mighty warrior but impetuous and arrogant, lacking both compassion and good sense. His younger brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston), who is cool and calculating, watches impassively.

Thor gets it into his head to lead an unauthorized raid on Jotunheim, provoking a renewed war. A furious Odin exiles him to Earth, stripped of his advanced technology. Odin throws Thor’s mighty hammer Mjollnir after him, decreeing that it shall belong to whoever proves worthy to rule Asgard. The hammer ends up embedded in a boulder, Excalibur-style.

Meanwhile on Earth astrophysicist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) is driving through the New Mexico desert investigating strange weather patterns which she thinks may be caused by wormholes. She bumps into Thor (with her van–she’s not a very good driver) and they eventually end up forming an uneasy partnership.

This sets the stage for a story of personal growth. Thor must learn how to be a decent human being (or Asgardian or whatever he is) in order to reclaim his heritage. Unfortunately the movie skimps on the character development, concentrating instead on giving of lots and lots of computer-generated action scenes.

Computer-generated imagery is the curse of today’s action pictures. It tends to have an unnatural dream-like quality which works well for some stories, but this one could do with a dose of gritty realism. If you want to make us believe that Norse gods exist, it might help to make the rest of the movie look as realistic as possible. CGI also tends to encourage clumsy acting, since the actors are forced to pantomime in front of a blue screen, unable to see the things they are supposed to be reacting to.

The move does have a few good moments.

THOR: I have need of a horse!
PET SHOP CLERK: We don’t have horses here. Just dogs, cats and birds.
THOR: Then give me one of those that is big enough to ride.

Unfortunately there is too little of this, and soon we are back to more CGI sequences.