Film Review: 'Thor' (2011)
I grew up on the Norse myths as bedtime stories. I remember a beautifully illustrated children's book about them, minus a few gory details from the originals. They're an important part of Europe's cultural heritage.
But in order to really like Marvel's Thor, I had to throw out my pre-existing beliefs about Norse mythology, much like how you have Disney's Hercules causes you to throw out a lot of what you know about Greek mythology. To embrace Marvel's Thor, think of it as a Cain and Abel story instead.
With both Thor and Hercules, there seems to be an effort on the part of the movie-makers to write a story that draws from the Bible, and paint it with an ancient pagan aesthetic. This is because it sells, to a country where most people are Christian and only weirdos like me actually study ancient history and myths. Plus a lot of those old stories are so violent and/or sexual, they have to be cleaned up for an audience of children or teenagers.
Or let's be real, for the MPAA, which consists of many conservative, Christian parents. The MPAA exists to tell movie studios how conservative "middle America" will react to their movies. Have a movie be too pagan, even if it's not anti-Christian, and it won't blow over so well.
Thor (2011) also has a sci-fi feel to it. Scenes in Asgard look like they're from Dr. Who or a more recent version of Star Trek. On Earth, it's a pretty familiar "alien contact" plot, except the aliens are Loki and Thor. The relationship between Natalie Portman's character and Thor seems like a "my naive alien girlfriend is walking around topless" thing you might see in anime or sci-fi erotica, with the genders reversed.
Loki and Thor are brothers, sons of Odin. Mom's not around, because maybe with Freya around to knock some sense into Loki more, this wouldn't have happened. But anyway. Thor is clearly the favorite, and next in line, and Loki is pouty because he's jealous, kind of like Scar in The Lion King.
Thor, with Loki and his friends The Warriors Three goes to Jotunheim to ask the frost giants for information regarding the fact that someone crossed the bifrost (rainbow bridge connecting worlds) without Heimdall's (the god in charge of the bifrost) knowledge, and stole something of value from Asgard. This action messes up a fragile truce between the Asgardians and the frost giants of Jotunheim. Odin banishes Thor to Earth as punishment to appease the frost giants. He sends Mjölnir (pronounced like 'mule near'), Thor's hammer, with an enchantment on it saying that only the one who is worthy and possesses the powers of Thor can wield it.
Both land in different places in New Mexico. Natalie Portman plays Jane Foster, a young astronomer who becomes Thor's love interest, taking him in. It's not easy for her to accept his story, but she does believe that there are things we can't understand in the universe. Naturally the arrival of an alien and alien artifact are not unnoticed by the federal government and S.H.I.E.L.D.
Odin falls into a deep sleep. Loki comes to tell Thor Odin died so Loki has become king, and that Odin, before he died, said that Thor could never come back from Earth. When the Warriors Three, Thor's friends, come to Earth from Asgard, they tell him Loki lied about Odin being dead. Thor and pals fight a monster, Thor gets Mjölnir back, and it's time to go back to Asgard and kick his brother's ass. But Heimdall was frozen by Loki, to allow the frost giants access to Asgard. When Heimdall unfreezes and lets Thor and buddies warp to him, Loki attacks. Thor fights Loki and many frost giants with help from Odin, who finally woke up from his nap.Thor ends up blowing up the bifrost to prevent Loki invading Earth or other worlds. There's a touching scene where Loki lets go of Thor, falling into empty space. Thor admits he's not ready to be king yet, and ends up finding a way to travel back to Earth. A post-credits scene shows the tesseract, a blue cube with incredible power, and shows that Loki is actually still alive, and that he has some kind of plans for it. This is a teaser for The Avengers.
Thor: I have no plans to die today.
Heimdall: None do.
Marvel Studios, Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Story by J. Michael Straczynski, & Mark Protosevich Based on Thor by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, & Jack Kirby
Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Stellan Skarsgård, Colm Feore, Ray Stevenson, & Idris Elba
Empire Awards for Best Male Newcomer - Tom Hiddleson, and Best Sci-Fi/Fantasy; Saturn Award for Best Costume - Alexandra Byrne
The gorgeously blends mythology, modern sci-fi, and the classic superhero origin story. Sure, we've seen sibling rivalries before. But at its core, Thor is an alien contact film, similar to E.T., but where the alien is a Norse god, implying that our own ancient myths were inspired by ancient alien contact. It's also an alien invasion movie, with the idea being that a more powerful good alien is necessary to stop the evil invading aliens. You don't often see this in other alien invasion movies - usually some unique characteristic of humanity is what saves the day.
But Thor is treated to human hospitality when Jane Foster takes him in. That act of kindness is what shows Thor that humans and Earth are worth protecting. So it is that unique characteristic in humans that ends up bridging a cultural gap between two peoples. This is also something commonly seen in movies - a friendship or romantic relationship between two people acts as a bridge between two foreign cultures, like in Disney's Pocahontas, or Avatar.
The movie is good for re-watch entertainment value. It's hard to make a character like Thor work, and have him feel modern, relevant, and relatable. But they did an excellent job.
Rating for Thor: 9/10
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© 2019 Rachael Lefler