Stan Lee once explained in an interview that he made a conscious effort to try and give the super hero characters he created an origin that was grounded in science to give them a semblance of plausibility. Spider-man was bitten by a radioactive spider, The Hulk was caught in a gamma bomb explosion, the Fantastic Four were struck by cosmic rays and so on.
It was only after Lee felt he had written himself into a corner by creating The Hulk did the idea for Thor eventuate. He was always under pressure to create new characters and when the time came to create another strongman super hero after The Hulk he momentarily suffered from writer’s block. ‘How do you make someone stronger than the strongest person?’ The solution however, was simple – ‘…Make him a God!’
As both a comic book creation in the Sixties and now as a superhero film in 2011, Thor represents a departure from the stereotypical look and feel of most Marvel franchises. Instead of being an everyman who undergoes a metamorphisis, Thor is more or less the same demi-god character from Norse mythology, only now he comes to Earth to fight crime.
In the film, we are introduced to this unique interpretation of the mythology through a narration by Thor’s father, Odin. There are nine realms in the universe and they are guarded by the Asgardians, a race of Gods who live in an empire in the clouds. They are duty-bound to keep the peace in the different realms. From what we can see, most of the universe tends to behave themselves except for the Frost Giants who periodically try to bait the Asgardians into a conflict. To be fair to the frosties, Odin did steal a shiny blue box which belonged to them and he keeps in his trophy cabinet in the basement.
I like the character of Thor. He is young, cocksure and carries himself with a swagger in his step. I can’t remember any other super hero who’s acchille’s heel is his pride. Newcomer Chris Hemsworth does an excellent job in the role and he certainly has the physical prescense and booming voice to play the part. I was less convinced by Tom Hiddleston who plays his brother Loki. Unfortunately, I felt Hiddleston came across less like the brother of a thunder god and more like the annoying guy in your office who doesn’t replace the paper in the printer when it runs out. Maybe he should’ve grown out a beard or something?
The film is directed by British thespian Kenneth Brannagh who made his name adapting Shakespeare to the cinema. His experience serves him well when directing the scenes set in Asgard which are highly theatrical in nature. Once Thor is cast out and sent crashing to Earth, the tone shifts towards that of a fish-out-of-water rom com. The duality in the film’s tone might sound rather jarring but credit to Brannagh for making it work. I was engaged in the melodrama when the Gods collided in Asgard and I was laughing along with everyone else when Thor bursts into a pet store and demands a horse.
Part of what makes Thor so fun is that it is filled with likable actors. There is a neat little role written for Stringer Bell from The Wire and this was also one of the five hundred films starring Natalie Portman thats coming out in 2011. Despite her recent overexposure, I remain a big fan. There are also some serious blasts from the past including Anthony Hopkins and Rene Russo who I don’t think I’ve seen in anything since The Thomas Crown Affair over a decade ago.
At the end of the day, Thor is a fun blockbuster film that is good, but not great. It’s doesn’t hold a candle to the original Superman or the recent Batman films but it is an entertaining way to pass ninety minutes. On paper, the idea of a thunder god fighting a bunch of blue guys and then flying down to Earth for some sexy time with Natalie Portman in New Mexico sounds kind of preposterous but somehow it manages to work.