Thor (2011)

Review by Throwback

Thor was an interesting experiment on several different levels. First, Thor is not a character that has a lot of wide popular appeal. I say this as someone who thinks that Walt Simonson's work with this book was one of the greatest literary achievements in the history of the written word. That's the exception that proves the rule, though. It takes an exceptional talent like Simonson to make the character work. He's honestly just not that interesting otherwise, which is why he's on the feature team of the Marvel Universe.

Second, a film translating Norse mythology into contemporary times is not going to be easy either. What with all the archaic speech and such, it would be really easy to have this whole thing degenerate into a lot of melodramatic actors hamming it up whilst delivering poorly written sappy dialogue.

I think this is why Kenneth Branagh as director was important. Having worked in theater and Shakespeare stuff, I think he could recognize the cheese potential before it got out of hand. The movie kept it's tone, and everybody stuck to playing their character straight, without giving in to self-indulgence or mockery.

One final bit before I get to the substance of things. There was not a shred of foul language or inappropriate sexual content. There is violence, but it wasn't anything more than what is in any other super-hero movie. In fact, it's probably a bit less, at least as far as humans participating goes. That's one thing this movie has going for it.

Now, for the review and Catholic bits garnered from my viewing.

What has made the good Marvel movies good has tended to be the cast. Thor is no exception, though this was one of my biggest concerns since I'd never heard of most of these folks. Then again, everybody knew who Ben Affleck and Nicolas Cage were. That didn't help Daredevil and Ghost Rider. But on the other hand, the fact that an actor is well-known is no guarantee they are good, but I digress.

Unknown Chris Hemsworth as Thor pretty much nails it, both on the arrogant jackass part and the fun guy to have a beer with side. The romantic part was a bit forced, but that seemed more a function of time than the acting.

The supporting cast was good as well. Anthony Hopkins does great as Odin. This isn't Marlon Brando stopping by the set of Superman to pick up a paycheck. Heimdall, Sif, the Warriors Three all got excellent treatments. The exception was perhaps Volstagg who, quite frankly, just wasn't fat enough.

Tom Hiddleston, another guy I'd never heard of, was a fantastic Loki, though I didn't like the motivations unveiled at the end. It just didn't sit well with me for some reason. Loki is pretty evil. The movie tried to tone that down a bit, even though he was trying to commit genocide. Figure that one out.

The plot worked well and is the beginning of the Catholic perspective that we consider. Thor begins with a point instructive to the masses. Humanity once lived under the principle that mankind was not alone in the universe. We've pretty much ditched that now. We're way more pagan than the pagans ever were. Their gods were basically super-heroes and displayed all the regular foibles of humanity, albeit with greater capacity for harm due to their powers. At least the pagans didn't exalt themselves as gods, which is our favorite modern past time.

Anyways, humanity not being alone in the movie means being stuck with Asgardians and Frost Giants. That is the back-drop of the whole film. The remaining context is essentially a replay of The Fall. Thor allows his pride to override his sense of duty to Odin the All-Father. This unleashes enormous destruction upon his people and results in his being cast out. The road back is by subordinating his own will and self-love to the ideals that his father always wanted for him. This is all very Catholic stuff and was a pleasant surprise as to how it was presented.

Going back to our previous points above, all this is done without being heavy-handed and in your face. Branagh didn't need to resort to cheap Jesus imagery a la Singer in Superman Returns. He told a story with superfluities like that stripped away and what you had left was just a good story with great acting.

And yes, there's stuff after the credits, and it's awesome.

Go see it. You'll be glad you did. And by all means, please take your kids. They'll be glad you did.

Then all of you can read Walt Simonson's Thor. I give it two point five tiaras. The movie, that is.