Home > Reviews, Star Trek > Movie review: Marvel’s THOR (SPOILERS)

Movie review: Marvel’s THOR (SPOILERS)

Spoilers ahead for the movie Thor:

I saw Thor on Monday, and it was really good. It’s easily the best installment yet in the pre-Avengers movie continuity, and one of the best Marvel movies overall. It had a strong character-driven story at the core, the dialogue was excellent, and the action and visuals were impressively done. My main problem may have been the fault of the movie theater’s projector — it was very dark at times, hard to see what was happening onscreen. (And this was in 2D.)

I was particularly interested in this film because it’s co-written by Ashley Edward Miller & Zack Stentz, whom I’ve been interacting with online ever since they were on the staff of Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda, and who have subsequently worked on Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles and the second season of Fringe.  The credits put Don Payne’s name after theirs, which I think means that Payne wrote the final draft; but the dialogue and characterization felt like Zack/Ash writing to me, with the cleverness and zing of their words.

Thor’s journey from arrogance to humility and wisdom was a little unconvincing to me; I didn’t quite see how his experiences taught him the lessons he learned, and it happened rather quickly. I can understand how being unable to lift Mjolnir and believing that Odin had died because of him would shake his faith in himself, but I’m not sure how that leads to the compassion and self-sacrifice he displayed thereafter. Maybe it’s just that the lessons Odin had taught him were part of him after all, and just weren’t able to express themselves until his arrogance was broken, but that didn’t come across well. Also, you’d think that discovering that Loki had lied about Odin’s death would kind of undo any humility he learned from it. Still, I liked the hero Thor became, however unconvincing the transformation was. I have a lot of respect for characters who are able to admit their mistakes and limitations — and even more respect for protagonists who put protecting the innocent above getting into fights. Chris Hemsworth was effective as Thor, convincing at showing both the arrogant boy and the compassionate hero. And he and his trainer deserve a lot of credit, since he was really built like a comic-book hero, no latex muscles required.  (By the way, if I hadn’t known this was the same guy who played George Kirk in Star Trek, I’d never have guessed.  I found him totally unrecognizable.)

But the real standout here was Tom Hiddleston’s Loki. This is one of the richest antagonists in comic-book movie history, so nuanced and sympathetic that I’m inclined to think of him as the second protagonist rather than the villain. He does devious and deceitful things like staging Frost Giant attacks and arranging for Thor to be exiled, but he keeps turning out to be less malevolent than you’d think. He had Thor exiled because he knew that Thor would be a bad king, and at the time, he was absolutely right, even if his methods were deceitful. And then he goes through all this manipulation that we think is about seizing power and arranging for Odin’s assassination, but then it turns out he set up the assassination attempt so he could save Odin and win his favor. Of course, he always had Odin’s love, but on such misunderstandings are Shakespearean tragedies founded. This was very Shakespearean, especially in the hands of Branagh and his cast, but Hiddleston was particularly compelling.

And was I the only one who felt, at the climax, that the reason Loki let himself fall was to save Thor? That even after all his villainy, he still loved his brother enough to die for him? That’s what I choose to believe.

The other characters were largely pretty good. Natalie Portman was kinda cool as Jane, certainly a lot more interesting than she was in George Lucas’s hands. Jaimie Alexander was really cool as Sif, very effective at the warrior woman role. The Warriors Three didn’t really stand out as individuals beyond their surface characteristics, but I guess that’s why they’re billed as a trio. And they were effective as far as they went.

Agent Coulson was his usual charming self. I think he deserves his own movie.

Heimdall was several kinds of awesome. Great character.

What I really loved about the movie was how compassionate it was. Far too many movies celebrate the death of the villains, or treat the taking of life as a trivial thing. But in this movie, that was the wrong attitude that Thor needed to unlearn, and once he became a hero, he was fighting to save lives, even his enemies’ lives, rather than take them. At the climax, he tried to save the villain — and when the villain (apparently) died, he actually mourned the loss. I love that. I wish more movies were like that.

I also don’t agree with the film critics who complained that this was too much of an “installment” movie whose only purpose was to set up The Avengers. I felt it worked very well as a self-contained movie. There were elements that were ties to the larger continuity, but they mostly served purposes that were relevant to this particular story as well (aside from a couple of throwaway moments like Agent Barton grabbing a bow rather than a gun and one of the SHIELD agents asking if the Destroyer was one of Tony Stark’s designs). Certainly the Avengers-setup material felt more integral and less intrusive here than it did in Iron Man 2.

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  1. May 19, 2011 at 11:51 am

    J.Michael Straczynski was credited as one of the story writers and I felt his work came through in the more literary aspects of the plot.

    Specifically the linking of ancient Nordic worship with the characters and their much more formal dialogue.

    • May 19, 2011 at 12:09 pm

      Well, those are both from the original comics. In the comics, Thor and the others literally are the Norse gods, and their dialogue tends to be extremely Shakespearean. Their speech patterns were actually toned down considerably for the movie.

      However, Straczynski was the writer of the Thor comic book from 2007-9, and the film reportedly does have some similarities to his comics run. JMS had a cameo in the film as the trucker who first discovered (and tried to lift) Mjolnir in the crater.

  2. May 23, 2011 at 8:48 am

    That moment in particular got a smile out of me.

    I’ve heard that Walt and Louise Simonson got cameos in one of the Asgardian banquet hall scenes as well…?

    Incidental sidebar: After getting home from seeing Thor myself yesterday, I finally got around to seeing the newer Hulk movie as well. Not bad, as far as it went. Interesting that they decided to use as much as they did from the TV version of the series…

  3. May 23, 2011 at 3:04 pm

    Under “Special Thanks To”.

    These days, everyone including the caterers, the insurance providers and the chief bodyguards for the lead actors get end title credits…

    • May 23, 2011 at 3:24 pm

      I think the “Special Thanks” credits were more for comics creators who inspired elements of the film.

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