Film #4 in the Marvel Cinematic Universe: Thor
“The end is near.” Avengers: Infinity War is set to hit theaters at the end of the month. Each weekday FilmExodus will be spotlighting a film from the Marvel Cinematic Universe in the buildup to Infinity War. Don’t expect a Stan Lee cameo though. This is… The Road to Infinity.
Kenneth Branagh, the consummate actor, directed this film and I believe the film benefited from his deep experience in all things related to acting. I mention him first as I love everything he has ever been a part of; to put it simply, he is a genius.
All my life I have been fascinated with myths. While still in grammar school, I read Bulfinch’s Mythology along with many comic books. So, of course, I was familiar with Thor. This movie is a great treat for those that love the Norse mythology, superheroes, comics, and movies. I hope with this review that I touch upon the broad strokes without really spoiling it for anyone who has not yet seen the movie.
The movie begins in a New Mexico desert on a dark night with the the only onscreen light coming from a vehicle’s headlights. The vehicle is filled with intense looking people working with a laptop researching an aurora-borealis-type phenomenon. Suddenly, there is a light in the sky. They speed off towards it in the process hitting a man who appears from the middle of nowhere. This is how the hero and the girl meet. The movie then flashes back centuries to 965 A.D. Tonsberg, Germany where the Frost Giants are battling Odin.
It is a great way to begin a movie. Thor is a classic hero’s journey in outline form with a distinct departure or call to adventure. It has the middle initiation, or challenges and trials phase. It definitely has the return which, in this case, has a decisive victory along with a great sacrifice. However, what makes this hero’s journey great to me is how his story plays out and how it is different from another hero’s journey. In my opinion, the screenplay, directing, casting, cinematography, and music all really work together to create a great movie. This is bolstered by the flashbacks from ancient history to modern day and in-between with action ranging across the ordinary world and other nine realms.
Chris Hemsworth was perfectly cast as Thor, in my opinion. Tall, handsome, physically impressive and, as my husband would say, “full of piss and vinegar” to prove himself worthy of the throne. Predictably, while he is full of enthusiasm for fighting, he does not yet know or understand that the wise man picks his battles, and a King must be wise to last long as fighting is fine as long as it is for the right reasons. To gain that knowledge and wisdom to be, the official heir apparent Thor has to go on the hero’s journey. The scene I love the most is when Thor first tries to lift Mjolnir after his banishment and fails. The realization on how truly abandoned he is on Earth, by his father and the power he once had in Asgard, is seen on his face and in the howling cry he lets loose. He is not worthy of the hammer, and it will not lift for him.
Also, note that the clip above features the first Marvel Cinematic Universe appearance of Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), another hero, ready to shoot Thor with his bow and arrow.
Natalie Portman was just okay for this role, in my opinion. Do not get me wrong, I think Natalie is a great actress, but I just felt this role did not give her much of a chance to show her true range. I think that was due to Thor being based on a comic book. I think Portman had a hard time getting passed that, along with the fact that her role as Jane Foster does not have any depth. It was almost like Marvel said “let’s make her a scientist instead of a nurse and have her not be able to keep a boyfriend.” Portman was given the minimum to really show how she could be worthy of Thor. I also felt that at times she was walking through the scenes. Personally, I think she would have been better if the role had been meatier. I don’t think any other actress, besides Krysten Ritter who plays Jessica Jones, could have done better with this role as, again, there really was not much there to work with. Well, maybe Jamie Alexander, who plays Sif.
However, Tom Hiddleston as Loki was perfect. The trickster god, the cuckoo in the nest, Tom is the perfect actor for this role. While not as physically impressive as his ‘brother’ Thor, you know Loki has to survive with his wits. He is jealous of Thor and wants to prove that he is worthy to be a son of Odin, and future King of Asgard. Unfortunately, he later finds out that he is the son of King Laufey, abandoned as a baby to die in the temple because he was small. Loki is the one that sets up the invasion of the Frost Giants only to learn that he is not a true Asgardian. His jealousy and cunning ways allow him to feed lines to Thor that Loki knows will evoke the wrong response. He is the God of Mischief and Trickery, after all. It is very ironic that he commits both patricide and regicide when he kills his father King Laufey despite wanting to prove himself as the better son to Odin. Also, he almost kills Odin, the father that adopted him. How sad is that? Even though he is the bigger villain in the movie, I feel sorry for him. That is why he is so great; Loki is not completely a villain.
The other major actors in this movie were well cast as well. Anthony Hopkins, Stellan Skarsgard, Kat Dennings, Idris Elba, and Renee Russo all do a great job with what they were given with. As previously mentioned, the only actor I was disappointed in was Natalie Portman, but I mostly blame that to the writing of her character and not towards her acting ability.
At its center, Thor tells the story of two princes, the sons of Odin: Thor and Loki. Which prince is really worthy of ascending to the throne of Asgard? Which prince is filled with good intentions and which one is the bad, tricky, or the cuckoo egg? Which has the wisdom to rule a kingdom? These questions define the movie. Thor is a movie that I enjoy rewatching on a regular basis. I love it and I hope others feel the same way when they watch it.