The Mighty Thor!

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I went to see the Thor movie yesterday with my family and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it.  Thor was one of the more original superheroes devised by Marvel in the Sixties.  Doctor Donald Blake, on a vacation in Norway, stumbles into a cave where he finds Mjolnir, Thor’s hammer, disguised as a walking stick.  Striking it he is transformed into Thor, god of Thunder.  As Thor, Blake finds that he has super strength, can fly by flinging Mjolnir and hanging on, that Mjolnir is close to indestructible and will return to Thor after he throws it, that he can produce lightning and thunder by striking the ground with Mjolnir, etc.  After a few issues, Thor went to Asgard and met the rest of the panoply of the Norse pantheon, including his father Odin, and his adopted brother Loki, god of mischief and eventually god of evil.

In his early years Thor had adventures on Earth, or Midgard as the Norse referred to it, and in Asgard and the other nine realms of Norse mythology.  An early feature of the series was Tales of Asgard, where episodes of Norse mythology were re-enacted, sort of Marvel Comics meets Classics Illustrated.  Eventually Thor spent most of his time in Asgard, his secret identity of Donald Blake going by the board, especially after Thor learned that he had always been Thor and that Odin had placed him on Midgard in the guise of Donald Blake in order to teach him humility.  Thor was one of my favorite comic book series as I was growing up in the Sixties.  I was fascinated by the Norse mythology background and I found the Thor stories to be more imaginative than the more prosaic and formulaic superhero adventures of most of the other comic book series.  I also found the quasi-Shakespearean language in which Thor and the other Norse “gods” spoke to be a hoot!

Though thou be truly pure of heart – in thine innocence, thou art fair misguided! The true guru thou seekest doth lie within thyselves! Heed you now these words: ‘Tis not by dropping out – but by plunging in – into the maelstrom of life itself – that thou shalt find thy wisdom! There be causes to espouse!! There be battles to be won! There be glory and grandeur all about thee – if thou wilt but see! Aye, there will be time enow for thee to disavow thy heritage – yea, thou mayest drop out fore’er – once Hela herself hath come for thee! But, so long as life endures – thou must live it to the full! Else, thou be unworthy of the title – Man!

 Australian actor Chris Hemsworth does a good job in the title role, presenting a Thor filled with good humor and courage as he makes his way without his powers on the strange world of Midgard.  The amount of humor in the film came as a pleasant surprise to me.  With a theme like Thor I am sure there was a temptation to go Wagnerian with the subject matter, and the humor helps leaven what could have been a don’t-you-dare-smile-movie which is usually a mistake when you are dealing with an inherently absurd premise as is the case with any superhero movie.

Anthony Hopkins as Odin gives an adequate performance as Odin, his role demonstrating once again that British actors of a certain vintage are always able to find roles as authority figures in American pictures.

Natalie Portman plays Jane Foster, the mortal love interest of Thor.  I usually find Portman’s performances  rather annoying due to her manifest lack of skill as an actress, but that was not the case in this film where I thought she gave a fairly funny, in a good way, performance.

The best performance in the film is that of Tom Hiddleston, as Loki, Thor’s adopted brother.  Hiddleston gives suprising depth to a character who, after all, is a two-dimensional comic book villain.

The film revolves around the relationship between Odin and his two sons.  The action spans Asgard, Midgard and Jotunheim, the realm of the Frost Giants.  Kenneth Branagh as the director deserves a fair amount of credit in taking a complicated premise in terms of mythology and creating an  entertaining  romp through that mythology a la Marvel Comics.  The movie is extremely family friendly and teaches good lessons about humility, honoring one’s parents and courage without superpowers.  Not a bad way to spend a family outing.

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  1. What I look for in such a movie:
    a large ham and a sizable side of cheese, delivered with confidence and belief. No “oh, it’s a comic book movie, it doesn’t count” stuff. Being self-conscious about the movie one is in really kills it.

    Sounds like this managed it; can’t wait until we can see it!

  2. Of interest for background on Norse mythology and (I think) epics/sagas and verse, would be J. R. R. Tolkein’s “Sigurd and Gudrun” which compilation/translation was recently edited/published by his son.

  3. S.H.I.E.L.D. makes an appearance with an Ironman reference.

    I think there may be plans for a big blockbuster Marvel super-hero team-up of Thor, Ironman, Spider-Man, and the Hulk.

  4. Nice.

    Looks like Ruffalo will replace Ed to play the Hulk (3rd casting change).

    I didn’t read much of the Avengers (mostly Groo and Sgt. Rock) when I was little, but what about the Green Lantern and Wolverine joining the team?

  5. Tito,

    I LOVED Groo when I was a (not too young) kid. Very funny stuff.

    People can say what they want about comic books: at least we were reading. Today, kids don’t read anything – not even the Harry Potter series is around to capture their attention. They just play video games and watch movies. It’s sad, really.

    About the Green Lantern joining the Avengers: the Green Lantern was a DC Comics hero, while the Avengers were assembled by the Marvel Comics team.

  6. Nicholas,

    Yes, Groo the Wanderer was good clean stuff!

    I believe they were in pre-production on a film back in ’08, but I haven’t read anything since then.

    I have the entire Pacific Comic series (all 8)! Well I think, my parents salvaged some of my stuff after Hurricane Iniki hit, so I’m not sure it survived.

    Anyhoo, I forgot that the Green Lantern is part of the DC universe.

    I read that Hawkeye will be part of the Avengers (coming 2012). Which started filming in April.

  7. Volstagg is one of the great characters of the Thor comics Ivan. Basically he is Falstaff transplanted to Asgard. The self proclaimed “Lion of Asgard” Volstagg was a great warrior in his youth but is now much more fond of eating, going on adventures to get away from his nagging wife and numerous kids and telling lies about his deeds of valor. He provided the comedy relief in the Thor comics and did it very well. A good hearted oaf of a man who could find courage and resolution when necessary.

  8. As you say Donald, the movie’s succeeds by giving due regard to characterisation and dialogue. Add to that spectacular special effects and tight editing and its a winner, as the box-office receipts shows.

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