I liked Thor. Despite a distinct lack of rocket hands and Robert Downey chewing scenery, all things considered, it’s probably a better film than the first Iron Man (which, let’s face it, was a little Entourage-y at times). And yet, something about it kept me from being much excited to write my review. In fact, I made this entire Platoon poster with a Hyrax out of boredom before I’d written my first paragraph.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fun movie. The acting is solid all the way through (Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston — Loki — are pleasant discoveries, and neither Anthony Hopkins nor Natalie Portman dishonor their pedigrees). Kenneth Branagh proves his Shakespeare experience surprisingly applicable to a film about a big blonde guy whacking sh*t with a hammer, seamlessly mixing goofy, often slapsticky humor with age-old conflicts between brothers, and fathers and sons, and of course, epic speeches and hubris leading to downfall. The film begins in Asgard, where three of the evil Ice Giants (couldn’t have thought up a less on-the-nose name, there, guys?) have infiltrated a sacred Asgardian hall through some kind through a secret portal, in order to steal back some magic box full of blue fog that the Asgardians took after defeating them in a long war (the one where Odin lost his eye). But before the Ice Giants can accomplish much, the Asgardians’ giant chrome Destroyer blows them all to f*ck WITH A BEAM OF HELLFIRE FROM ITS FACE (pretty baller, as security systems go). When the Asgardians discover what happened, newly-crowned Prince Thor gets pissed, demanding to go to Planet Ice Giant and hammer some frozen dicks in retaliation. Odin (Hopkins) says no — “The Destroyer did its job, the invaders met their fate, nothing else is required.”
But headstrong, cocksure, hammer-loving Thor still has a war hard-on, so he takes a detachment of warriors across the biefrost to the Ice Giant Planet, nearly getting killed and plunging all Asgard into another costly war in the process. And the last thing a planet of giant Vikings wants is war. Eventually Odin has to ride in and make things nice, and as punishment, Daddy takes his T. hammer away and busts Thor’s ass down to Earth. Get it? It’s like an Iraq/9-11 metaphor, with Thor as George Dubya. The invaders were already dead, but Thor had to attack their country anyway to prove something to his dad. Now, I’m not saying a 9-11 metaphor is a particularly valuable thing in and of itself (unless it involves a cross-dressing brother always trying to take credit for sh*t as a stand-in for Giuliani), but it’s interesting to see one in a Marvel popcorn superhero movie. It’s kind of like seeing an AC/DC song in a Jane Austen movie — pleasantly unexpected.
In any case, once Thor hits Earth, the Viking-out-of-water fun starts, and I don’t mean that sarcastically. Chris Hemsworth bellowing and smashing coffee cups and showing up to a petstore demanding a horse is surprisingly, genuinely funny, and you’ve never seen a superhero play clown as much, as often, or as well as Thor.
Going back to not being excited to write this review, I think it’s that Thor is defined more by what it isn’t than what it is. It’s not the most ambitious film, it’s essentially your standard superhero movie — hero discovers powers, enemy emerges, hero loses powers, love interest, hero regains powers, final battle, kiss, the end. But within that, there’s no shakey cam, no obnoxious music video editing, a minimum of macho posturing (OMG, ISN’T TONY STARK THE COOLEST, SMARTEST, RICHEST GUY IN THE WORLD? LOOK HOW MUCH CHICKS AND MONEY AND CARS HE HAS!), and less winking circle-jerk references to other Marvel movies. (There’s a brief cameo of Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye, and the film breaks down the fourth wall only briefly for the requisite Stan Lee cameo, where the trained seals in the audience can clap their flippers together in ostentatious celebration of being cultured enough to recognize a guy who writes picture books for children. Congrats, assholes, you’re so much smarter than everyone else.). There’s no charismatic, over-the-top agent of pure evil as the antagonist, just a constantly-evolving relationship between Thor and Loki that moves the action forward and keeps the story compelling until the end (again, I sense Branagh’s Shakespeare experience).
It’s solid, fun, entertaining, and watchable pretty much the whole way through. Its only real failings are Sif and The Warriors Three, who I assume had a much bigger role in the comics, but here are kind of shoehorned into the plot without serving much purpose. Sif is your standard “warrior chick” that every action movie has to have these days, never developing much beyond that, and the Warriors Three consist of Ray Stevenson as Volstagg, a fat guy who eats a lot, an Asian guy who stands around being Asian, and Fandral, a blonde guy who looks distractingly like Andy Samberg in a Ren Fair fop costume.
Oh, and how could I forget Chris Hemsworth’s hairless chest. Really, guys? You expect us to believe a bearded space Viking has no chest hair? Or worse, that when he’s not hammer-f*cking Ice Giants to death over the lamentations of their women he sits around manscaping? Were we really not supposed to notice this? F*ck you, Hollywood. Get him a goddamn chest merkin if you have to.
GRADE: Four out of Five Platoon Hyraxes.