Sunday, May 8, 2011

THOR: A Review, by Thor

Today I have a guest blogger. I thought it only appropriate that the review of the recent Marvel Studio's film Thor be reviewed by my cat: Thor--who I snuck into the theater in my wife's purse to watch the film. This was no easy feat, but it was worth it. Thor, being a mute, isn't much of a talker. But he can type so it worked out well.


Thor; the cat
Hey, everyone. First of all, I'd like to thank my dad for giving me the opportunity to express my opinion on this film on his blog. Most people would be skeptical about letting their cat write a blog, but he's not most people and I appreciate that. Secondly, I know a lot of you were probably expecting this to be in that all-too-cliche' catspeak language that seems to be drifting around the net these days...i can haz cheesburger 4 fud pls? and all that bullshit...

Well, I'm not going to do that. It just demeans us all, really.

Anyway, like dad said he and mom snuck me into the theater to see the movie Thor. He's right about it not being easy: anytime they put me in a vehicle I immediately assume they are taking me to the vet and I REALLY HATE THAT so I tend to freak out. I was pleasantly surprised when I emerged in a dark theater, wearing a pair of cat-sized 3D glasses my dad managed to steal from some kid on the way in. It was my first time in a movie theater, though I've watched a lot of movies with my dad...most of them bad. Like, REALLY bad. Dad has this fetish for horrible movies. He and his loud, jackass friends sit around and watch them and drink Schlitz and Guinness until they can barely move. I don't know if you know who I'm talking about, but they include that little imp Ross, the Frenchman Valentin, some goth chick named Leann, my mom, that hipster Addison and his boyfriend Jason, and that one guy with the curly hair named Jordon and some guy named Garret who may be a serial killer.

But none of those jackasses came to see Thor, so I was able to enjoy it in peace. And enjoy it I did! I had no idea I was named after such a badass! My dad is a long time fan of both the mythology and the comic character, and has told me all about it. So, while I'm certainly no expert, I can lend at least some authority to this interpretation of the character.

First of all, this is a comic book movie. It is based on the COMIC BOOK incarnation of Thor, the Norse God of Thunder. People unfamiliar with the comic book who go hoping to see a film true to the Norse myths will be disappointed and angry. Not that they totally ignore the mythology, but key elements of it are left out when inconvenient. For one thing, mythological Thor had red hair and a red beard, and wasn't quite so heroic. Odin is fairly accurate: he is missing an eye and uses a spear, but in this film it is implied that he lost his eye in a war with ice giants, as opposed to the mythological explanation in which he traded one of his eyes for knowledge. Sif was Thor's wife in the myths, but in this she was just one of his friends, and she has long black hair instead of blonde spun from gold and silver by dwarves. Also, three of the supporting characters (Fendral, Hogun and Volstag) are absent from Norse mythology. They exist only in the comic books. I've heard some people complained that they cast a black actor to play Heimdall, who actually was the mythological guardian of Bifrost, the Rainbow Bridge between Midgard (Earth) and Asgard, but those people can lick the inside of my tail: he's a fictional fucking character, you racist assholes!

So the film is not true to the myths...but it isn't supposed to be. It's Marvel comic. Thor is the eldest son of Odin, king of Asgard, which in the new Marvel Universe mythos is an alien world populated by immortals. They do tie some of the mythology in, like how Bifrost is actually a wormhole generator (like a Stargate) that can connect to one of nine realms, of which Earth (called Midguard) is one. This plays in to how Thor winds up on Earth. And even though it's based on the comic book, the movie doesn't require that you be a fan of the comics to get what's going on.

The movie is visually amazing. Somehow, they managed to capture the exaggerated look of the old Kirby-style, golden-era of comics art that Thor fans have seared into their conception of the place and transfer it to the screen without looking ridiculous. Asgard appears to be an amazing city, with technology so advanced that it seems magical. They don't bother explaining how this works: it's seamlessly integrated with the characters lives. Thor's hammer fires lightning bolts. It just does it because he wants it to. He doesn't push a button it just happens.

The battles are epic. Thor fights frost giants and a big dragon thing in the earlier scenes of the film, before his father strips him of his power and throws him to Earth. Once on Earth, most of his fights are smaller scale, since he's basically a human now. Still, as a human, he's incredibly bad ass. He takes on a camp of government agents by himself, no weapons just punching and kicking his way through them like a boss! When he finally does reclaim his power (that's not a spoiler, you know he's going to) he is all the badass of the Marvel Comics Thor and more. He flies, smashes things, throws lightning-bolts and conjures storms. In 3D it looks amazing, but even in 2D it would be spectacular.

The story is fairly basic: redemption of the hero. It's a little formulaic: haughty bad-ass gets in trouble, loses everything, meets a pretty girl, does something selfless and then becomes an even bigger bad-ass. You know where the story is going and nothing really surprises you, but it provides an adequate vehicle for the journey: which is a series of well-done, colorful battles between some of the most powerful characters in the Marvel Comic universe. Still, knowing how everything is going to work out takes some of the fun out of the film, but hopefully the visual effects make up for that. And it doesn't work out quite the way you expect...I wouldn't call it a twist ending, but it does make the victory somewhat bittersweet.

Where the movie really departs from the redemption formula and impresses is in the role of the villain. Loki is probably the most identifiable of the characters in the film for the audience. And there is genuine love between him and the protagonist (they are brothers) and a shared affection for their father and mother. When Loki schemes, we understand why he's doing it: his actions are borne of the same emotions we all struggle with: fear, jealousy, betrayal, and a need for approval. It's kind of like when I catch mice. I don't need to catch them...I sure as hell don't eat them. But when I do, mom and dad go nuts and give me treats and call me "The Mighty Thor!" and praise me for being such a badass. It's fun. Anyway, we can see that Loki didn't get enough of that growing up: Odin was a warrior and so he favored the son who was more like him. Loki was smarter, not as strong as Thor and better suited to guile than fighting. Not that Odin didn't love him just as much, but the relationship between a father and his sons is complex--it is compounded by a secret of Loki's birth that fosters a feeling of betrayal that leads Loki to some of his darker actions. All in all, we admire Loki for his wit and scheming almost as much as we do Thor for his valor and strength.

There were some things about the film that weren't great. The movie covered a HUGE amount of material, combining what basically amounted to an origin story and a redemption plot--most films are one or the other. This results in some of the films most intriguing characters only getting a fraction of the exploration they deserved, particularly the strong female characters of Frigga (Thor's mom) and Jane Foster (Thor's love interest) and Sif. The film also has some tired fish-out-of-water gags that, while funny the first time around, probably won't be so enjoyable in repeated viewing, like when Thor discovers coffee or walks into a pet store and demands a horse--though, I'm a little surprised he didn't ask for a goat-drawn chariot. The movie's attempt to turn Thor into a sex symbol was a little contrived but it didn't get obnoxious.

The only thing about the movie I hated was the Foo Fighters song they played during the end credits. What the fuck, Kenneth? Foo Fighters? There is an ENTIRE genre of music dedicated to nothing but vikings, and about a quarter of the songs mention Thor at some point. Any of those would have done for the end credits. Or, if something more mainstream was needed, Immigrant Song by LED Zepplin would have fit the bill nicely, like the use of Black Sabbath and AC/DC in the Iron Man films. Hell, I would have even settled for Foo Fighters doing a cover of Immigrant Song over the douchtastic piece of hipster crap they played at the end. And of course we had to sit through the credits because, like ALL Marvel films, there was a scene at the very end that forshadowed another Marvel Studios movie.

So I'd give this movie a 4 out of 5 just for being fun to watch. Definitely worth seeing, even if you've never read the comics or know anything about Norse mythology.

--Thor Poindexter