Thursday, June 9, 2011

Thor: This movie, I like it! ANOTHER!

Thor is more than just the latest Marvel superhero movie. It may not be X-Men or Spider-Man or Iron Man, but it doesn't waste its time trying to be. Instead, it focuses on a likable hero, an engaging plot, a compelling villain, and of course setting up The Avengers, but more on that later.

I didn't know much about Thor when I went into the theater. I knew that he was an Avenger, and that he wielded Mjolnir and had storm-based powers, but I was mostly familiar with other incarnations of him: Ultimate Thor, Thor in 1602, Thor in the Ultimate Alliance video game. I had never actually read a "regular" Thor comic. I hadn't even planned on seeing it in theaters, but I heard a lot of good things, both from friends and from Rotten Tomatoes, so I thought, why not?

The plot is simple: Thor is Asgard's golden boy, and he enjoys the adulation of the crowds while happily solving all of his problems with violence. He wants to fight the frost giants, which goes against the wishes of his father, Odin. Thanks to the scheming of his brother Loki, Thor goes to face the frost giants, and nearly gets his friends killed in the process. Odin comes to Thor's rescue, but the damage has been done, and the frost giants declare war. In punishment, Thor is banished to Earth, where he is separated from Mjolnir and stripped of his power.

This is where Thor breathes a breath of fresh air into the genre. Too many other superhero films would have taken this opportunity to have the protagonist sulk or soul-search or rage, but Thor goes in a different direction. Moments after being cast to Earth, he gets knocked down by a car driven by a storm-chasing scientist, played by Natalie Portman. She, along with her Scandinavian mentor and wacky sidekick buddy, take Thor to the hospital, and hijinks ensue.

At first they think his claims of being a Norse god are crazy, but they slowly start to think that maybe there is more at work here than a tall blond guy with delusions of godhood. Meanwhile, Loki is orchestrating his takeover of Asgard, Thor's buddies are trying to find him, and Odin falls into a coma. There's also a robot that shoots fire out of its face. But we already know that, before the credits roll, the good guys are going to win, the hero will kiss the girl, and Thor will learn not be such a jerk.

The main thing that sets Thor apart is its sense of fun. It can best be encapsulated in this animated gif:

When Thor breaks the mug, the characters are surprised, but nobody gets mad or threatens to kick him out of the diner. That says a lot about the movie to me. Thor is just that dang likable. He goes through a lot of the movie with a carefree smile on his face. There is the requisite Hollywood moment where Thor despairs, but he snaps out of it pretty quickly and gets back to being the hero.

Thor has a posse, and they're pretty likable, too.
Loki, on the other hand, is scheming and duplicitous, but he really works in the film. Rather than sneering and stroking his chin like every other version of the Marvel Loki, he spends most of the film looking worried and/or sad. The way in which he manipulates the other characters feels plausible. As my lady pointed out, he gets people to do what he wants by acting like he's worried about their wellbeing.

Like all the Marvel-produced superhero films lately, Thor ties into the unfolding storyline that will lead into the upcoming Avengers film. I was surprised at how well this worked. Thor is a little baffled at modern culture, but he never watches a car drive past and exclaims, "A cart with no horse! What magic is this?" or anything cheesy like that. Before I saw Thor, I was worried that Iron Man would be the only Avenger that I liked in the upcoming film. Now, I can't wait to see Thor being bros with Tony Stark and the others. I would actually pay to see a film in which these guys spend the whole film hanging out and being awesome. Maybe after Joss Whedon finishes The Avengers, they can get Kevin Smith to do The Avengers 2.

No comments:

Post a Comment