I saw the new "Thor" movie with my daughter Emily this past Friday, and I have to say, it was pretty good. Not great… but definitely pretty good. Okay, maybe more than pretty good.
But not a LOT more.
As someone whose interest in comics seriously blossomed with his exposure as a teenager to the "Silver Age" of Marvel Comics, of which "The Mighty Thor" (by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee) was a large part, I was looking forward to seeing this big-screen adaptation of one of my favorite Marvel characters. I'd seen the trailers and thought it looked pretty impressive, though I was a bit concerned about some of the details of the adaptation which I'd read about online.
One significant one was the dance that the writers of the movie apparently felt they needed to do to fit the "gods" mythology into the more science-oriented new Marvel movie universe, exemplified by their most successful comic adaptation of recent years, "Iron Man". So instead of being actual mythological/supernatural beings, the gods of Asgard are… uh, aliens, I guess. Or some kind of humanoids with super-scientific weaponry and enhanced abilities… or something. They never get terribly specific.
For me, this was all too reminiscent of the tragic waste of time that was the second "Highlander" movie, which basically ruined the mythology and mystery of the Immortals from the first "Highlander" by revealing that they were all just aliens from the planet Zeist.
I really don't see why the gods could not have just been left as gods. Does it REALLY take that much more of a suspension of disbelief to accept actual gods in a universe in which cosmic rays can transform a quartet of explorers into superheroes, and a radioactive spider bite can turn a teenager into a human with spider powers? I think it would have been better left as a mystery -- are these guys real gods, or do they just look and act like gods? What ARE gods, anyway? I think the writers wimped out on this one, which is too bad, as it might have made for some interesting plot bits in later Thor movies as well as the upcoming "Avengers". Can't you just see Tony Stark/Iron Man trying to puzzle out the science/technology/magic behind Mjolnir, Thor's mystic urn metal hammer?
(I shudder to think what they might do to the supernatural adventures of "Dr. Strange", if that character ever gets out of "development hell".)
Anyway, on to "Thor", the movie. I enjoyed it quite a bit, and look forward to seeing it again. The acting was excellent, and the special effects worthy of the concept. I was hoping that the scenes in Asgard would capture some of the delirious splendor of Jack Kirby's vision of that home of the Norse gods, and I was not disappointed. The bed in which Thor's father, Odin, sleeps the fabled "Odinsleep" seems to be directly lifted from the pages of the comics.
I absolutely LOVED the fact that Thor's boon companions from the comics, the "Warriors Three" -- Fandral the Dashing, Hogun the Grim, and Volstagg the Voluminous -- and Thor's future girlfriend, (at least in the comics), the goddess Sif, were included in the movie, and not just as background characters. Although I missed Hogun's trademark horned and furred helmet, those characters were very well-rendered.
Another character I always liked in the comics was Heimdall, the guardian of the fabled Bifrost, the Rainbow Bridge between Asgard and the other realms… and he was well-realized in the movie, with some really neat costuming.
Sadly, I cannot give as high marks to the way Bifrost was depicted, which sort of ended up being something you might describe as "Star Trek's" transporter room if it had been built by a "steampunk" designer. This is another place where allowing the mystical, magical, supernatural nature of Asgard to be just that would have been preferable. It wasn't horrible, mind you -- just kind of pedestrian.
The Destroyer was also realized very well, though it might have helped to know more about what it was and what it could do. Actually, the more I think on it, the more it seems to me that they made the form of the Destroyer too tall and slim -- I prefer the more squat and brutal looking version that Kirby originally drew. But it was still pretty cool to see it in a movie.
One small thing that I got a huge kick out of was that several times, Thor spun his hammer really fast and the filmmakers gave it that "spinning propeller" look that Kirby originated in the comics, a nicely-observed detail. And I was very glad that they allowed Thor to fly as he does in the comics (pulled along by the force of his hammer after it has been spun with great force). It may not make a lot of sense in terms of physics, but it worked in the comics and it works in the movie.
So the movie looked really good. What about the story? Well, that was… okay. It hit a lot of the requisite beats needed to establish Thor and his supporting cast, but it was nothing terribly unique. Perhaps a more interesting tale will come in the sequel.
Actually, there is a message at the end of the movie, a "screen card", which I believe said something like "Thor will return in "The Avengers"", and THAT is something that I am really looking forward to. I hope that they can pull it off, but even if it is a disappointing failure, it will still be amazing to see Thor, Iron Man, the Hulk, Captain America, and Hawkeye sharing big screen time. I'll keep my fingers crossed.
Oh, I just remembered two nitpicks I have to mention.
One, Thor's beard. I know that he has been depicted with a beard in many of his comic book adventures in recent years, but I have to say that compared to Kirby's clean-shaven Thor, the bearded Thor always struck me as thuggish. Kirby's version had a more noble, almost innocent, look.
And two, Thor's helmet -- you know, the one with the wings on it? I loved the fact that they showed him with it in one of the first scenes, but then it goes away and I don't think it ever shows up again in the movie. That's unfortunate, in my opinion. The helmet is an important part of Thor's "look".
But I won't say its absence ruined the movie. -- PL