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Notes On A Film: Thor

I went to see Thor last week (before it came out in the US, which makes me smile), and I saw it in 2D (because it wasn’t filmed in 3D, so it looked better and I didn’t have to pay unnecessary money for the privilege), so this isn’t a review but a collection of thoughts on the film.

Topline: Thor is really enjoyable, and it’s a good Marvel film about a character I thought would have difficulty making the transition to the big screen. It’s fun, it’s action-packed, it’s big scale, yet it’s about character and small moments and good performances.

I was worried that the mixture of Norse mythology and superheroic action wouldn’t be able to work – it can be tough in the comics, let alone transferring to the specific requirements of a blockbuster action film – and I didn’t think that they could achieve the balance between the theatricality of gods and the demands of what we expect from a Marvel film (after Iron Man set the bar unexpectedly high). However, Kenneth Brannagh has done a great job of combining all the elements into a satisfying mix. I think the reason for this is that he is an actor’s director, and he got some really good performances from the cast.

Chris Hemsworth is a great Thor – his physique has been toned to suitably godlike proportions (reminding me of when Walt Simonson drew him in civvies early in his marvellous run on the character) – but he is also impressive as the character: he is noble and arrogant to start, but he shows a great touch for light comedy in the scenes on Earth, as well as the necessary gravitas when the character needs to show some emotional range. Tom Hiddlestone is great as Loki (Brannagh acted with him on Wallander, so he knew his abilities); as someone who knows that Loki is a deceiver, I was watching his performance for the signs, and he plays the character perfectly, not as a one-dimensional villain, but as something much more subtle, with lots of layers to everything he says or does. The others are good – Anthony Hopkins is a good Odin (there is a Shakespearean quality to the story of Odin, Thor and Loki, and Brannagh brings this out in the scenes between them), and Natalie Portman shows off a lightness of touch to her Jane Foster (now an astrophysicist, not a nurse) that I thought she had lost, especially if you had seen her in Mr Magorium’s Wonder Emporium. The fun performance comes from Kat Dennings as an intern who gets all the best comedy lines, who is only matched by Hemmings for pricked pomposity and slapstick.

The script is really good (especially because it doesn’t use the pseudo-Shakespearean dialogue in the comics) – it handles the epic of Asgard (which looks fantastic and suitably grand), the darkness of the realm of the Frost Giants, the action scenes (such as Thor taking on the Frost Giants with only Sif, Fandrall, Hogun, Volstagg and Loki, or the fantastic face-off between Thor and the Destroyer – seeing Thor whirling his hammer and flying and bringing the lightning was fantastic), and the integration with the Marvel film universe. Apart from the presence of Agent Coulson of SHIELD, there is an elliptical reference to Bruce Banner, a cameo for Hawkeye, the obligatory post-credits scene setting up the next film, the required Stan Lee appearance (JM Straczynski and Walt Simonson also appear); there was even a nice in-joke about Donald Blake. It was a good balance that didn’t interfere with the story, which is classic origin material, but the origin story is always a good narrative (which is why it is something that is revisited so often in the comics) and this one works a treat.

Those were my thoughts, but I had to tell you my girlfriend’s (semi-joking) thought: Thor is a chick flick. She has a point, and there is symbolism to back it up. In essence, Thor the film can be seen as the impotence of a man who is unable to use his very phallic ‘weapon’ until he admits that he has emotions for someone else other than himself. The fact that Mjolnir is a blatant Freudian symbol that is the source of Thor’s power, and that he has to overcome his ‘Thorishness’ (i.e. his male arrogance and inability to think of others apart from himself) in order to use Mjolnir again, seems to have been deliberately employed to highlight this. However, I can assure you that Thor is not a chick flick; it is a very entertaining superhero film, and I’d happily see it again in the cinema.

Rating: DAVE

[Explanation of my updated film rating system]

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