Thor Impressions

Just saw Thor last night. Obviously, JiH doesn't do reviews, but I did want to talk about the film a little bit and my impressions after having a few hours to separate from the initial emotions of "Woo! Movie!". I'm writing this with no intentions of spoiling for anyone, so don't be shy about reading this before you head to theaters.

Thor is a different type of movie than most superhero stories, and while you don't need to know why going in, it's definitely interesting to think about as you're watching. The fundamental difference between Thor and, really, almost every other "big" superhero in comics, and definitely every one of them in movies, is that he reverses the typical origin formula. What I mean is, while most superheroes start off with the mundane/everyday and build up to the fantastic, Thor begins with the fantastic and they eventually balance things out with the mundane. After all, Thor is the god of thunder, son of Odin who is the ruler of Asgard. He lives in the land of gods and it is not until he is forced into Midgard that we are again introduced to the mundane.

This formula forces viewers to re-examine what makes a superhero to begin with. After all, in most films the hero starts out as an ordinary (if, not financially so) human with nothing special about him, and then suddenly they gain super-powers and begin to fight crime. And while most of us subconsciously know that becoming a superhero and donning spandex are superficial things and what truly makes a hero are the personal decisions that characters make that set them apart from normal people, the movie Thor takes this subconscious nugget of knowledge and makes it the core character arc of the film. Thor begins as a headstrong, almost foolhardy warrior who would rather battle than talk things out, uncaring of how the consequences would affect him or those around him, and the plot of the movie is how to turn that idiot into someone fit to serve alongside the Avengers.

But it's almost necessary to create such a flawed character to open the film with. Since (sadly), most people see superheroes as people they should relate to rather than look up to, someone with Thor's incredible abilities has to be flawed in such a way that people can see him as almost human in order to have any connection to him and his story. Fortunately in this the movie succeeds quite well.

The film also succeeds at creating a great villain, with Tom Hiddleston showing a Loki in his early days that is far different from any interpretation we've seen before. While (to me), there is no room to question who the antagonist of the film is, even those who normally root for the hero and eschew the bad guy (like me) can see Loki's side and understand his motivations. There's one noticeable part in the movie where Loki explained his reasoning for a prior "mischievious" act where I was literally hard-pressed to argue against it. He simply was not wrong. It is a thin line to create a character who is both unquestionably antagonistic and simultaneously sympathetic, but the script achieves this task, giving us one of the most complex villains I've seen in a superhero story since the Dark Knight.

Another of the things the film did excellently, at least to me, was the creation of a believable Asgard. While we aren't shown a great amount of it, what we DO see is incredible. Everything is given a grand, majestic appearance--it looks like the land of the gods, so when Thor finally comes to Earth, it's easy to understand the disconnect he has between his old home and his place of exile. The writers and set designers both did amazing jobs showing us a third (as we get to see the realm of the frost giants as well) of the nine worlds and making each one distinct in terms of design, atmosphere, and scale.

Even the fight scenes are well done. Surprisingly, for a superhero origin (which usually focuses on how a hero gets his powers), there are a great number of them, and each one is both distinct and serves a logical purpose in the story, rather than being there to simply show us what the hero can do. Each combatant is given their own unique weapon (and, consequently, a unique fighting style as it changes based on your weapon), so no fight ever seems tedious, even if more than a few seem rather hopeless.

The one flaw I draw issue with, both with Iron Man 2 and this film, is SHIELD. Understand: I *love* that SHIELD exists in these movies; they give the audience an obvious way to tie all the Marvel movies together, and that's a good thing. The thing is, if you didn't know you were watching a Marvel movie, you wouldn't know who the heck they were. SHIELD looks exactly like Men in Black, and that's a problem. Visually they're a snore-fest. Even in terms of technology, nothing they have is on the level of SHIELD, which normally hangs out in a giant helicarrier wearing cool outfits with weapons just shy of Tony Stark-level tech. (See: Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes.) I get that they're trying to go for Ultimate Marvel-level realism...but that's boring, and it's definitely not what people want when they go to the movies. Hopefully in the Avengers SHIELD will actually have their stuff together.


It seems Thor managed to have a great opening weekend, with a box office of over $60 million dollars. Marvel projected a "good" weekend would be $62 million, and while $66 isn't that much greater than that, as one of my favorite characters in Entourage put it, "Expectations, you beat 'em by a dollar life is great, go under by a dollar, put a gun in your mouth, and make sure I'm standing behind you when you pull the trigger." In that light, going over by a full four million is probably great.

I'm not sure what the budget was for this film, but given that between the foreign market and opening weekend this film has already made something like $240+ million dollars, I'm willing to guess the film's already made it's money back, and made a positive statement about the state of superhero movies this year.

However, it's not over yet. The truth is, the only film this ACTUALLY affects is Captain America, which is the only other film that's about a Marvel character while being produced in-house. With the rights to X-Men still owned by Fox, the new X-Men: First Class film is basically a freebie for both companies, since the only thing the movie industry will get out of it if it succeeds is "superhero movies make money", and if it fails people will think, "Well, that's what happens when it's not done by the parent company". And of course, Green Lantern is Warner Bros./DC's baby, and while Thor won't change people's mind (for the worse, at least) about seeing superhero movies, the burden of proof for GL is all on DC. I'm hoping it does well, since this film is the second thing to come out of DC Entertainment since it's creation and it'd be a huge blow against it's formation if they couldn't make such an easily marketable character as GL work on the big screen.


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