The past few years, that’s felt like a promise unfulfilled. The good news is, Thor is the first big-budget movie since The Dark Knight to use the trappings of superheroes to tell a real story. Thor treats the superhero film like a full-fledged genre, capable of launching many different stories.
Thor doesn’t just look and feel different than other superhero movies, thanks to the “Norse Gods in space” thing. It has a different spin on the common themes of the genre. Instead of “with great power comes great responsibility,” Thor shows that sometimes, from the act of taking responsibility comes great power.
Both Thor and Loki start out the movie as immature godlings, living in their father’s shadow and eager to prove themselves. And they go about trying to prove their worth in different ways: Loki by being a sneaky fucker, Thor by launching an assault on the Frost Giants. And both Thor and Loki wind up losing their identities, and getting cast out into the wilderness, in very different ways. One of them becomes the hero of the movie and the other the villain, but they both go on a similar voyage.[imgclear]
Meanwhile, Loki’s arc is a lot more subtle and surprising – without giving too much away, Loki goes through just as many changes as Thor, and faces just as much heartbreak. Loki is not your standard supervillain who hatches a cunning scheme and spends the entire movie implementing it. He’s a living, breathing character who makes mistakes and loses his way, only to fall into greater error as a result.[imgclear]
That it all works so well is thanks in large part to Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston, who manage to make their characters feel fully lived in. Even when Hemsworth is playing up Thor’s obnoxious impulsiveness, he’s always likable and comfortable in his own skin. Hiddleston, meanwhile, makes brooding and second-guessing into an art form, and you can see both hidden emotions and secret plans running through his mind every second.
She’s not as funny as a lot of the rest of the supporting cast, but Natalie Portman is also great as Jane, the scientist who keeps running Thor over with her RV. She has two tricky tasks to perform in the film: make the scientific underpinnings of Thor’s cosmic mythos seem plausible (thanks to an Einstein-Rosen Bridge), and sell us on a romance between Thor and Jane. Portman gets a lot of credit for the fact that neither thing feels too much like an afterthought.
Edited to add: The only other quibble I had is that the film’s 3D conversion feels completely pointless. See this film in 2D if you can.
Whether you’re as excited by Thor as I was depends, probably, on how much tolerance you have for people in funny costumes standing around making big God Talk. And whether you have any problem with a film that lurches back and forth between the overblown Yea Forsooth-land and an irony-laden, fairly naturalistic version of the real world. (Don’t worry, nobody actually says “Forsooth” in this movie.) I have no problem with either thing, and even if I did, I think the film pulls both things off better than you might expect.
Most superhero movies are about the proper use of power, and Thor is no exception – except that in Thor’s case, he’s not just being groomed to be a hero, but to be a king. And one of the themes running through the movie is that of statecraft and the necessity of war. Should Asgard try to keep its truce with those pesky Frost Giants, who keep testing the Asgardians’ resolve, or should they take the first opportunity to wipe those cold bastards off the face of Yggdrasil?
But the whole thing is so good-natured, and so fundamentally optimistic, that you can’t dwell on the story’s darker or edgier implications for too long. That’s the other thing that’s great about Thor – it’s a film that takes its main characters seriously, but not itself. All of a sudden, the world of colourful costumes and epic battles feels new and exciting again.
Republished from io9