The UnPopular Opinion: Thor
THE UNPOPULAR OPINION is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATHED. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Enjoy!
Yes, I am back, the guy who hated THE AVENGERS to discuss another Marvel movie that I was not a fan of. Looking back at Phase One as a whole, there really were fewer good movies produced than there were mediocre ones. While I enjoyed IRON MAN, THE INCREDIBLE HULK, and CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER, I found that IRON MAN 2, THE AVENGERS, and THOR were very lacking. Of all of those movies, THOR was by far the worst. Yes, even worse than IRON MAN 2.
If you look at Thor as a character, he is truly the hardest property to bring in line with the rest of the Marvel universe because he is, well, a god. One of the reasons we as an audience are able to connect with Marvel heroes like Tony Stark, Steve Rogers, and Bruce Banner is because they are human beings who have been altered in one way or another to become superheroes. Thor, however, is a deity with powers beyond the scope of mere mortals. Like Superman, he does have weaknesses, but take those out of the equation and there is not much for the average person to relate to.
Which is why THOR tries to shoehorn in a variation of the comic book story that turns the title hero into a human being without ever making him one. In the classic comic origin, Thor was sent to Earth by his father Odin without his memories or his powers. He becomes the partially disabled human Dr. Donald Blake and only becomes Thor again when he discovers his hammer Mjolnir while on vacation in Norway. This allows the character to sustain an alter ego and function much like any other Marvel hero. But, THOR decides to abondon this and gives us instead a fish out of water scenario where Odin shoots Thor to Earth with full knowledge of who he is but no powers. Chaos and hilarity ensue.
The hijinks of Thor not being able to relate to humanity are meant to show how different the world of Asgard is from the world of Earth. Instead we get the same tired "Welcome to Earth" jokes done before in MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE, ENCINO MAN, and UNIVERSAL SOLDIER. Hey, look at the buff guy who doesn't know we don't smash plates and and talk in Old English! So funny! THOR presents a hero who is the opposite of every other superhero we know. Instead of someone normal learning to deal with new powers, we have someone with infinite power learning to appreciate those without power. But, while Superman respected humanity and embraced it as part of himself despite being wholly alien to it, Thor feels like an update of The Prince and the Pauper where the Prince remains a pompous douche.
Chris Hemsworth is excellent as Thor in that he brings the physical presence to the role as well as a spot on impression of a spoiled rich kid. I found myself liking Loki more than Thor, which is a credit to Tom Hiddleston's great portrayal of Thor's sibling rival. In fact, I liked all of the supporting characters more than Thor. Even Anthony Hopkins' Odin feels more interesting than Thor. THOR is in many ways like DC's GREEN LANTERN movie. Both have to portray a very foreign world that is heavy on CGI and get the audience to buy in on it as a realistic place. Heimdall, The Warriors Three, Sif, and the Frost Giants all could have come off as cartoonish but end up feeling a lot more interesting than any humans in the movie. This is part of the reason I am looking forward to THOR: THE DARK WORLD a lot more than I did this film.
Speaking of humans, I love Natalie Portman, Kat Dennings, and Stellan Skarsgard. All three are great actors and are tasked with representing humanity in this movie and they fall flat. How the hell did Natalie Portman actually play a character less engaging or interesting than Queen Amidala is beyond me, but she did so here. Dennings is basically reduced to a joke machine and they don't even use her well for that. Skarsgard is by far the best human connection here, but he feels like he was designed just as a bridge to link THOR to THE AVENGERS. In fact, both Skarsgard and Hemsworth were heads and tails better in THE AVENGERS than they were here.
THOR is a movie devoid of any true connections to humanity with this revised origin which in turn makes it almost impossible to relate to. The battle between the incredibly cool Destroyer doesn't feel like it truly holds any dramatic weight. I mean, does anyone really think that Thor is going to lose? The Destroyer could have been so much more imposing as a villain if the battle had taken place somewhere more populated. Here it just feels like Ang Lee's HULK where the big green guy is bouncing around the desert. Once back in Asgard, Thor and Loki have their final battle, which again feels a bit anti-climactic. I kept wondering why I should care. THOR felt superficial from the opening to the ending.
This was Marvel's first attempt to capitalize on IRON MAN and it succeeds only in place-setting the larger franchise. We have become so inundated with Disney and Marvel's plans for their overall cinematic universe that we didn't bat an eye when they turned in subpar work. For all of the talent involved in this movie, it should have been a lot better. THOR feels like a huge trailer for THE AVENGERS and nothing more than a glossy head shot for Chris Hemsworth.
I fully understand that giving Thor his own movie to lead into THE AVENGERS was necessary to test the waters with movie audiences. There was backlash when Kenneth Branagh was not invited back for the sequel, a decision I fully understand. THOR is an okay origin story, but there is a hell of a lot of work needed to make it good enough as a standalone Marvel movie. I will chalk THOR up as a nice try and hopefully THOR: THE DARK WORLD can capitalize on that goodwill and deliver a proper, epic movie starring the Thunder God himself.
Oh, and if you have any suggestions for The UnPopular Opinion Im always happy to hear them. You can send along an email to email@example.com, spell it out below, slap it up on my wall in Movie Fan Central, or send me a private message via Movie Fan Central. Provide me with as many movie suggestions as you like, with any reasoning you'd care to share, and if I agree then you may one day see it featured in this very column!