Thome Thoughts on Thor
I saw Thor over the weekend, and there are some pretty good parts in that movie, which I will discuss. There are also some parts that I think could have been better, but I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a movie that didn’t have some parts that I thought could have been better. Art is an aggregation of imperfect efforts to achieve an unattainable ideal! So, to business.
[Oh, uh, spoilers and such to follow]
1) Thor smashes the crap out of things with his hammer. I know this may not seem like much, but when you consider that in a lot of superhero movies, you get barely any time when the hero is doing his hero business, it’s nice to see one who just knows what he’s about. “Why did you go to see Thor?” “Because I wanted to see Thor smash the crap out of things with this hammer.” “Okay, well, here’s a scene where he knocks a frost giant into space.” “Done and done.”
2) There is a non-standard superhero plot to this movie. The structure of it, which begins with Thor actually already the god of thunder, enables it to have a plot that is something different from: regular guy discovers/builds/attains superpowers, decides to become a hero, learns to control his powers, and fights an evil version of himself. That is 95% of superhero movies, and it’s getting kind of old.
The essential element of Thor is not Thor using his power to fight another thunder god, but understanding the value of sacrifice as both a hero and a king (the use of kingship, incidentally, provides another interesting and uncommon perspective of what it means to be a “hero”), and Thor wins by making those sacrifices, as opposed to just powering up and knocking someone down (though he does do that; see point (1) ). Moreover, the final sacrifice he makes is actually a for real sacrifice, unlike the fake-ass sacrifice that Spider-Man makes at the end of Spider-Man: “Oh, Mary Jane, I can’t be with you, due to…you know. Feelings, and such. Everyone’s got feelings.” Weep weep weep.
3) Man, Kenneth Branagh gets some good performances out of his guys. Everyone just seemed really natural and comfortable and believable, even when they were wearing giant horned golden space armor.
4) Loki. Tom Hiddleston, first of all, just does a stand-out job, moving in and out of sincerity, insecurity, and ultimately a kind of wild-eyed madness. And he’s helped by the fact that in Thor, even the villain has a character arc. Loki has a plan that is tied in to his personal motivations, his relationship to his father and his brother, and that, from a certain perspective, actually could seem like the right thing to do. Again, unusual for a superhero movie, where the badguy is usually just: “KILL SPIDER-MAN, BLAARAARRGH!”
5) Asgard. Asgard looked pretty amazing, and the fact that the Asgardians travel from realm to realm via giant rainbow space cannon is pretty awesome.
Here are some things I think could have been done better:
1) The cinematography. Kenneth Branagh is maybe not a great cinematographer, I think? He kept using these weird, canted angles that made it seem like…well, like the camera was always crooked. I would like to one day see a superhero movie in which the director used the cinematography and composition thoroughly. Maybe Green Hornet was like that, I don’t know, but it’d be nice to see a movie like this in which they said, “Yeah, this matters as a movie, not just as a straightforward showcase for seeing Thor smash a dude.”
Also, I definitely wish more directors (and cinematographers and EDITORS) of action movies in general and superhero movies in particular would realize that it defeats the purpose of having a rad-ass action sequence if you’ve cut the thing together in a way that I can’t tell what the shit is happening. Thor bashing some giants into space was great, but there were parts of that big fight where I had no idea what was going on. Hogan was throwing some thing? Sif had a spear, or something? What?
Hey, remember in Robin and Marian, that fight that Sean Connery and Robert Shaw have with the axe and longsword, and it’s just basically one long shot where you can tell what the fuck is happening? Remember that?
2) Volstagg should have been fatter. This just seems weird, because Volstagg is obviously Thor’s Falstaff, so you’d think if anyone knew how fat he should be, it’d be Kenneth Branagh.
3) It would have been nice to see the frost giants as something other than evil-looking adversaries living in an obviously-evil fortress of evil. I think just a little bit of revelation that there were frost giant children in Jotunheim for instance, or that the giants were – angry, scary – people trying to survive in a world that was hostile and damaged would have raised the stakes a little bit at the end, when Loki starts on with his genocide plan.
4) Sex. This isn’t exactly a criticism, per se, just something I noticed after having a discussion about Wonder Woman on Jezebel. And it’s actually two things, the first is: is it my imagination, or has there been less sex in action movies since the 1990s? I feel like I remember every action movie having at least one prerequisite sex scene in it – I remember finding those scenes boring when I was twelve, but now I kind of wonder where they’ve gone. It’s also always really vanilla sex, which I think is also interesting, though maybe a post for another time.
The second thing, though, is: does it seem like the Marvel movies are especially sexless? There’s some kissing that goes on in some of these movies, but I think Iron Man is the only one who actually does it with anyone (and then only in the first movie). Of course, the comics are actually pretty sexless, too, which is also weird: for a medium that sexualizes women a lot (and men somewhat), there never seems to be any actual sex happening anywhere, and what the hell is that about? Just boobs and thongs all over the place, but no one ever seems to get it on, I don’t understand.
Anyway, yeah, I know it’s still basically a kids’ movie, and if there’s one thing that 14 year olds DON’T care about, it’s sex (?), but man, I’m not ashamed to admit that I just wanted to see Chris Hemsworth and Natalie Portman go at it. Those are two very attractive people! That would have been a really good sex scene, I think.
So, all that said: some things could have been done better, some things were done great. All in all, KABOOM!, A+ movie, would see again.