Thor is by no means a great film in this day and age, but the circumstances of the movie make it a surprising one. One of my least favorite comic book characters is Thor. What fun is it to read about a god? There is little drama to be had there because even if he does there are many means for him to come back – more so than most comic book characters. I was not looking forward to Thor and have made it very clear, although I said that marketing would have problems with the movie. I’m silly. The Marvel movies are their own brand that people will give a watch at least once. Thor was an easy number one in the box office this weekend. Good for Marvel!
But the movie works, and that requires some exploration. Besides the fact that it was a movie that managed to balance its humor, action, and pseudo-drama, the movie seemed to speak to its primary audience of children born in the 80’s and 90’s. Thor and Loki were born into a generation of privilege. Their parents and the parents before them fought in wars and had to establish kingdoms or households, and the kids do not know how to be humble or ever want for anything. The results are arrogance and envy.
Thor represents the arrogance developed by children of privilege. He has a kingdom and great power. He never has to consider his actions because everything tends to turn out well for him. When you have great tutors, an educational system built for you, etc., it is difficult to fail. This reaches its apex when Thor grows tired of minor infiltration by the enemies of Asgard, the Frost Giants. He takes it upon himself to declare war because his father, Odin, will not. He even tells Odin that he is an old man no longer fit to rule – resulting in his banishment from Asgard and removal of his great powers. He becomes a mortal man and begins the journey that is this movie.
In a surprising move for a Hollywood film, it isn’t the love of Natalie Portman’s Jane the astrophysicist that makes Thor a better man (thus god). Thor arrogantly believes that his quest is just to reclaim his hammer, Mjolnir, from the crash site shown at the end of Iron Man 2 (that caused some to say, “What’s that supposed to be?”). He gets there and it will not budge because he is not worthy of the hammer anymore. Mjolnir is a weapon meant for a king, who must not be rash or arrogant. His failure to reclaim the hammer as well as his considerations of actual loss lead to his re-empowerment. Thor, the child of Generation Y, cannot be an adult until he realizes that things do not make a worthwhile man – being a worthwhile man, or god, is the defining characteristic.
My previous entry stated that the power of this film comes from the fact that it’s about the brothers, not just Thor. Loki is an incredibly important part of Thor as well as Thor. Loki’s descent into evil was quite forced, but at least the performance by Tom Hiddleston made up for it. Early reviews and commentaries on the film rightly stated that he was the true star of the film, but they all pointed to Loki’s subtle manipulations and scheming that you could read on the actor’s face. This is a very important aspect of the character; it doesn’t quite grasp the whole thing. A really good villain requires some bit of sympathy or else they become absolute monsters almost not worthy of watching. Loki’s scheming always came with a wide-eyed sadness in my viewing. Loki is the God of Mischief, certainly, but what fuels that part of his nature? This is a character who watches everything happen to someone else while he feels completely overlooked, and then halfway through the film he finally finds some reason that hits him as logical. When looked at that way, it makes sense why he quickly snaps after finding out he is the child of Frost Giants. He was never in consideration for King of Asgard because he is an outsider of lesser consideration.
Loki is the other half of Generation Y – the envious. Not every family benefit extremely well from the economic boom periods, and not every child was actually able to benefit from parents who did manage to pull in more money. (We call the latter good parenting.) But these kids grew up in the consumer culture nonetheless, and these children view their lives through the lens of the importance of having things. Loki grows up having the love of his adopted parents. What Loki does not have is a group of warriors who will follow him. What Loki does not have is a promise for the crown. Of course he grew up jealous of his brother. Loki looks at himself as a “have not” next to his brother. I guess better parenting would have prevented that, but Odin doesn’t look like the best of fathers. Odin temporarily banishes Thor for ego problems, and that is considered a good thing. (Well, it turns out well.) It’s also said that Odin does everything for good reason, and mythology says that the missing eye lets him see into the future. So what kind of father kidnaps a kid with an expectation for the kid to take over the kingdom and cause a ruckus? (Well, it brought out the best in Thor…maybe Loki has a point in all of this…)
Looking at the film the way I just did is potentially dangerous, though. Basically it means that the favored and spoiled, if given a moment to reflect, are truly the more deserving. Those who have less, who are always reflecting, will turn sour when offered power and are thus undeserving of it. Not a very positive reading of an altogether enjoyable film experience.
* * *
I remember a while back that people made a stink about the fact that Idris Elba, a phenomenal actor of color, played a Norse God name Heimdall. Heimdall’s primary role in the film is that of a gatekeeper for the interdimensional portal located in Asgard, and he pretty much rules every scene in which he is featured. Elba’s performance is so commanding that I keep thinking that I would watch a 2 hour film featuring just this character doing his job, which would be about 1.5 hours of standing around, 20 minutes of conversation, and 10 minutes of action against anyone who enters unexpectedly or tries to get past him. As ridiculous as it sounds, it would probably somehow be epic.
Meanwhile there is a character named Hogun who was never Asgardian but always part of the Marvel Asgard mythos. He is supposed to appear more Lithuanian or Russion, as Stan Lee envisioned him to be played by Death Wish‘s Charles Bronson. But Hogun, whose name rhymes with shogun, always looked a bit like a Mongolian warrior. I don’t think he ever received complaint for existing in the comics, and no one has a problem with a Norse God warrior played by Ichi the Killer‘s Tadanobu Asano.
Racism is bad enough, but tiered racism is really on another level.
* * *
My pal Kaz asked for my take on the after-the-credits scene. There isn’t much to say. The Cosmic Cube is revealed by Nick Fury unintentionally to Loki, and early promo photos of Captain America: The First Avenger show the Cosmic Cube in possession of the Red Skull. Like most of the previous movies, this was a tie into the very next film to be released. It would also make sense to me if the Cube would then make an appearance in The Avengers, as we know Loki is in that one and his holding the amazingly super powered object would be good reason to united all these heroes. I’ve heard that the MacGuffin in The Avengers will be the Infinity Gauntlet, which may be in Odin’s treasure room. (Anyone who hasn’t seen it or will see it again, keep a look out for it and tell me if it’s there, OK?) Honestly, they’re roughly the same in the long run, and I’d like the teaser at the end of Thor to lead right into The Avengers. Otherwise it is kind of a waste of a scene. Just like Hawkeye was a waste regarding his inclusion in Thor…
* * *
Did I like it?: Yes, enough to post an entry after seeing it just to say, “Hey, I’m going to talk about this later!” I liked it a lot more than I planned on liking it, considering I dislike the character of Thor. I still dislike him. The movie was a pleasant surprise.