“Thor” Review

I actually went to see "Thor" on opening night, which I hardly ever do as I am not really a crowd guy. Which was lucky, as it turns out Durango is not a Thor town and thus the "crowd" was only twenty people or so. It was also my first major Hollywood film to watch in 3D, so it was a big day for the Bald Avenger.

I'll put my review after the jump for those of you who haven't seen it yet and don't want any of the impact ruined. In other words:

BEWARE! Here there be SPOILERS!

Jeff's Patented One-Word Review: Meh.

Jeff's not patented grade: C+.

The Good: Visually a very appealing translation of the Thor comics. Chris Hemsworth looks and acts great as the God of Thunder, the fight scenes are awesome (flying hammer FTW!), and the Destroyer is one of the coolest enemy targets in a long time. Tom Hiddleston made a fantastic Loki. Most of my favorite bits of the sprawling Thor mythos were present.

The Bad: Those pieces didn't really coalesce into a single satisfying narrative. The whole film felt like two hours of set-up for something that never happened -- the "Avengers" movie, or some other "Thor" movie, something.

The Ugly: Volstaag should be much, much fatter. This was just a guy in a bad beard and fake pot belly coat!

Long-Form Review: "Thor" isn't a bad movie, but it wasn't great, either. All of the major comic book character plot points are there (and then some!) -- you get the power struggle in Asgard between Thor and his brother Loki, the threat of the Frost Giants, the importance of the Rainbow Bridge, the humbling of the Thunder God, the love between a mortal and immortal, the Warriors Three, Mjolnir getting flung into the faces of mighty foes, the Destroyer blowing the crap out of everything, hints of the Avengers looming in the future, thunder and lightning, and more.

Visually, director Kenneth Branagh has done a fantastic job translating the distinctive Jack Kirby universe onto the big screen. Asgard looks amazing, the costumes work both in the other world and in this one, the special effects are spectacular, and even the most bizarre Kirbyisms come off well (I'm looking at you, incredibly long Loki horns!). You very much get the science-fantasy feel from the visual design.

The actors do a good job with the material as well, especially Tom Hiddleston as Loki. He nails the perfect combination of silver-tongued liar and sympathetic outcast. Just as in the best Thor comics, you can simultaneously despise Loki while understanding why he does what he does. It's a neat trick, and Branagh manages it partially thanks to an excellent performance by Hiddleston.

In terms of plot, as I said there's a lot going on here. In fact, I would say there was too much. The temptation in any of these comic book adaptations is to throw in too much of the vast, decades-spanning history, and I think the writers fell into that trap.

Fundamentally they're telling two stories. The first deals with political and military machinations in Asgard itself involving whether Loki or Thor will be the one to succeed Odin as King, as well as a simmering conflict with the Frost Giants.

The second deals with Thor's humbling on Earth and subsequent involvement with the mortal woman Jane Foster.

Either one would have made a great movie, but giving both equal time here shorted both of them, I felt. Perhaps because it's Natalie Portman in both roles, but I felt here just as I did in "Star Wars", that I was being told two people were in love while never being shown it, or at least not in any kind of convincing way. One fireside chat and suddenly it's love? No. I felt no chemistry at all between the two of them, mostly because they never really shared anything important. Love is more than rescuing equipment, kisses on the hand, and shared explanations of an Einstein-Rosen bridge. Since half of the movie depends on that relationship, I needed more attention given to it.

I loved all the plot stuff involving Loki, and was definitely more satisfied with what we were given of it. I get the relationship between the two brothers, and I believed Loki's motivation.

The problem is, there was so enough stuff going on in each plot for a full and satisfying movie, but instead of choosing one and going with it, we had both, which ended up just being a bit confusing and muddy. I wish frankly they'd stuck with the Earthbound Thor, giving us enough of Asgard via flashback to make sense of it all, without robbing the transformation of arrogant God to humble mortal of its steam.

Like the love affair, I didn't see enough of Thor's humbling to believe it. You're told your dad is dead and you fail to pick up a hammer and suddenly you know what it means to be mortal? And to cook an omelette? Again, this is the heart and soul of the movie, the whole point of the exercise, but it's treated almost as a throw-away.

I loved how in "The Ultimates" you were never really sure whether Thor was a mutant with delusions of grandeur or really the God of Thunder. While the mortal characters got this, we the audience were never in doubt, and I thought that was a real missed opportunity.

In summary, the movie looked great but lacked heart. I didn't believe the love story nor the transformation of Thor's essential nature, and without those we're left with a series of admittedly cool fight scenes without a lot of soul to make them matter. I'd have been happier losing the Warriors Three and whole chunks of the Frost Giant stuff while focusing more on Thor's character transformation.

You won't be sorry you saw it, but you're not going to be jumping for joy either. And you can skip the 3D version -- it didn't enhance the experience at all for me.

If you've seen it, I'd love to hear your thoughts as well.

22 Responses to “Thor” Review

  1. hero of wu says:

    The 3D was pointless but the film was ok, didnt really wear his helmet though.

  2. Tool says:

    Why si everything got to be 3D nowadays. I seen it regular and it was cool.

  3. logosgal says:

    Seriously considering getting a pair of these:

  4. Susie Q says:

    A side note:

    I just read “Odd and the Frost Giants” by Neal Gaiman. It’s a fun, quick read and features Thor, Loki and Odin. The audiobook, read by the author, version is even better.

  5. Alex says:

    I think the movie is great this way because now weve seen bouth story lines and it show almost everything about Thor ,Asgard and so on.People who arent familiar with the comics can enjoy the Avengers movie or maybe a sequel without wondering about certain details.
    But I alsow understand the comic fans viewpoint.

  6. John says:

    The more I think about it, the more I think we could have done without the Warriors Three. I don’t know that they contributed much outside of comic relief. From a geek standpoint, sure, it was cool to see them, but I think the narrative suffered for it.

  7. Dan says:

    I loved it. Admitedly I am a Thor fanboy, but I really enjoyed it. Seeing Asgard was amazing. I loved how they did the rainbow bridge. I thought they nailed all of the characters perfectly. I was very happy with the cameo of one of my favorite charcters, and I can’t wait to see more when Avengers comes out. I know people will pick it apart, like they did with Iron Man 2, but I really liked them both, I like how it’s building to the bigger story. I can’t wait to see how Cap fits in. My only complaint was no Balder the Brave. He was the only one missng out of the “main” Asgardians. Thumbs up from me.

  8. Arioch says:

    Well, when did 3D bring something to a movie save increased price?

    Pretty good review, though, I especially agree about the love bit and the change of Thor’s mind.
    I’d lessen it concerning the love, though: As stupid and badly treated as it was, this is how Hollywood handles a lot of love stories, especially in action movies: He’s strong (alpha male), but deep inside, he’s kind and loving (the kiss on hand) although he only shows it to his special lady, can have a conversation (the fire) although only with her and, most important, will change because of her and become “tamed” by her(the omlet). An awfully bad collection of stupid cliche that plays a lot on feminine conditionning, but here you are.

  9. ajw says:

    Off topic, I love free comic book day! Its when i use my birthday money. Blackest night, Death of Captain America, a little late but it was buy one get one free, gotta love it!

  10. McKnight57 says:

    Not generally into Thor in and of himself. I AM a fan of Norse mythology, so having Stallan Skarsgard in there was pretty cool. Great casting job on the few Thor comics I’ve read. I like the story, love the mixing of science and magic (bifrost bridge vs. Einstein-Rosen Bridge), the costumes, and Asgard. The one thing that bugged me is that with all of the setup for Loki being the son of a Frost Giant, he never completely turned against Odin. I did like the Hawkeye cameo. I knew as soon as he grabbed the bow what was going to happen. This just has me even more pumped to see Captain America and The Avengers.

  11. Tristan says:

    Well i saw Thor about 2 weeks ago cause im in Australia and we got something before te US for once and i reckon it was pretty good really liked the Loki parts of the story i dont think the 3d did anything to make it better

  12. Ogami Itto says:

    I’d give the movie a solid “B.”

    I liked Hemsworth as Thor — he was very charismatic when the script let him — Loki was great, and I actually liked Natalie Portman in this movie; she generally leaves me cold.

    I agree about the Warriors Three not really contributing much, and I do think it would’ve been more interesting if there had been some ambiguity about whether or not this big blonde guy was a god or simply insane.

    Overall I enjoyed it and will see it a second time.

  13. Ogami Itto says:

    Also, I’d kill to see Beta Ray Bill in the sequel!

  14. darkvatican says:

    I have never been nor will I ever be a big Thor fan, however I thought the movie was pretty good. Considering they were doing an origin story-type film, they did a pretty good job at making Thor’s first film a successful re-imagining of the character’s comic origin (or his first earth-bound adventure, take your pic).

  15. Watson Bradshaw says:

    Hey gang, been gone from the boards for a while (the real world sucked me away) but I got to see Thor Friday with my girlfriend (who is now a Chris Hemsworth Fan) and I thought it was a great. The Asgard scenes and battle in Jotunhiem looked amazing and they did a great job of blending the dramatic elements with the action and comedy. I may be nitpicking but I did want to see a little more action out of Sif. And my girl couldn’t take Tom Hiddleston as Loki seriously because she said he looked to much like johnny weir!

  16. C.B. says:

    Huge Thor fan, here.
    I loved it.
    The elements were there, and the way Chris Hemsworth pulled off the double-whammy of “I can’t lift the Hammer… I’m truly forsaken.” and “My arrogance broke my father’s heart to the point that he died due to it.” was perfect and then add the “I can’t even come home to see him laid to rest because my mother doesn’t want me there because in essence, I killed my father” to top it off. His spirit was broken.
    Losing a parent is a special kind of a gut-punch as it is (went through this last year, myself). And how much worse for a child is “I’m disappointed in you.” rather than “I’m angry with you”?
    I thought the elements of his humbling were well-directed, and well-acted.
    While I still don’t like the arbitrary change of Heimdall’s physicality, Idris Elba absolutely COMMANDED every scene he was in. He owned his portion of the movie.
    The Warriors Three. I loved the fact they were there, and part of the story. Because they ARE part of Thor’s story. Volstagg was much thinner than he should have been. Hogun didn’t look right without the facial hair, spiked helm and dark armor. Fandral was spot-on-perfect. They could not have done better with Fandral unless there was a sail he could stab with a dagger and slide down.
    Jane Foster… Honestly, this was the weakest part for me. She could have been portrayed by any attractive youngish actress. I do like, however, that they didn’t go for the full sexpot makeup on Ms. Portman, and kind made her the “pretty but plain-Jane” (pun intended) Foster. There was nothing wrong with Ms. Portman’s acting, but there was nothing about her that really owned the role.
    Actually, I liked the role of Darcy better than I did Jane.

    I liked the humorous bits, as well.

  17. Myro says:

    So, I finally got to see Thor with my friends. I even brought my replica of Mjolnir with me (because of course, there are geeks, there are the geeks so well versed in geek-fu their geek cred gives them an aura of awe in the eyes of other geeks, and then there are the geeks that are so over the top, all other geeks shun and ridicule them). Still, despite the fact I have no idea how my fiancee puts up with me, we had fun.

    Few quick facts going into this one: We skipped the 3D viewing for the 2D one. Also, I was not a huge Thor fan, as I found it hard to connect with someone that otherworldly, and yet, I have to admit, I was collecting Thor during the Walt Simonson years, so I’m more than familiar with the character.

    I really liked it. I don’t know if being constantly disappointed by tacked-on love stories has just caused my standards to plummet so far I tolerate badly crafted love stories, but I had no problem with the Thor-Jane romance, at least not compared to the love story of, say, Attack of the Clones. Thor’s humbling seemed a little rushed, but on the other hand, I did buy into Chris Hemsworth’s portrayal regarding Thor’s confusion and despair regarding being unable to lift Mjolnir and being told Odin had died. Like everyone else it seems, I really liked Tom Hiddleston as Loki. You really got the sense of him building up a web of lies around him to both protect himself and advance his agenda, and I bought into his jealousy as his motivation for doing so.

    I’m not saying that the Warriors Three or Sif were pointless in this movie, but frankly, would you even have noticed if they were replaced with four Asgardian “Red Shirts,” so to speak? Thor, it seemed, needed to do battle with some extra muscle at his side, these four characters have such a strong history within the Thor comic series, so we’ll use them. But, they were there primarily as filler and to provide plot conventions (ex. Fandrall getting wounded in Jottenheim, forcing everyone to try to retreat back to Asgard). And by Odin’s beard, if you’re going to put Volstagg in the movie, make him really fat. I can understand maybe not making him as ridiculously overweight as in the comics, as this is a completely different visual medium, but do better than “kind of pudgy.”

    As for the human characters, I might have liked Natalie Portman as Jane Foster more than I should have. Stellan Skarsgard did a decent job as Dr. Selvig, and Darcy was hilarious. Had some good laughs regarding Darcy and her taser, as well as Jane hitting Thor with her vehicle again. Also, as much as he can be a d-bag at times, it’s always fun seeing Agent Coulson again.

    I’d recommend it, and I’ll probably watch it again.

  18. Jeff Hebert says:

    Good review, Myro, thanks.

  19. Garrett25 says:

    I have not seen the movie, but all of my concerns about it have been brought to light by the reviews posted here. I believe that there is a major problem with hollywood today, and it focuses around story, or plot. I feel that a lot of movies forsake great plots for great action scenes by having terrible dialogue and interaction between characters. Also, in regards to comic book characters, they throw out everything that made the characters great. These comics have been around for at least half a century. Seeing as how they lack motion in the comics, the story has to be what made them great, why are people moving away from it? Another thing is that people try to throw too much into movies rather than focusing in on one plot and really perfecting it. Just as was brought up in the original review above, the Thor movie had two great plots that could have been movies in themselves, but having both of them really cheated the audience. I have to admit, there are very few movies that I will go see in theaters anymore, I’ll just rent them from redbox for a dollar.

  20. Garrett25 says:

    Oh, I forgot to mention, I am a HUGE Thor fan….He’s the only character I play with in Marvel Ultimate Alliance, still hesitant about seeing the movie….

  21. Wesley Belk says:

    I was never a huge Thor fan, but I’ve always been and always will be a comic book fan, and since this thing is leading up to an Avengers movie, I had to see this one, and it was also the first of many that are hitting this summer. And as far as I’m concerned, the other comic movies coming out have a big hurdle to get over, if they plan on trumping Thor. I really, really liked it, I feel like in the 2 hours we had with these characters and the plot was plenty. I understood everything that was happening, and I got the chemistry between Thor and Jane, even if her character was a bit flat, but the time they spend together was enough, besides there was probably some “off-screen” stuff that they weren’t able to fit in. I also got Thor’s humbling, not being able to lift his weapon was a probably the hugest hit, then followed by “your dad’s dead” was the final nail. Personally, I wouldn’t think one would need any more than that, but he went on to try and take on the Destroyer, even though he knew full well he was mortal. That was all that was needed to bring his power back. I got it, to me if it would’ve went on and on, I would’ve got bored.. That was the other thing, I felt the pacing in this was nearly perfect, moreso than Iron Man 2 which felt bogged down. Anyway, everyone is going to have their own opinion, I’m excited to be a comic book fan, as this summer and following years will be filled with good movies, I mean they have to be good, right?

  22. GtaMythMaster43 says:

    Your review sums up alot of my faults, though, after seeing the X-men “blah blee bloo bullshit” film trailers, Thor went above and beyond for me. A- is my tally, to me the middle was the weakest link to the film, Begining + End = Gold, Middle = Meh. Being a writer in training, so to say, the middle makes the story hold, I don’t know why but even though it was a lame middle half, I liked it.