“That was it?”
That was my initial reaction after the closing credits for Thor started rolling in, and with good reason – there had been loads of good reviews (in fact, I have yet to see a negative one), the cast is quite stellar (they’ve got Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins, Stellan Skarsgard playing major roles and Kenneth Branagh directing), huge budget ($150M anyone?), and a very interesting story. So what failed?
As the title of the movie implies, it is about the god Thor. It recounts how the frost giants of Jotunheim, led by Laufey, wanted to conquer the Nine Realms, starting with Earth and how the Agsardian warriors, led by their King Odin, defeated the frost giants and took away their Casket of Ancient Winters. Fast forward to modern times and Thor is about to be crowned king when an attempt to steal the casket disrupts his coronation. Enraged that frost giants were able to steal into Asgard without being detected, Thor, his brother Loki, and his friends, go to Jotunheim to confront Laufey against his father’s wishes. They almost lose the fight until Odin arrives and rescues them, after which, he promptly strips Thor of his powers and sends him and his hammer to earth, although he is unable to wield its power until he proves himself worthy.
Thor is found on the deserts of New Mexico by Jane Foster, Erick Selvig and her assistant Darcy and romantic relations begin to blossom between Jane and Thor. His friends manage to convince Heimdall, the god guarding the Bifrost bridge (a sort of portal between the different realms) into letting them go to earth to bring back Thor. In Asgard, meanwhile, Odin falls into a coma-like sleep after Loki confronts him about his lineage – here, we discover that Loki is a frost giant, adopted by Odin after being found in the carnage of the war. It is also revealed that Loki had planned the stealing of the casket during the coronation and goaded Thor into attacking Jotenheim, leading Laufey to trust him when he presented his plan to kill Odin in his sleep. But at a surprise turn of events, Loki reveals that he wants Laufey to attempt to kill Odin so he can claim the credit for saving his father’s life and earn his respect. At the same time, Thor proves himself worthy of his power – hammer – by sacrificing and allowing himself to be killed by the Destroyer, a sentient full-body armor/warrior sent by Loki to earth to kill everyone. Thor then manages to return to Asgard and send his brother into the abyss created by the destruction of the Bifrost Bridge. He and his father reconcile, with Thor admitting that he is not yet ready to be king.
The main story of sibling rivalry of the gods is interesting enough, and the subplots of invading the nine realms, finding love in a mortal woman all make for fine storylines – but somehow, I can’t help feeling cheated. The movie started well-enough, with dazzling special effects, but the climax didn’t seem to, well, climax. There were no grand battle scenes in the last 70% of the movie’s running time, and Thor’s transition from arrogant to selfless god feels forced and hurried, as if the scriptwriter and the director suddenly realized, “oh wait, we’ve been running for over an hour we need to wrap up this movie.” The story just wasn’t grand enough for a 150-million budgeted movie like this. And the special effects seem a bit off to me too. Thor seems larger than life in some frames, with bulging biceps and dwarfing everyone near him, but in other scenes, he is just your average surfer dude. Most evident in his drinking scene with Erik, his arm seems disproportionate to his body in the frames, probably due to the camera angle.
Acting-wise though, Chris Hemsworth (Thor) fit the bill perfectly. He’s chiselled and good-looking, although a bit too sunshiny blond for my taste – Thor is supposed to be about an Asgardian warrior and is based on the Nordic god; I know it doesn’t take a genius, but he plays the arrogant crown-prince well. As a little bit of trivia, yes, he is related to Liam Hemsworth, or Mr. Miley Cyrus. Liam actually auditioned for the part and nearly nabbed it; Chris was eliminated but brought back on board after Branagh reviewed past auditions. Hopkins was his usual flawless self, but Skarsgard and Portman are grossly underutilized. Skarsgard (Selvig) makes the most out of his scenes but Portman (Foster) looks like she’s halfway between smirking and laughing, probably thinking to herself, “what the heck am I doing in this movie.” She almost looks like a giddy teenager whenever Hemsworth is in the scene, and I couldn’t take her role as a scientist seriously when she acted like it wasn’t. I mean, I get that he’s hot, but being the Oscar winner she is, she could have mixed her serious act with her giggly one credibly. Or maybe she just didn’t get the right chance?
For me though, the star of the movie was Tom Hiddleston, who played the antagonist Loki. I’ve read somewhere that he auditioned for Thor but Branagh decided he’d be better suited as Loki. I think he’d be brilliant playing either; but I loved how he portrayed Loki – a villain, yes, but a pitiful one, feeling he is different from his brother but not quite understanding why, and someone who longs and yearns to be accepted and loved equally. Hiddleston went on a strict diet for this role to get that sort of emaciated, hungry look of Loki, an outward manifestation of his inner hunger and quest for acceptance. And I personally enjoyed the one liners and the blank look of Kat Dennings, who played assistant scientist Darcy Lewis; I think she delivered most of the funniest lines in the movie.
Wait, backtrack. Funniest lines? You see, I came in to watch a decent movie about Thor but I never expected it would be a comedy. Yes, I was laughing a couple of times, either due to a comedic turn by Thor or Darcy or Eric, or even one of the government agents. The movie even had a couple of pop culture references, such as the scene when Thor’s friends arrive on earth in full war regalia, and one of the agents relay his message to his superiors, commenting that they look like “Xena, Jackie Chan, and Robin Hood.” In another scene, when the agents discover the Destroyer in the dessert, their leader quips “Is that one of Stark’s?” a direct reference to another Marvel hero – Tony Stark aka Ironman.
As a final word, I’m just glad I watched in on 2D – I wouldn’t have wanted to waste my hard-earned moolah on a movie that doesn’t deliver the goods. Ironman, it is not, acting, directing, or story-wise. I even enjoyed Prince of Persia more, despite that movie being widely panned by critics. But that’s just me.