Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Thor is...

... 35% Chris Hemsworth. I doubted. I narrowed my eyes and I didn't believe that this hunk- no, this slab of a human being could possibly have the charismatic smarts to pull off this role. If I'd been paying attention, I'd have remembered that he impressed with hardly any time at all at the beginning of Star Trek, but I don't get paid to write these things, and until I do my attention will be vague and inconsistent. (I'll just wait here for the offers to come flooding in.) But not only does Hemsworth prove to have a superb sense of comic timing, a surprisingly sparky chemistry with Natalie Portman and a fist that could knock a hole through walls if it wasn't so busy swinging that bloody hammer, but he manages to be that self-important Norse god without condescending to the fanciful folktales (... oh; forgive me, great King Odin! I did not mean to anger you. But these mere mortals... they do not understand...) that the script revels so gamely in, and playing obnoxious without obscuring why he's the hero here. Basically, he's pretty much perfect here. Go figure.

... 20% complex villainy. What seems to give Thor a slightly distinctive edge in the somewhat overstuffed superhero sub-genre is its central villain, Loki (Tom Hiddleston). Loki is Thor's brother, and from the very beginning, Loki's unbrotherly attitude to Thor is pretty much signalled with flashing neon warning signs. But that's just it: we're meant to be suspicious of Loki, but the nature of that suspicion shifts constantly throughout the film, and the film's often awkward movement between the Earth that Thor is banished to, and the Asgard that Loki remains on, means that Loki is as focused on as Thor is. Being family, of course, the deepest depths of Loki's villainy are suspect to the idea that maybe, possibly, they're not as dastardly as they might seem. Even the reasons for his darkness are toyed with to confuse us - oh so that's wh- oh no, he's just evi- oh, wait, maybe not... Hiddleston sometimes hits discordant notes in his performance (and his haircut wasn't going to fool anyone), but as a character concept, at least, it is finely realised.

... 16% phallic symbols. Men playing with their swords. (Thor has a hammer, of course, but we'll get to that.) It's a long-accepted metaphor for men comparing penis size (or something like that), and even when they don't have swords, they can freeze thin air and stab you with their ice penis. Idris Elba's gatekeeper might have the mightiest penis - I mean, er, sword, of all, since he can plunge it into the middle of a big hole and open a gateway to other worlds. And if that's not a metaphor for an orgasm I don't know what it is.

Asgard is also pretty much built out of giant phallic buildings, although, to be fair, buildings mimicking vaginas are probably better for some kind of underground society.

... 15% The Avengers. "Thor will return in The Avengers." So we were told at the end of the credits, and though I'm surprised they had the restraint to leave it until most people had long left the cinema, I am quite excited about it. The whole series of Marvel films have shown a superb knack for casting - Robert Downey Jr. stands imposingly in a dapper suit above everyone, but Chris Evans is always charming, Mark Ruffalo is a daring choice for the third Hulk in ten years, and I personally liked Scarlett Johansson in Iron Man 2, so shut up. Thor doesn't hammer (sorry, that was inevitable) the franchise idea too hard into your face, but there are moments like a wink to Tony Stark and the slightly shoehorned inclusion of Jeremy Renner's (future?) Hawkeye to back up the deadening line when Thor promises Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) that even though he might be off to a battle he can't return from, he'll definitely be part of the S.H.I.E.L.D. team from now on! Gee whiz. (Oh, and then that's whole bit at the end of the credits. So maybe ignore the lights flaring up and the cleaners staring impatiently at you, and stay seated.)

... 6% hammer. If I had a hammer, I'd a-hammer in the morning... Only Thor's hammer isn't for hammering out love. It is, as you might expect, a mighty hammer, Thor's calling card, and it is he - and only he - and only he when he deserves it - who swings it and throws it and bashes it through mens' abdomens like they're not even there. (Except it makes quite a noise, so they probably are there.) The sword-in-the-stone moment is quite a hilarious one, although my personal favourite hammer-related moment in the film was the beautifully blunt thwack it made against the high-pitched clank of Loki's shining spear. Yeah, 'cause there might be all of those phallic symbols, but all that masculine insecurity exists for a reason - Thor's the man. He's got the hammer.

... 5% eyes. Anthony Hopkins, bearable for the first time in years thanks to the similarly scenery-chewing Kenneth Branagh being the director in charge here, has a strapless eye-patch, which is really quite cool, and I'm even considering gouging one of my eyes out so I can have one too. But eyes aren't just a cool accessory to lose in battle - they function as somewhat of a metaphor. Odin (Hopkins) loses one in a fierce battle where he gains a son - and it is his sons, intentionally or not, who weaken him. And then there's Elba's eyes - that glowing orange sign of life, sign of hope.

And then there's Hemsworth's eyes, which are terribly blue. Terribly.

... 2% crop circles. Or at least that's what the markings that the arrival of Asgard residents upon Earth landings looked like to me. Natalie Portman agrees; forget the man she just hit with her car, she needs to draw that bloody marking!

I'm not sure Thor really makes the most of the human reaction to conspicuous alien landings, but this type of film is often overstuffed. If this was a stand-alone film, without the necessary basics for connecting itself to The Avengers, it might be able to feel a bit more fleshed-out - the Asgard sequences feel more fully realised, although slightly less sharply directed - but something had to give, and Thor plays a good enough hand in this area with Stellan Skarsgard and...

... 1% Kat Dennings. I can't deny my Kat at least one hundredth of this post. She's in the film less than I'd like, and gets saddled with a few lines that make her character sound like an idiotic twat, but she's still funny and I love her. The end.


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