The biggest challenge Thor had working against it was the very nature of its story. How do you put the idea of Norse gods next to the technical aspects of Iron Man? Up until now, all the Marvel superhero movies have been grounded in science. Where does Thor fit in this universe that’s being created? It’s a huge risk for Marvel to take.
In order to compensate, Thor pulls its fantastical elements back a bit. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) isn’t a Norse god anymore, just an advanced being interpreted as a god by people with limited understanding. In this version of Thor, magic is just science we don’t understand. At face value, that logic worked perfectly fine for the film, but if you think too long and hard on it, you’ll start to see the cracks in it. Just accept it and move on; you’ll enjoy yourself more.
That being said, this is still a heavy fantasy movie compared to the other Marvel movies. There are other realms, Frost Giants, rainbow bridges, and a giant metal creature simply called the Destroyer (its face shoots concentrated destruction; awesome). We dive right in to the world of Asgard, seeing only a few brief minutes of Earth at the beginning. We see how Asgardians dress, talk, and fight for the first half hour of the movie. It’s a tremendous set-up to a world we know nothing about. We could have stayed there and never gone to Earth, and I would have been fine with it.
When Thor is eventually banished to Earth, we spend the rest of the movie going back and forth between the two worlds. This creates a nice contrast between them, and the juxtaposition makes them seem like they could be a part of the same universe. It’s important, after all, that they feel like they could co-exist.
At the heart of the story being told in Thor is a coming of age tale, of sorts. Thor is man of privilege, and it has made him vain and greedy for power. It’s because of his impulsive, selfish nature that he is stripped of his powers, losing his mighty hammer. Over the course of the film he comes to terms with his mortality and puts his life in danger to save humans he’s come to care about. It’s a little too quick of a change, mostly caused by falling in love with Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), but you forgive it because the film has to be able to end, right? I don’t totally buy into the Jane and Thor romance, but it’s such a small hiccup in the big scheme of things. When Thor finally regains his powers, it’s like a hurricane of awesome fell upon the Earth. I haven’t felt so giddy during a movie’s climax in a long time.
I’m extremely pleased with how Thor’s brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston), was handled. It’s implied right away that he’s going to be jealous of Thor, and he indirectly causes Thor to lose his powers. It wasn’t his intention, though, only wanting to cause a bit of mischief. Ultimately it causes Loki to realize he’s not Odin’s (Anthony Hopkins) biological son. This is what finally drives him over the edge and turns him into the villain. That was amazing to me. Loki becomes this really bad guy simply because of his circumstances. He was lied to all his life, and he was never going to be king while Thor was around. I felt bad for the guy.
Let’s talk 3D briefly. Thor was not shot in 3D, but converted in post-production. However, all the special effects were designed with 3D in mind. This was the best conversion I’ve ever seen, and the 3D only becomes distracting a couple of times, and it didn’t resort to gimmicky stuff. The special effects in general were amazing. Everything looks so real at times you have to reminds yourself what’s CGI and what isn’t.
Thor is the second-to-last movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe before The Avengers and does a good job of fitting in with the already established continuity (it heavily features S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Coulson). But it also gets things rolling for future installments. Keen observers will even notice the introduction of Hawkeye. If you’re patient you’ll wait until the credits finish rolling and get treated to a scene teasing what’s to come in the next movies.
As far as origin stories go, Thor is one of the best, right next to Iron Man. It takes the appropriate amount of time to build up its characters, heroes and villains alike, and sets things up for the future in a satisfying way. You don’t have to be a comic book fan to enjoy this amazing movie.
Editor’s note: for an even deeper look at the mythos of Thor, hop over to G-mash for Ryan Lindsay’s take on the film.