Skip to content

At The Movies: Thor

2011 May 10

I was very worried about this film, having watched the trailer and become fearful that it might go the way of the Hulk franchise. It had a similar feel to it – lots of rippling muscles and anger with cars being thrown around.

I am pleased to say that I was wrong. And Thor is, in fact, awesome. In all ways. Although especially in the way that Chris Hemsworth is jaw-droppingly attractive and takes his shirt off for extended periods. Also his biceps appear to be gearing up to eat Tokyo. And there’s mud wrestling.

Movie still from Thor. Chris Hemsworth, a blonde Caucasian actor, poses shirtless against a desert background. Image: Paramount Pictures.

The film uses a lot of beautiful scenery, which I'm sure you will appreciate.

Now, when I tell you the plot you’ll tell me that I have gone mad for liking it, and that I was blinded by the sight of such a perfect male specimen. In my defence, this is an actor cast to play Thor, so he needs to be at least a bit buff.

Bear with me.

The Aesir here are basically alien-space royalty and live on this beautiful world with crystal palaces and epic science/magic. The rainbow bridge (guarded by Heimdall, played by the brilliant-in-everything Idris Elba) allows them to blast their way to other planets. Using the argument that any sufficiently advanced science is indistinguishable from magic, they are worshipped as gods by the primitive Vikings.

Thus when a chap falls to earth (landing in a small town somewhere in the sandy square states) and proclaims himself Thor, everyone thinks he’s a bit mad. Especially when the rampaging starts. However, some handy scientists need him for some handy science, and then there’s this hammer that no-one can lift…

This all had the potential to be cringingly awful and cheesy, but fortunately it was handled in a rarely-seen triumphal triumvirate of sensitive and nuanced acting, balanced direction (Kenneth Branagh at the helm, and he’s a man who can deal with a lot of ham) and a script that focused on that shyest of all beasts in the comic book action genre: character development.

Image from Mark Millar's Thor comics. Thor, a muscle-bound figure lit in blue, rages.

Mark Millar's Moody Thunder God

That’s right. Character development. Get in.

Anthony Hopkins, who plays Odin, is seen here in an interview calling Thor “a superhero film with a bit of Shakespeare in”, which is a good summary. The almost unbelieveable plot is rescued from itself by the way in which it allows characters to grow.

I was very happy that the writers had chosen to riff heavily from Mark Millar‘s Ultimate Thor rewrites, in which Thor is styled as a hero struggling with self-doubt and the agony of everyone thinking that he’s actually suffering from delusions that make him think he’s a god.

In the film, Thor gets kicked out of Valhalla by Odin for being an annoying, spoilt teenager who picks fights and starts wars. He needs to make good and get some responsibility.

We follow Thor on his journey from arrogant, angry young man to being, well, a grown up. His essential good-naturedness and charm, as well as obvious desire to do good, make this neither pat nor schmaltzy, but wholly believable, and at times exceptionally moving.

In the meantime, his brother Loki is also trying to find himself. Rather than the standard trope of being evil because he’s a villain (although he is of course played by an English actor), the whole thing is carried off with depth, subtlety and aplomb by Tom Hiddleston.

Like Thor, Loki grows into himself, and it is only at the end that he makes the transition from a young warrior of potential into someone capable of evil. You know, the thing that George Lucas tried to do with the backstory for that guy in the black armour, but ended up just embarrassing everyone?

I bet Natalie Portman (playing handy scientist Jane Foster) was glad to get that storyline right this time.

Speaking of Natalie Portman, let’s have a look at the female characters. They are admittedly thin on the ground, but those that are there are pretty good. Portman and Kat Dennings (playing Darcy) give good scientist and political scientist respectively, with the Jane Foster character updated from nurse to physicist.  Both women avoid the dull stereotype of being either predictably “spirited” or annoyingly wet.

movie poster showing the face of Sif, a dark haired and dark eyed Caucasian woman, with the caption 'THE GODDESS OF WAR'.

Sif kicks ass. Fact.

The kickass Jaime Alexander plays Sif (Thor’s wife in the mythology, but we’ll leave that for the sequel, I suppose), heads up Team Junior Aesir in their fight to rescue Thor from Earth, and gets as much, if not more, fighting screen time as the rest of them.

She’s also wearing a costume that looks appropriate to fighting in, which is a personal bugbear of mine. No-one can fight crime in a bustier. No-one. Pay attention, people allegedly, eventually, making Wonder Woman. I said no-one.

There’s also some ice giants in it, but realistically the action element plays second fiddle to the storyline, and although there were a lot of fighting sequences my overall impressions of the film were about people and personalities rather than a barrage of things crashing into other things.

Which is no bad thing. I love action films, but I love them even more if there’s more to them than just action (are you listening, Michael Bay?)

And the action wasn’t exactly light on the ground – there were some very pleasing fights on all realms of reality from soldiers to robots to lots of ice giants getting hit in the face. A personal favourite caused me to turn and hi-five the person next to me (fortunately, Miranda, and not a stranger) because Thor had just smashed his hammer into the face of an enormous ice-beast and SAVED THE DAY in epic hero style.


  • You like comic book adaptations or action films
  • It has an amazing cast acting their socks off
  • You want to see how EPIC Norse Gods can be whether they are good or evil
  • You want to sing this song over and over in your head when you’ve left the cinema
  • Just go and see it already!


  • You are allergic to bling, muscles, fighting, deep voices or CGI ice giants.
  • You realise that they didn’t put Fenris Wolf in, OR cast Brian Blessed as Odin, and that makes you a bit sad.
11 Responses leave one →
  1. Stephen B permalink
    May 10, 2011

    Sif was particularly good from a feminist perspective, with a line that *she* earnt her own fame as a mighty warrior (in the middle of a speech by Thor on how he helped all the others).

    Bizarre decision to give her jet-black hair though, since her golden hair is a major plot point in the legends. (Loki has to replace it with actual gold after being naughty. Oh, Loki.) Haven’t read enough of the comics to know if they modelled her off those instead…

    Very, very good acting and some surprisingly funny comedy, especially some slapstick from Hemsworth!

    • Miranda permalink*
      May 10, 2011

      I’m still neatly surprised we’ve found something Mark Millar’s had a hand in that we’re diggin’ – I’m used to us rolling our eyes at a fair percentage of his output (and tweets)!

      I actually found the Sif line a tad cringey – why MENTION that she’s a woman at all? Thor at least got told to STFU but from a meta sort of perspective I was a bit like, “did that exchange (“LOOK AT US WE HAVE A LADY AND WE’VE ACCEPTED HER LADYNESS IT WAS A STRUGGLE BUT SHE HAS PROVED HERSELF”) really need scripting?”

      Didn’t mind the hair – Sif’s not particularly warlike in the Eddas as I understand it either! I like the idea of her having, in a spin on the gold-wig myth, METAL ARMOUR HAIR, in a sequel though. Alas, I am not Marvel’s plot consultant, though. :D

      • Jenni permalink
        May 10, 2011

        Not sure Millar had a hand in this film or plotline! Did he?

        Sif is interesting in the comics – at one point Sif and Jane merge to become the same person for a good few years, and then they unmerge in a later plotline… Romantically Thor has gone from Sif to Jane and back again in the comics, it just seems to rest on which woman the current writer fancies the most. (Merging the two was clearly someone who couldn’t decide?)

        I have a very confused relationship with Thor comics. First comics I ever read (more accurately, had-read-to-me when my dad occasioanlly bought them from the one newsagents in Leicester that sold imported American comics) featured Thor as a frog and also as some dude named Eric. Neither of whom is the actual Thor. Ah, the nineties.

        I liked X-Men because it was easy to understand. Even with clones and people’s babies being sent into the future to grow up and come back as reacurring characters. That’s when you realised you’ve skewed your daughter’s perception of fiction forever.

        • Miranda permalink*
          May 10, 2011

          Not really in the film, but the review here says the film draws on Millar’s work within the Thor franchise? Oh, I don’t know. You’re ahead of me on cred points, anyway; my first comics were the My Little Pony and SuperTed comics. :D

        • May 11, 2011

          Frog Thor was awesome. Throg is still a character, I think, whenever they do a run of the Pet Avengers. Speedball steals the show though as the snarky cat.

  2. May 10, 2011

    I was a bit disappointed in the uselessness of the humans for much of the movie. It didn’t really feel like they contributed anything. I discussed this with my friend as we left the cinema and i would have edited the movie thusly:

    Rewrite the opening sequence to show the scientists are a little further along in their research – they realise they are seeing a potential wormhole and they are studying the conditions required for one. Then when Heimdall is frozen in ice and unable to let Thor back in to asgard, we insert an extra short section where he has to ask for the help of SHIELD and the scientists to create a wormhole at our end, allowing them to contribute to the rescuing of asgard. It might have reduced the emotional impact of the ending slightly but since this is presumably the plot they will be using to bring Thor back for ‘The Avengers’ I see no reason not to include it in this movie.

    This would also have allowed Natalie Portman to be kick ass with science. Which would have made me eternally happy.

    On a completely seperate, and much geekier note, was everyone else as excited as me by the cameo appearance of hawkeye and the avengeriffic post credits coda? I mean, check out the cast line-up from Comicon

    • Sarah Cook permalink
      May 10, 2011

      I was actually ok with the uselessness of humans – after all, it’s a film about gods – I felt that there was a god plotline and a human plotline that sort of intersected – scientist vs government agency and gods vs ice-giants.

      I expect we will see some Natalie Portman ass kicking in the Avengers movie – and yes, I have a LOT of excitment for that.

    • Miranda permalink*
      May 10, 2011

      Yes, I think Natalie Portman was underused and I’d have liked to see more of some human relationships to parallel the Asgard ones.

      I also feel like only 2-3 women was a shame although the relationship between sarky-quipping recent college grad Darcy and scientist Jane was a nice mirror of male sidekick partnerships and that made me smile. On reflection, I think the fact we only caught glimpses of these relationships is a minus – Darcy and Jane’s partnership is instrumental in facilitating some of the plot but is not really presented as such.

      Did enjoy the film though. Especially Heimdall’s horned disco armour. Iris Elba has never looked more awesome.

  3. Russell permalink
    May 10, 2011

    For the record, while Thor did appear in Mark Millar’s “The Ultimates” series, the only comic ever titled “Ultimate Thor” was by the more interesting and less irritating Jonathan Hickman. BECAUSE I AM A NERD AND I MUST NERD-CORRECT YOU.

    I’m glad you liked it though. I was a bit worried because I did like it but there are only three ladies in it. It passes Bechdel though – unless in this context to speak about science and wormholes is to speak about Thor, which is an interesting argument.

    Disappointingly, I believe Natalie Portman is not in the Avengers film, having been passed over for more Scarlet Johansson in a cat-suit based AK-SHON. I could be wrong through.

  4. burntcopper permalink
    May 10, 2011

    I just really want to congratulate the scriptwriters, because that is one *funny* film.

    Stellan Skarsgaard gets to play Swedish! (shock! Horror! SURELY NOT, etc, etc) …and then getting into a drinking contest with a Norse god. WHOOPS. (also, we felt Anthony Hopkins was better for exposition!Odin than Brian Blessed was. Though Ray Stevenson channelled him magnificently for Volstaag.)

    All the admin side of SHIELD and the ‘yes, we are doing this for legitimate reasons’. The SHIELD agent on his lunch break going ‘er, we got a Xena, a Robin Hood, a Jackie Chan…’

    Kenneth Branagh showing that Henry V was not a one-off fluke when it came to ‘*this* is how you film a close-quarters battle with swords and warhammers, Hollywood.’

    The terribly pretty scenery. Which has huge tracts of land.

    Actual understanding of tech and computers. ‘They took your laptop.’ and not being able to recreate half a ton of tech stuff off the top of her head without her notes.

    Only slightly faily bits: Rene Russo being surplus to requirements. Not enough Heimdall. ‘er, why is Bifrost ending in New Mexico? Shouldn’t it be somewhere in the Northern Europe? Greenland would be at least plausible if you wanted meteorologists and physicists studying in a remote region with added US power.’ ‘…Thor and Loki were teenagers in 900 AD? Um… you do know they were being worshipped a good 800 years earlier, right?’


  5. May 10, 2011

    If you read a movie review which opened with how the film was especially awesome because x attractive woman spent a lot of time half naked I’m sure you wouldn’t be particularly impressed.

    Feminism is about equality, remember?

Leave a Reply

Note: You can use basic XHTML in your comments. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS