The other night, after tucking Queenie into her crib, Sailor Boy and I sat down to watch one of the many, many superhero films we missed in the theater last year while we were busy caring for a newborn. This time, it was the Kenneth Brannagh-helmed (geddit?) THOR.
I will say right up front that I am not familiar with most of the Avengers. Indeed, when I heard that Joss Whedon was doing an Avengers film, I thought it was the kind staring Mrs. Emma Peel (to which I say, go for it, Joss. I love how you did kickass women, and the Ralph Fiennes/Uma Thurman one was not up to par).
(In passing, do y’all know I was named for the actress who played Mrs. Emma Peel? True story.)
Anyway, I did not know until recently that Thor was a comic book superhero. Indeed, my only familiarity with him was the books on Norse mythology I read in my youth.
Which is okay, apparently, because ComicBookSuperhero!Thor actually is a version of the Norse God. This was the coolest part of the story to me. Apparently, the whole idea here is that the Norse Gods as we know them are actually stories about super-powerful (and immortal???) aliens from a planet called Asgard who at one time used to visit Earth, where the locals were like, “Wow, your sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable to us from magic!” (And in case we SF folks missed, it, Natalie Portman actually quotes Arthur C. Clarke for us in the film.)
The film opens with Natalie Portman, Stellan Skaarsgard, and Kat Dennings sitting in a van in the middle of the desert. Natalie Portman is a Very Smart Astrophysicist. We know this because all of the characters, including Natalie, say she is, and Natalie Portman repeats the phrase “Einstein-Rosen Bridge” about forty-seven times throughout the film. Kat Denning is a disaffected intern, which we know because she talks about “Facebook” and “twitter”, and Stellan Skaarsgard is Scandanavian, which we know because he’s Stellan Skaarsgard. There is a big flash of light in the sky, which makes Very Smart Astrophysicist Natalie Portman very happy, and then Kat Dennings hits a dude with the van.
And that’s the last you see of any of them for at least half an hour. Because then there’s this Loooooooong introductory sequence where you learn all about the alien nature of the Norse gods. And then we go straight to Asgard.
Which, I don’t mind, because Asgard is gorgeous. It’s like the bastard stepchild of Oz and Coruscant. And in the middle of it is a giant shimmering highway that looks like it’s made of black opal. And while Natalie Portman and Kat Denning are very pretty, I preferred this to the inside of their van. YMMV.
Okay. So, Thor. Thor is a giant hot blond dude with a hammer, who smirks and winks at enough space babes in the first five minutes of the film that even James T Kirk would think it was over the top. I was getting all these weird Captain Kirk vibes from him, even with the breastplate and the long hair, and then I realized it was because the guy who plays Thor also played Kirk’s dead dad in the Abrams Star Trek reboot. So there.
Thor’s parents are a one-eyed Anthony Hopkins and Rene Russo, and his brother is a skinny guy with dark hair, which is the only way we know he’s evil, other than the fact that he frowns on the day that Thor is winking his way up the aisle in the throne room to get crowned as heir.
The brother’s name is Loki, which would be another clue even to people who do not know the comic book but are familiar with Norse myths, except they never do mention his name for like 15 minutes.
Anyway, right as Thor is about to get crowned, a bunch of Orcs break into the Asgard Weapons Museum where all the really dangerous weapons are kept sitting out on pedestals for people to take as they please. Luckily, Anthony Hopkins has put Gort in charge of guarding them, and he burns the Orcs up.
(At this point, I’m very much enjoying the way Kenneth Brannagh has not only retrofitted Norse mythology into his alien world, but also The Day the Earth Stood Still and Middle Earth, too.)
Apparently, Thor does not find Anthony Hopkins’s Gort-based defense system sufficient, however, and he throws a temper tantrum. At this point, his evil/skinny/dark-haired brother (now’s when I find out his name is Loki) realizes that he can TOTALLY get his big brother in trouble by convincing him to go attack the Orcs’ home planet.
Which he does, along with Loki, and a bunch of his frat buddies. (One of the frat buddies is a girl, and I think she has the hots for Thor.)
I’m not sure what Loki gains by going along, but he does.I mean, other than the fact that this is really the only opportunity to introduce what all their superpowers are. Thor’s superpower are mostly hammer-based. Loki can create false images of himself. The frat buddies are super strong warrior types.
Anyway, in order to get to the Orc home planet, they have to gallop on horseback (I assume it’s alien horseback) very quickly across the black opal highway to a giant planetarium guarded by Stringer Bell.
Hubba hubba, Heimdall.
There, they dismount and then ask Stringer Bell if they can go to the Orc home planet, wherupon, Stringer Bell dials in the location and shoots a beam at said planet, and off they teleport.
As Loki intends, things on the Orc home planet do not go well, the frat buddies all get their asses kicked, Anthony Hopkins has to show up to save them, and when they get home, Thor gets a whuppin’ from his pa, who promptly strips him of his hammer, his (immortal???) powers, and banishes him to Earth.
Where he promptly becomes the dude Kat Dennings hits with the van. See? Full circle.
Anyway, thus commences a long digression in which Very Smart Astrophysicist Natalie Portman is like “whatever, drunk wandering hobo we just hit, I have no time to deal with your strange injuries and raving, I have Very Important Astrophysicist Work to do” and then, oops, realizes her mistake (with the, I’ll grant you, rather clever line of “I left something at the hospital”) and hurries off to retrieve him so there can be a bunch more scenes wherein Ancient Gods-Who-Are-Really-Aliens Say the Darndest Things (including my other favorite line from the film, which is “This mortal form has grown weak. I need sustenance.” — I am so teaching Queenie to say that instead of “Mommy, I’m hungry.”).
And the Shield folks show up, led of course, by Agent Caspar. That’s not his name in the Avenger movies, but he plays a federal agent, and so he’ll always be Agent Caspar to me.
But all of that is very boring, compared to the cool crap still going on in Asgard. And frankly, no matter how pretty the mid-century retro-futuristic gas station/diner thing where Natalie Portman et al. have set up their very important Astrophysics Research Station is, it doesn’t hold a candle to Asgard. I am so glad they decided to go Full Cheese with the set design here.
And the costumes. You guys. You guys. The costumes. I wish I could find a better picture of Loki’s costume once he drops his barely-evil green casual wear and goes Full Loki. Because Full Loki is the best costume since Leia donned a metal bikini. Observe:
I would literally wear this every single day.
And that picture doesn’t even do it justice. Here’s a full length, with a drawing of what Full Loki looks like in the comic books:
Also — ALSO — in searching for a halfway decent picture, I discovered that this actor is going to be playing Cinna in The Hunger Games. I approve. I also think Cinna would completely and totally approve of the Full Loki.
Say what you will about this new trend of toning down some of the outrageous stuff they do in comic books (a’la The Dark Knight and all), I will take Full Cheese and Full Loki, please.
Speaking of Loki, when we are returned to Asgard, it is to follow Loki and see the extent of his “evil.” I mean, that’s the intent. But I was turning to Sailor Boy at this point and saying, “I actually don’t see what Loki has done wrong.” Because, yes, he (vaguely) suggested to Thor that Thor should sneak out to the Orc planet and mess shit up. And as a result, Thor nearly got his frat buddies killed and started a war with the Orcs. But Loki’s point, to illustrate that Thor is an immature hothead who has no business ruling Asgaard was totally on point.
So now the frat buddies are all sitting around recuperating and trying to figure out a way to ask Anthony Hopkins to let Thor come out and play, and Loki is all like “How weird is it that when I got attacked by the Orcs, I was totally fine?” So now we know why Loki tagged along when he was trying to get Thor in trouuuuuuble. Because otherwise he would not have known that he was mysteriously immune to the Orcs’ FrostbiteTouch.
So then Loki completely rationally goes down into the Weapons Museum to pick up the evil Orc Frost Ray in the spirit of experimentation, and as soon as he touches it, he turns into an Orc/Frost Giant.
And his Dad, who has sneaked up behind him is like, “Oh, yeah, meant to tell you, you’re really a Frost Giant. I found you, abandoned to die because you’re scrawny, and I thought, wow, that’s cruel, so I adopted you and brought you up as my own. I kinda hoped you’d be a means of uniting our warring peoples, but that didn’t work out great, no thanks to my constantly pitting you and my real son against each other all your lives.”
So, what would your response be if you were to discover, as an adult, that you were not in fact the son of the all-powerful ruler of the universe, but instead an abandoned child of your mortal enemy? Exactly. Loki totally rationally gets angry and yells at his dad, who had previously stood up just fine against Thor and the armies of Frost Giant Orcs, but who decides suddenly to have a heart attack (they call it the “Odin sleep” but it looks like he has a heart attack) and collapse.
And then Loki, quite rationally, calls for a bunch of guards to take his dad off to bed for medical assistance.
So far, I’m still Team Loki. Who can blame him? Yeah, he yells at his dad, but wouldn’t you under those circumstances? He doesn’t hate his dad. He calls for help when his dad collapses. He’s just momentarily confused and angry, and really, Odin is to blame for that. Kids should be told they are adopted long before they grow up and learn it for themselves at the hands of an evil alien weapons system. That’s all I’m saying.
Anyway, back on Earth, there’s a whole lot of boring blah blah blah about Thor trying to get his hammer back from Agent Caspar and the stone it’s apparently stuck in, King Arthur style — including this long sequence where he fights his way through all these biodome tunnels and almost gets shot by Hawkeye (I think this is because they need a scene with Hawkeye and he’s not worth a whole movie?)
Then he and Stellan Skarsgaard get drunk and talk about Norse mythology and then he and Natalie Portman cuddle and talk about astrophysics. Kat Denning does not get chummy time, but she does get to post pictures of him onto Facebook. Because she’s a hip disaffected college intern.
Then, on Asgard we find out Loki is really evil, because he was the one who sneaked the Orcs in during Thor’s coronation and he goes back to the Orc planet to tell the King Orc that he will sneak him in to kill Anthony Hopkins while he’s sleeping. Stringer Bell tries to stop him and Loki uses the Orc Freeze Ray to freeze him. Apparently, Gort only stops you from taking it out of the Weapons Museum if you’re not the Prince of Asgaard.
Speaking of Gort, it’s around this time that Loki decides that the best way to cover all his bases is to send Gort to Earth to kill Thor and the frat buddies who have gone to Earth to retrieve Thor because they have rightfully begun to get suspicious of Loki and his ram horns.
This is their suspicious face. (Girl not pictured.)
This leads to my third favorite line in the movie, which is when Agent Caspar sees Gort, and it like, “Oh, this must be one of Tony Stark’s.” Ha. Because it’s an iron man. Geddit?
Anyway, Gort is awesome, and he’s almost succeeded in achieving Loki’s goals, when Thor finally proves himself by offering to sacrifice himself for his frat buddies and Natalie Portman and is thus regranted his powers and his Hammer, which conveniently flies right back into his hand. Then he saves the day and he and the frat buddies go back to Asgard to confront Loki.
And the Very Smart Astrophysicist Natalie Portman makes out with Thor. Because apparently they are in lurve. I’m not sure why. I guess it’s because the Very Smart Astrophysicist finally found a cute guy willing to talk about wormholes with her? But I’m not sure what he sees in her. The girl frat buddy back on Asgard has more personality, no matter how many times the Very Smart Astrophysicist Natalie Portman finds a way to work Einstein-Rosen Bridges into the conversation.
See? Way more passion and just, you know, a longer acquaintance in general, than he has with the Astrophysicist.
MEANWHILE, the Orc King has arrived in Anthony Hopkins’ bedroom, where Rene Russo gets her second line in the movie, throws one punch, and then gets knocked out. The Orc King goes to kill Anthony Hopkins, and Loki jumps in and kills all the Orcs and is like, “Wow, I’m SO a savior,” and Rene Russo agrees wholeheartedly.
But don’t worry. She gets one more line in the film, when everything’s over and she and Sif the Warrior Girl talk about how down in the dumps Thor has been of late. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Point is: this movie, not so much on female characters.
Where was I? Ah, Loki. You are so clever. I honestly did not see that double-cross coming, because I had fallen hook, line and sinker into the idea that, you being willing to freeze Stringer Bell and kill your brother and your friends, you were totally evil and also genuinely interested in having your dad knocked off, too. Oops.
And everything would have worked out just FINE had not Thor showed up at that time and revealed that his adoptive brother was actually evil all along, and what else could he be, since after all, he’s really an Orc, which means he could never be as good and strong as the blonde, blue-eyed Thor could which is why Anthony Hopkins could never REALLY make him king, even though they were supposedly raised just the same.
This is when I turned to Sailor Boy and was like, “I am not sure I approve of the message of this film.”
Anyway, Loki runs off down the black opal highway to the planetarium, whereupon he immediately engages a death ray meant to fry the Orcs’ home planet, thinking that if he destroys them, it will finally prove he’s better than Thor. (???)
Thor tries to stop him and they have a big hammer-and-multiple-Loki fight on the black opal highway, and eventually Thor realizes that the only way to stop the death ray is to hammer through the black opal highway.
Yes, you heard that right.
It made no sense to me, either. But apparently, the black opal highway is like the root of the giant rainbow bridge (“Einstein-Rosen Bridge” — and apparently there’s a reason they kept having Natalie Portman go on about it) that the planetarium can sort of focus and shoot out with help from Stringer Bell. And if you break off the bridge at the point of the planetarium, the planetarium will go tumbling away into the giant black hole abyss of nothingness that APPARENTLY EXISTS RIGHT ON THE EDGE OF THE CITY OF ASGAARD.
Please note: there is no discussion of this elsewhere in the film.
So then Thor starts pounding away at the bridge, and then Loki is inexplicably like, “No! If you do that, you’ll never be able to go back to Earth!” which is supposed to be heartbreaking, because Thor supposedly loves Natalie Portman, but it doesn’t really hit, because we all know he’s going back to Earth for the Avengers movie, and plus, NO ONE believes he loves Natalie Portman, who he spent like a day flirting with.
It’s not like Captain America, who was frozen for 65 years and thus his sweetheart, who he actually knew pretty well, is ancient. Anyway, bridge breaks, he and Loki end up dangling over the side, Anthony Hopkins tries to save them, and Loki’s all, whatever, bitches, you never loved me, and lets go of Thor and goes tumbling into the abyss.
Which also doesn’t really hit because Loki is coming back for the Avengers movie too. And I am really glad of that, because he was my favorite character in this film. Plus, he’s the kind of Big Bad that Joss can actually work with. Clever, funny, unexpected.
And then it’s over. Natalie Portman is on Earth, Thor is in Asgard, everything’s kind of normal again. Which…huh. I’m not sure what was gained from that other than discovering that Loki is the bad guy? This is an interesting post about why it was the wrong ending of the film, as it requires us to buy completely into a doomed romance not in evidence (maybe it’s a big deal in the comics?) and doesn’t end up changing anything. But maybe the whole point of the Avengers will be that Loki is on Earth being difficult and the Avengers really really really need Thor’s help so they move heaven and Asgard to try to get him back to Earth?
Here’s the Avengers trailer. What do you think?