Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Natalie Portman, Stellan Skarsgard
May 6, 2011 (US Premiere)
Summary for Moms:
Based on the 1962 comic book character and Norse God of the same name, Thor follows the titular God of Thunder (Chris Hemsworth) as he is exiled to New Mexico by decree of his father Odin (Anthony Hopkins). Stripped of his hammer, his powers, and deemed ‘unworthy’, Thor must learn to tame his hubris with the help of astrophysicist and professional love interest Jane Foster (Natalie Portman). If he succeeds, Thor will be able to return to his home realm of Asgard, hopefully before his fiendish brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) completes his scheme to steal Odin’s throne.
I was worried about showing my mom Thor. Out of the Phase One Marvel Movies, it has the toughest job, especially when watched by someone who has no experience with the source material. Thor needs to tell the story of a conflict between nearly invincible Norse Gods in the magical far away realm of Asgard, and simultaneously meld it seamlessly with the realistic, down-to-earth mechanics of the world introduced in Iron Man. People mark Guardians of the Galaxy as being the MCU’s biggest risk, but I think Thor was its first big challenge. It’s a pretty out-there concept, so, selling this to my mother seemed like it was going to be tough.
Before starting the movie, I asked my mom what she knew about Thor. She said she had no idea who he was, except that he featured in a few of the bedtime stories she read to me as a kid. That was a good start, at least, even though I don’t remember being read any Thor stories. (“Thories”? There’s a joke there. I’ll workshop it and get back to you.)
Thor had a lot going against it, but the end product is far better than it has any right to be. While the plot meanders a bit — shoehorning in of Agent Coulson and SHIELD for the purposes of bridging the worlds — the story is simple, but compelling and well carried by the performances. Except maybe Natalie Portman, who doesn’t really seem to want to be there (which I think is the case).
The story is what appealed to my mom the most, she thought it was simple and easy to understand. Which I think works both for and against the movie. It’s not a very demanding narrative, and, as a result, some of the action beats, specifically Thor vs. The Destroyer, felt a little tacked on. She quickly forgot it once it was dispatched.
Overall, however, I think my mom enjoyed the moral of the story more than the story itself. How Thor grows from rushing into things hot-headed and “being unwise”, to the end where he learns that a “good leader has to be wise, listen, keep people safe, and treat them equally”. It seems like she likes movies where the heroes learn to be good people.
Thor‘s cast has a great chemistry that makes the whole ridiculous premise believable and, more importantly, fun, while putting forward memorable performances, including those of the side characters. Despite not knowing any of the characters, my mom maintained that “all the actors were perfect for their parts”. She was happy to recognize Anthony Hopkins playing a good character, but was clear to note that she hated his (Oscar winning) performance in Silence of the Lambs because it was, yes, “disgusting” and she didn’t know why he had to play a “monster”. She regrets watching that movie.
The standout performance of this film is, of course, Loki, played by Tom Hiddleston with such delightful relish that it’s easy to see why he’s the MCU’s only real recurring villain so far. Mom enjoyed his performance as well, and was impressed with how he was always 10 steps ahead of everyone else. Hiddleston sold the layers of the characters so well that even I was surprised with the reveal of his true plan near the end of the movie since I hadn’t watched it in years.
As I said before, Thor is our first step into the weirder, mystical side of the Marvel universe, and so deserves credit for palatably introducing the world of Asgard to the MCU. For someone who was raised entirely on Hindu gods and myths, my mom accepted the Nordic explanation of things very well, and stated that “it’s all the same mythology” and that we “all have the same stories”. It’s a touching moment of multi-cultural acceptance, even if the culture she’s accepting is pure alabaster white.
However, I’m not really sure if she truly understood the relationship between Asgard and how it connects to Earth, because, really, I’m still not sure I understand it. I said Thor introduced it palatably, but not necessarily clearly. Even after 2 Thor movies and 2 Avengers movies, I’m still unsure about the specifics. Is Asgard another planet? Another dimension? Is it in the same dimension but just in a mystical magic… area? What’s going on there? Maybe someone can help me out here, but it doesn’t negatively impact the movie at all, so I’m not too bothered.
Is Thor the best Marvel Movie? No, not by a long shot. Other than Loki, there is nothing completely outstanding about it. But it hits on many levels, becoming much more than the sum of its parts and making it too fun and engaging to dislike. And my mom enjoyed watching it, and isn’t that really the point of this blog?
Thor 2 on the other hand… well, we’ll burn that bridge when we come to it.
Mom Rating (Out of Five):
- Mom didn’t realize Jane Foster was played by Natalie Portman until the credits rolled.
- At the beginning, my mom thought Loki was playing it too cool, so she knew something was up, even though she didn’t know his history. Very sharp, mom.
- For someone who doesn’t like comedy, she really liked the fact that they kept hitting Thor with their car.
- After the movie ended, she went on a nice rant about how she thinks the “Marvel People” are very good and “wise” people, and that they really know how to tell a story.
- Despite a whole article’s worth of brainstorming, I still don’t have anything better for you than “Thories”. I’m so thorry.
Mom was surprised that Loki was back in the mix and was actually interested to see what came of it. I remember being confused at the end of this scene as to whether or not Loki was controlling Stellan Skarsgard or not, and she had the same issue. Unfortunately, it’s still not very clear to either of us. And despite the fact that we hadn’t yet seen the Tesseract in any prior movies, she recognized it as the box that the Phase One Blu-Ray set came in. “Oh, it’s that thing!”
Now that she’s used to the concept of a Post-Credits Sequence, she thought it was a “very smart idea” to get people to watch the credits all the way to the end so that all the people who worked on the film get appreciated. Which is nice.