In the comic book series, “The Mighty Thor” (debuting in 1962), Thor is stripped off his divinity and his mighty hammer and exiled to Earth by his father, Odin to teach him a lesson in humility. He lives as a doctor, Donald Blake till he re-acquires his powers and once again becomes a God. In the meanwhile, he is constantly thwarted by his evil stepbrother Loki. He also joins Captain America, Iron Man, Spider Man and others to form the “Avengers” who fight evil and are called the “poor man’s Justice League” by DC Comics fans.
Retaining pretty much the same concept for the movie, Thor (played by Chris Hemsworth) is an immortal of Asgard (a world in a different dimension) and heir to the throne after his father, Odin, but he is headstrong, arrogant and impetuous. He is punished by Odin for his pride by sending him to Earth, to live as a mortal. There he meets the very pretty Jane Foster (played by Natalie Portman) who is some kind of space-time scientist, all sorts of adorably whacky hijincks happen, he become all human-y and decides to confront his evil stepbrother Loki and reclaim Asgard, but in a humble fashion.
The idea that Gods walk among us in the guise of broad shouldered, beautiful, invincible, celestial giants is an intriguing thought. It tickles us to think that Gods, who are omniscient and powerful, could actually learn from the experience of being a mortal. It is even funnier when a God walks into a café and asks for coffee by smashing the mug and yelling, “This drink, I like it. More!” or when He walks into a pet store and says, “Quickly man, I need a horse.”
But that does not mean that a movie actually set in the mythical Asgard/Jotunheimr is a good idea. Especially when “Asgard” ends up looking like the cover illustration of a cyberpunk penny dreadful. Since about 4/5ths of this movie is not set on Earth, but in CGI-gard and CGI-heimr, 4/5ths of this movie looks fake, tacky and has people dressed in very Shiny outfits who speak in Fantasy English (you know, living in realms, slaying fell beasts, riding noble steeds and calling each other ‘Sire’). Which is sad, because the 1/5th bit of the movie set on Earth was extremely funny and well-executed. I get that Asgard was supposed to evoke a feeling of fantasy and otherworldliness, but the only amazing thing about it was realizing that most of the actors in the movie performed their entire role before a green screen.
Even though Thor’s stint as a mortal was the central event in the movie, considering the fact that it changed him and helped him achieve his potential, surprisingly little time is devoted to this period. He cries in one scene and has a 5 minute discussion with Jane Foster about stars and science and that’s it. He becomes Thor the God Who Is Sympathetic to Humans. No doubt they decided to get their priorities straight and focus on the fight scenes (which were not exactly jaw-dropping), but everybody knew and expected this movie to be an origin story and was resigned to lots of character growth and dialogue. Then again, if they’d done that, I’m sure many would’ve complained about the insufficiency of cool action scenes. There’s just no pleasing fanboys.
As for the other characters, there was Odin was played by Anthony Hopkins who just used his script and costume from Beowulf (2007). Actually, I don’t think he even noticed that he was in a different movie. But he’s Anthony Hopkins; he’s earned the right to phone it in for the next 800 films. Loki on the other hand, was a somewhat well-developed character who is tormented by his demons, is resentful of Thor and yearns for Odin’s love. This is quite a departure from the Nordic legend where Loki screws around with the other gods merely because he can. In the movie on the other hand, Loki is a tragic character, which I suppose was a necessary change because audience find it very difficult to accept a character whose motivations are not clear. Finally, there was Lady Sif and the Warriors Three, i.e. Thor’s cronies who are aptly described by a character in the movie as “Xena, Jackie Chan and Robin Hood” (you can add Tall Gimli to that). Little jokes like that remind you that the movie-makers are aware that they are dealing with slightly clichéd characters, but then, who wants to invest more time developing supporting characters when there are Frost Giant fight sequences waiting to be shot?
A common complaint is that Jane Foster fell for Thor within 4 seconds of meeting him and spends the rest of the movie drooling all over him. In her defence, Chris Hemsworth is 3 parts dreamboat, 1 part hawt and has shoulders broad enough to bridge Asgard and Earth, so one really can’t blame her. Besides, it has always been the hallmark of Godhood that women rarely refused you, and if they did, you got to turn them into plants.
All in all, it was definitely an enjoyable movie, but with a generous heap of salt.