With that hammer, he nails it
By Michael O'Sullivan
Friday, May 6, 2011
The early fanboy-on-the-street reviews of “Thor” are in.
“In the realm of Marvel comic-book characters, Thor isn’t my favorite,” one young man said to his date as he practically skipped down the sidewalk after a screening of the Kenneth Branagh-directed, live-action flick about the hammer-wielding Norse god/action hero. “But that [expletive] was tight.”
Now there are a couple of interesting things going on in that paragraph, not the least of which is the word “date” in the same sentence as the word “fanboy.” (We kid, we kid. Please do not send angry e-mails.)
Let’s unpack it.
If you are the sort of person who cannot imagine beginning a sentence with the words “In the realm of Marvel comic-book characters” — in fact, if you are the sort of person who cannot imagine using the word “tight,” except in reference to your pants, where it wouldn’t be a compliment — then consider yourself forewarned:
This [expletive] isn’t for you.
If, on the other hand, you have a fondness for loud, silly, eye-popping action adventure films based on beloved superhero characters — or even superhero characters who are appreciated with the cool, clinical detachment of a student of pop culture — then “Thor” delivers.
The effects are effective. The humor is humorous and just self-referential enough to let you know the film doesn’t take itself too seriously. And, in the role of Thor — an arrogant god who is banished to present-day Earth from his celestial home of Asgard after he defies his father, Odin (Anthony Hopkins) — the blond Australian hunk Chris Hemsworth seems born to the part.
“Where did he come from?” asks astrophysicist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) after she and her research associates, Erik (Stellan Skarsgard) and Darcy (Kat Dennings), discover Thor in the middle of the New Mexico desert. Our guess is a gym in Melbourne. He’s pretty buff when he changes into jeans and a T-shirt. But we digress.
The film divides the world neatly into two camps.
On one side are those who will recognize the names Volstagg, Hogun, Fandral and Sif as Thor’s homeboys and homegirl from Asgard. (They’re played, respectively, by Ray Stevenson, Tadanobu Asano, Josh Dallas and Jaimie Alexander.) In the film, Lady Sif and the Warriors Three, as they’re known, follow their exiled and now largely powerless friend from Asgard to Earth, where Thor must learn the lesson of humility before he can again pick up his mighty hammer, called Mjolnir — or, as Darcy calls it, sarcastically, "myeh-nyeh" — and return home to defeat his usurping brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston).
On the other side are those for whom this whole thing sounds like a just a bunch of myeh-nyeh. People for whom Lady Sif, Hogun and Fandral will look less like the immortal gods they are meant to be than, as one wag in the film describes them, “Xena, Jackie Chan and Robin Hood.”
A Norse god in a tight tee? Natalie Portman as an astrophysicist? (Okay, she went to Harvard, but still.) Even the bad guys wreaking havoc back in Asgard, called Frost Giants — whose power seems to be the ability to inflict really bad freezer burn — seem more of threat to frozen peas than to the future of the nine realms.
You know what? There’s plenty of fun to be had here and not just for those who will get excited over Jeremy Renner’s cross-promotional cameo as archer Hawkeye (another Marvel character who — d’uh — will be featured in the upcoming film "The Avengers").
"Thor" isn’t for everyone. But its silly summer sensibility might just convert one or two more open-minded members of the myeh-nyeh crowd.
Contains violent action and brief, mild obscenity.