8 May 2011


I saw Thor yesterday evening.
This means that I did not watch Doctor Who, which is obviously very bad of me as the ratings are supposedly spiraling ever downwards. Of course I haven't actually had a TV panel box in over a year, so I'm well aware that what I watch doesn't actually count towards viewing figures anymore.
Unless I use Catch Up or On Demand or iPlayer, so I guess missing it on regular TV works out fine after all.

Thor combines magic and myth with (film) science. It's technically full of aliens and advanced tech, but it's all mythical and mystical. This is fine by me, I enjoy science fantasy. That's sci-fi with mythology, mysticalness and a sensawunda that feels fantastical. I read mostly fantasy, I watch a fair bit of sci-fi, if done well science fantasy can be the best of both.
Thor does it pretty well, largely due to the visual effects, which are nicely done. The first shots of Asgard, zooming through the lovely buildings to the central palace, are like a ramped up Rivendell. It's all more showy than Elrond's elf colony, but it's got that sense of a supernatural utopia full of beauty and luxury.
The Bifrost is also very well done. Rather than being literally a rainbow bridge people can walk across, it's shown as a magical/technological device that shoots people to other worlds, like a stargate with a less comfortable landing. The rainbow part is represented by the walkway, which constantly shimmers different colours. Even though it looks very plastic, like a bridge built of glowy perspex blocks, I still found it was an impressive sight.

Being a superhero film Thor combines science fantasy with a fair bit of action. There are plenty of fights against different enemies in different settings, so it still feels superhero-y even though the hero is different to the humans-with-extras that Marvel has sent to the screen so far.
The obligatory origin story is also an unusual one, being necessarily tied to existing mythology. I was impressed that there was no hiding/simplifying of difficult or odd-sounding words, like mjolnir and yggdrasil. Possibly I had set my expectations a little low here, as it turned out it was quite useful as I think I've been mispronouncing them in my head for a while. Relevant parts of the mythology (as convenient for comics/films) are explained, but the film is thankfully not exposition heavy.

There were some good funny moments. Mostly fish outta water laughs as Asgardian manners and princely superiority meet the modern world. It reminded me of the post-Ragnarok Thor comic book, where Asgard manifests in the desert near an American midwestern town, and the residents of both tentatively get to know their new neighbours.

The characters seemed mostly well done, even if they fall very neatly into superhero film roles, and I didn't expect any different. Personally I think Thor is better with a beard, he looks more rugged and manly than the clean-shaven comic book version who looks like he stepped onto the age from a L'Oreal ad. The portrayal of the thunder god as a spoiled, bullish prince is well done. Thor's change in character, to a person truly worthy of his powers, does not come in one moment or due to one act, it is a more subtle shifting of attitude and perception as Thor spends time among humans.

Loki is a bit of a puzzle. At first he seems reasonable and practical, but we all know there's more going on there. It's seems odd to me that the Earthly legends of the Asgardians have Loki's number, yet no one on Asgard seems aware of it. Where Thor is arrogant Loki is conniving, but his goals and plans seem muddled. There's sibling rivalry and Daddy issues aplenty in the royal family, which probably says something about Odin too. Loki's grab for power seems somewhat half-hearted, based on feelings of inadequacy and dislike of father-figures. He keeps his father and brother out of the way, but isn't ruthless enough to kill them himself, and his feelings towards Asgard and Jotunheim seem confused.

Natalie Portman is convincing as Jane Foster, astrophysicist. She's not just a pretty face in a lab coat (as female scientists can be in film and TV), in fact she never wears a lab coat. She's a woman who lives in a trailer in small town in the desert and spends her time with a sarcastic and uninterested research assistant, just to prove her theories. Her equipment, much of it self-made, and her notes are basically her entire life. We might not see Jane science things up much, but her passion is clear. Less clear are her feelings for Thor, the romance between them is very understated and I think neither Jane or Thor are quite aware of it until the end.

At the end of the film it became clear that myself and the people I was watching with were the geeky ones (even without one of our group having it written on his T-shirt). Everyone else in the screen filed out during the incredibly long credits but we faithfully waited to see yet another teaser for the eventual Avengers film.* Admittely I didn't recognise the dommy mcguffin, and had to get my Marvel expert to explain it.

One of the warriors 3 (or 4, does the female one count or not?) looks very much like Oliver Queen. Just give him a bigger moustache, a green outfit and some arrows.
The compound the feds built around the Hammer crater looks like a human-sized hamster run. I'm not sure what the purpose of it was, possibly it just kept the agents busy when they wanted some cheese.

Overall it was an enjoyable film with all the fun and fighting we've come to expect from Marvel films.

* Some of us needed the loo and could have done with shorter credits, but still we waited. I was quite amused to see the name Jor-El Morales roll across the screen. I don't know what he specifically does, but he's working in the right industry -even if not the right universe.


  1. 1) Yes she does count as a warrior. She said as much herself in one of her early scenes.

    2) Don't worry, Doctor Who's ratings aren't "spiralling ever downwards". The papers (and at least one idiot reporter on the BBC news website) are making that up. A third of the ratings are coming in from "time-shifted" viewing now (video'd or iPlayer-ed within a week of broadcast), but the audience share is still 30% of all viewers for that time slot, and the final ratings for the season opener beat several episodes of Eastenders and Corrie (which dominate the upper ratings chart).

  2. I know about Doctor Who's ratings, I was being sarcastic. It's well-known the newspaper in question doesn't like the BBC and that the overall ratings were excellent.
    Obviously the sarcasm didn't come across very well.