Review by Ed Sizemore
In an attempt to answer my question, Ed was kind enough to write up his thoughts on Thor.
At its core, the new Thor movie is similar to the first Iron Man movie. It’s a transformation film where we watch Thor go from being arrogant, selfish, and warlike to someone who is ready to learn what it takes to be a true leader of gods and humans. The problem is that the framing story threatens to overwhelm this emotional center.
Thor is a very plot-heavy film, and an attempt to even summarize the events would take several pages. So here is a bare bones outline. Thor breaks the peace with the Frost Giants against the express command of his father, Odin. Infuriated, Odin strips Thor of his power and his hammer, Mjolnir. They are both banished to Earth.
On Earth, Thor meets and becomes attracted to Jane Foster, an astrophysicist. Thor’s brother, Loki, lies and tells Thor that Odin overtaxed himself when he banished Thor and has died as a result. Thor is devastated and begins some soul searching. Thor’s friends come and expose Loki’s lies.
Thor and friends return to Asgard. They stop Loki’s schemes. However, to do so, Thor must make a great sacrifice.
The main flaw in the film is that the events on Earth are meant to be the heart of the story. This is where the character transformation happens. This is where we learn to like and are able to relate to Thor. The problem is this second act feels like a side story distracting us from the important events happening in Asgard. It’s not hard to re-imagine this movie with Thor staying in Asgard and learning the same lessons.
Thor’s transformation feels unearned. Within the course of 48 hours, Thor has learned humility and has become a more empathetic man. This makes Thor a very fast learner. The first act suggests otherwise, and so undercuts the emotional sincerity of the second act. By contrast, in Iron Man, Stark spends three months in an Afghanistan cave learning to be a better man.
I actually think the Avengers cartoon, currently running on Disney XD, has a better setup for Thor’s transformation than the movie. In the cartoon, Jane Foster is a paramedic, and Thor is taken aback by her heroism. She has no powers or special weapons, but she isn’t scared to go get injured people while superheroes and supervillains are duking it out. She gets Thor to rethink what it means to be a hero. That setup would have been perfect for this movie, too.
For me, the key to enjoying this film is Chris Hemsworth’s performance as Thor. Granted, Thor is arrogant, self-absorbed, a braggart, and war-loving. However, he is also honest, sincere, and loyal. It’s this lack of malevolence that makes Thor sympathetic. Even when he runs off to start a war with the Frost Giants, it’s because he sincerely (and mistakenly) believes the gods have been wronged.
In the end, Thor is an enjoyable film. The plot moves quickly and doesn’t allow the audience any time to get bored. The costume designers did a great job bringing to life the Asgardian gods. There’s a nice blend of humor, action, and drama. While Thor has its flaws, you’ll have a good time.