I find myself in the unenviable position of having to defend you as a movie worth seeing, even though I find myself unable to deny your myriad flaws. You are by no means a failure of moviemaking, and in truth I found a great many of your qualities to be fun and exciting. There is, however, a pretty glaring truth at the core of you, and it is that truth that keeps me from being able to wholeheartedly endorse you.
You see, Thor, I can’t help but feel as though coming up in the shadow of the prodigal Avengers movie has stunted your growth. Time and energy that could have been expended on storytelling relevant to your own self is instead wasted on dropping clues related to the nature of your foregone-conclusion of a big brother. You are forced into making sacrifices as a narrative that cripple you irrevocably as a film.
I should stress, though, that you are a perfectly serviceable movie in terms of entertainment and spectacle. Yes you strain under the weight of your pseudo-prequel status, but your original, self-contained components work well. However, we are living in a post-Dark Knight world, and in this world I don’t think I am out of line in expecting a bit more care and effort put into crafting a sturdy, stand-alone story even out of a film ostensibly part of a larger whole.
All of your over-extension comes as even more of a disappointment because it follows a frankly stellar first act in which we are filled in on the back story of your pantheon of celestial supermen. The struggle between the gods of Asgard and the menacing Frost Giants is sweeping, dramatic and excitingly novel in the world of super hero films. The Shakespearean politicking that goes on following a sneak attack by these creatures also lends a sort of grand dramatic force to your narrative.
All of this culminates in the banishing of Thor, god of thunder and heir to the throne of Asgard. He is stripped of his immortality and power and sent to earth, where his father Odin hopes he will learn humility and patience and once again be able to wield his mighty weapon, the hammer Mjonir.
All of this could have lead to a stirring and emotional journey for the hotheaded warrior. However, this potential is sabotaged by the jarring dissonance between tones in Asgard and on earth. On Asgard, everything is bombast and inter-realm power struggles, while on earth everything is light romantic comedy and simple morality tales related to using power wisely and valuing peace. The gravity of the Asgard moments is completely undermined by the simplistic and juvenile tone of the earth moments.
It is as though you took two different movies, and intercut them with one another, allowing a specific character to walk between the two without every truly bridging the films emotionally. This lack of cohesion is made all the more glaring because the characters on earth have no stake in the fight between the Frost Giants and Asgard except for their unfounded allegiance to Thor.
At first, the plucky gang of scientists thinks that Thor is a madman who they just happened to find in the desert. Then, without any reason for logic behind her decision, the lead female suddenly decides she is on Thor’s side, and helps him attempt to regain his hammer so that he might prove himself worthy to return home. There is never any real emotional grounding for her decisions, or for their burgeoning love. As Thor’s redemption comes as a result of this romance, this basically destroys your entire emotional and narrative arc. Even more irritating is that Thor seems to change almost the moment he lands on earth, robbing us of even the emotional journey from A to B.
This all culminates in your most damning flaw, which is that almost everything that occurs on earth feels absolutely perfunctory. The battle between Asgard and the Giants seemed to have no affect on the way things operate on earth, and Asgard treats earth like a vacation home long abandoned. Thor doesn’t do anything to distinguish himself as a hero of earth, save for defeating something that was only a threat because it came to earth to find him.
When the audience surrogate in a film feels like a waste of time and effort, you know you have done something wrong. Again, though, it was necessary to help set up your continued continuity in the world of the Avengers. You become, in this way, the victim of a kind of filmic fratricide that I fear will plague all the other Marvel Universe films coming out this year.
This is a shame, though, because you do evince some good humor in these earthbound scenes, and had you mixed that with a more emotionally detailed and consequential narrative this section of your story may not have dragged as much. Your two leads imbue their characters with charm and charisma, and your villain is one of the more malevolent and cunning in a super hero movie, and yet all of this goes to waste in the name of servicing the franchise rather than the story at hand.
As it stands, I can’t help but get the feeling that this is what would happen if a fantasy action film and a silly romantic comedy got smashed together until one character happened to fall from one to the other. Neither film benefits from the collision and as a result and both must suffer as a whole. You are a flawed but fun movie, I just wish you’d been allowed to reach your full, autonomous potential.
With understanding and regret,
Brian J. Roan
On a purely personal aesthetic note, it would not have hurt for your director of photography to have been given a bubble level at some point. You had an astounding number of tilted shots, and while I am sure they were done purposefully, with some kind of stylistic intent, they added nothing to the film, and through their superfluousness became quite an added distraction.