So, this past weekend we went to see Thor–the movie, that is. We put off seeing it just about as long as we possibly could, until it was in the local $2 bargain theatre and before long seeing it on the big screen wasn’t going to be an option anymore. We considered not going to see it at all (since our chances of being pissed off by it were about equal to our chances of being amused), but in the end our need to see Anthony Hopkins as Odin won out, and off we went.
Unexpectedly, Anthony Hopkins was the movie’s biggest disappointment for me, since he’s an actor I admire and I’ve been looking forward to seeing him take on the role since early this year. Yet, he didn’t seem to take the part seriously enough. Okay, I know it’s only a Marvel Comics movie, but still, how many people ever have the chance to play Odin? Odin, people. But instead of digging into the complexity offered by such a role, Hopkins seems to have contented himself with playing Odin playing…Anthony Hopkins. It’s a sad occurrence I’ve noticed before with big-name actors, that as they age they sometimes settle into relying on their innate charisma to carry the role. There are many roles for which this trick works just fine, but Odin is never going to be one of them; after all, what human actor is going to have enough charisma to measure up, without putting at least some work into it?
The other surprise is that we enjoyed the move much, much more than we expected to, and in fact probably giggled enough throughout it to thoroughly annoy our fellow theatre-goers. It helped that we went into it determined not to take it seriously. I’ve never actually read the Marvel Comics Thor series, but I knew enough about it to expect the mechanized, high-tech Asgard, the screwed-up family relationships (Thor and Loki are brothers, and Thor and Sif are not married–not in the movie, anyway), and the silly helmets. It didn’t even bother me a whole lot that Heimdall, the White God, was…well, black, or that Laufey was a guy.
What I was not expecting is that some of the other performances (besides Hopkins’) were pretty decent. Chris Hemsworth as Thor was suitably charming and jovial (see what I did right there?), with a hail-fellow-well-met attitude and dazzling grin that even won over the (human) antagonists in the story. (As a nice bonus, with his reddish blond chiseled good looks he strikingly resembled a young Odin.) Natalie Portman as Thor’s mortal romantic interest Jane Foster and Stellan Skarsgard as her research partner were also quite good. (In one of my favorites scenes, Thor carries Erik, the research partner, home after an evening at a bar. When Jane asks what happened, Thor responds cheerfully, “We drank, we fought, he made his ancestors proud.” This actually made me homesick for other heathens and the large blots we used to go to back east, with 30-50 people hailing the gods under the stars and then passing the drinking horn until late into the night. Sigh. Ah, my peoples.)
The most impressive performance by far, however, was that of Tom Hiddleston as Loki. Quiet, self-possessed and eminently reasonable, the perfect opposite to Thor’s blond brashness, Loki ostensibly acts as Thor’s conscience during the first part of the movie, projecting helpful innocence that the trusting Thor drinks up…while we, of course, know all along that he’s just leading his hapless “brother” deeper and deeper into trouble. As the movie progresses, we see Loki’s objectives and rationale unfold like an onion, revealing ever more complex layers right up until the end. This is exactly the sort of work that’s called for in the portrayal of a god–even the Marvel Comics version of one; Hiddleston seems to have appreciated what he was taking on here, and to have made a genuine effort to give the role its due.
Oh, and the black White God, Heimdall? With his giant-like stature and leonine golden eyes, Idris Elba as Heimdall was actually perfect, portraying a very convincing and apt blend of formidable ferocity and even more fomidable loyalty.
So, all in all? True-to-the-lore Thor is not (although, who could have really been expecting that?), but it is good fun, with plenty of laughs and some surprisingly spot-on performances. If it’s still playing in a bargain theatre near you, it’s worth the trip.