Here is a film whose sum of its parts is greater than itself in its entirety. Mass defect and E equals M.C. square for the atomic and nuclear physics student.
I mean more than just the fact that some scenes stand out more than others. There are numerous great scenes in this film, really. Scenes of action, of character development, of comedy are all handled extremely well, in no small part thanks to the actors, who form a truly dedicated – if not talented – cast. I’m not saying they are not talented. Natalie Portman, winner of the Best Actress Oscar for her role in Black Swan, certainly has a remarkable resume and has more than proved her capabilities as an actress. Chris Hemsworth brings Thor to life, and plays his role with so much eagerness that the effort behind his acting is not difficult to see. The supporting cast all do a great job: Anthony Hopkins, as Odin, is regal, commanding, intimidating and draws one’s respect all at the same time. Tom Hiddleston, as Loki- well, let’s go to that one later.
Yet the script lets them down. This is best summed up in this quote taken from Screen Rant’s review of Thor:
Natalie Portman didn’t really have a lot to do here and seemed like she could have been played by most any attractive young thirty-something actress – nothing really of note in her performance. Then again, she really wasn’t given much to do.
The characters are flat, though interestingly, in this movie, it is not the incapabilities of the actors to match up to their characters but the inability of the script to catch up with the actors. The cast inject life into their characters, but the script dictates that these characters are defined more by what they do rather than by who they are. Jane is an astrophysicist. She chases storms. She knocks down Thor. She does what any person would then do: bring him to a hospital. She talks like any other person. Oh, except that she is an astrophysicist – certainly not a mainstream line of work. Wait, have I mentioned that already? See what I mean? Thor himself, as I always say, is the flattest superhero in The Avengers. That Iron Man is full of personality is an irrelevant statement. The Hulk: interesting past, unenvied superpowers, tormented superhero. Captain America: courageous, patriotic, and an interesting character when put beside Thor, despite my earlier review of Captain America. Black Widow, as portrayed in The Avengers, not Iron Man 2 (not that I remember…): Loki scene, check. Hawkeye: oh well- there is always the theme below. But to Chris Hemsworth’s credit, he makes Thor’s character arc stand out and the arrogant god journeys to become worthy.
The pacing is certainly less off than in Iron Man 2. Thor keeps the viewer entertained throughout, whether by the frankly rather great action sequences or the moments of humour, such that you find you just can’t look away from the screen. Characters make some rather interesting statements here and there: when Thor asks Sif to live so she could tell her stories herself rather than die a warrior’s death, I swear false movie bravado and cheesy last words uttered by warriors in films just took a slap in the face. Good one, there! The graphics are great, especially that of Asgard, and the Asgardian realm is presented in a noble glory that looks and feels real, from the armour and robes to the spires and towers and, yes, to the rainbow bridge (as Screen Rant puts it, “you try making a rainbow bridge real”).
Where the movie disappoints is in the editing, specifically the stitching together of the scenes. For a feature-length film, and for a film whose pacing is handled so deftly, Thor feels surprisingly short, despite a run time of over 110 minutes. Transitions are shaky and disjointed. So what we get is a movie whose individual scenes stand out, but where there seems to be no continuous story or character arc- in other words, a movie that could have so much more. Thor’s journey to worthiness, for instance, is a tad short, and unbelievable in that it consistently seems to jump steps – not so much in the sense of an arrogant character suddenly becoming Mr. Humble Nice Guy at the end, but in that Thor grows steadily less arrogant in a way that can be quantified, and it’s no good news when emotions can be measured in units. Difficult to explain, and I don’t mean too little subtlety either (gosh. Subtlety would have killed his very character.); I mean the trajectory of his character development is staggered like a staircase rather than continuous like a slope. His romance with Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster is convincing only because of the acting, and in all honesty, really not that convincing after all. Again, not due to lack of romantic buildup, but because of the disjointed nature of the film.
And here is where I come to the character most underserved by the disjointed editing: Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, who was, for me, the standout character from the movie. I must confess that I went to search up his scenes on YouTube (even before watching the film), and from there was directed to deleted footage of him, where I was in turn directed to deleted footage, in general. And I must say, how much more sense the movie would have made had those scenes been retained. In the theatrical version, Loki shows hints of being the rare sympathetic villain, but ends up looking more like an inconsistent character instead. His motives, and his tortured state of mind and the circumstances leading up to those decisions, are murky at best, and jumps all over the place at worst. There is so much promise in this character. He is of course shaken by the concocted lies that he has grown up with, but handles the big revelation with surprisingly sharp and original observations (questioning why he was adopted, when Odin already had an heir), just the right balance of devastation and anger, and perfectly logical responses. I’ve always wanted to shout at those characters on Singaporean Chinese dramas who think it is the end of the world and hate on the parents who brought them up when they find out who their true biological parents are- well, I’ve always wanted to scream this at them: “At least your father didn’t cut your hand off before he acknowledged you!”. I feel none of that compulsion here, because the scene is so well-set-up, and well-played (and besides, who could bear to shout at such a sad Tom Hiddleston?). And later, when Loki tricks Laufey into Odin’s chamber just to murder the Frost Giant, he makes a decision there that’s rather unconventional for most traditional villains in his place: he chooses to destroy his past, his true heritage, so as to fit into his adopted one and the one has grown up with. In other words, a more realistic villain. Such scenes make you empathise with his character so much: there is a ruthless power play here, but he loves his family, and is torn in two about his brother (thought it’d be interesting to mention that this is highlighted in The Avengers, where Loki asks Thor “Did you mourn?” and restrains from killing his brother).
Ultimately though, this was a fantastic popcorn entertainment, with considerable effort invested, and some thoughtful themes and delicious characters populating the screen.
Would it be worth mentioning also that I cut a video composed entirely of Loki’s scenes?
Rating on Rotten Tomatoes: 77%
Rating on IMDb: 7
Viewing history: Seen 1x. Online
*If you haven’t already seen these, check out Mondo’s poster for Thor. They’re absolutely gorgeous, to say the least.