(Image from IMDb)
I interrupt your previously scheduled entry, the second half of my discussion of Stephen Hawking’s episode of Curiosity, to bring you a post about Kenneth Branagh’s movie, Thor. I have never read the graphic novel that the movie is based on, so I cannot say what aspects of the story and characters are in the original story and what was created just for the movie. However, the story of Thor stands out amongst its fellow Marvel superheroes for its charm and depth, which I attribute to the mythology upon which it is originally based.
Surprisingly, for a story that is not supposed to be related to Norse mythology in any way other than using it as a source of characters and places, it does a good job maintaining some of the appropriate characteristics of the more important characters that it uses. Odin is still the wise All-father who may seem a little cruel and stands in opposition to the brash physicality of Thor, his son. Loki, although here raised as Odin’s son instead of his bonded brother, is still a trickster, the son of giants, who is essentially neither good nor evil in the strictest sense, despite how Thor’s companions wish to portray him.
Of course, since the story bears no real resemblance to Norse mythology, the characters are updated to fit into a modern world and sense of heroism. Thor actually learns to see beyond his limited sense of self and image of the world and eventually begins to understand some of the reasoning behind Odin’s actions. By the end of the movie, Thor proves himself to be a well-rounded leader, as one would expect from this type of hero film.
As in most movies based on mythology, whatever it may be, there are a few questionable character choices and decisions that I will never understand. Why maintain the lady Sif as one of Thor’s companions, since she is his wife in Norse mythology, while creating three brand new characters as his warrior friends instead of using his other known companions, such as Thjalfi and Roskva? And why on earth does Asgard look like a pipe organ? I cannot take it very seriously and I really cannot take Loki or Heimdall seriously either, with their utterly ridiculous helmets. Loki in particular looks more like an insect than anything and it just makes me want to laugh in his face. Again, I assume these are all aspects of the original graphic novel and thus do not need to make any sense from a mythological standpoint, but I cannot help but wonder.
Overall, the movie is not a particularly magnificent piece of storytelling. Very little actually seems to happen and is almost entirely predictable from start to finish for anyone familiar with hero tales. While, as mentioned previously, I do like their treatment of Loki, keeping his character ambiguous rather than evil, I think there could have been more of his development as well as Thor’s. I understand that Thor is the primary hero, but I have always found Loki to be much more interesting and would have liked to see more happen with both Loki and Odin. This film serves its purpose well as the introduction of the hero Thor for use in the upcoming movie The Avengers, but does not seem to have that much merit on its own. This does not mean, of course, that it is not an enjoyable movie, because it is still cute and humorous in its own way, but I expected a bit more from director Kenneth Branagh. On the whole though, Thor is a fun movie that does much better than most in keeping the spirit of the mythology upon which it is based.
For an introduction to Norse mythology and many of the characters mentioned in the movie, please refer to the following.
Sturluson, Snorri. (2005). The Prose Edda. (J. L. Byock, Trans.). London: Penguin Classics.