Chris Hemsworth | Film | Natalie Portman | Nathaniel Rogers | Superheroes

Movies: Thor and His Hammer

Hemsworth & Hammer.

...would live in the movie theater but for the poor internet reception. He blogs daily at the Film Experience. Follow him on Twitter @nathanielr.

It's not every day you drive right into a golden god while cruising around New Mexico's deserts.  But that's just what happens to Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) as THOR begins. She's chasing a thermo-magnetic storm (or some such) and a larger Einstein-Rosen Bridge / Wormhole type theory just at the precise moment that Thor (Chris Hemsworth), the arrogant god of thunder, is cast out of his home and exiled to Earth. She's torn between collecting soil samples and taking the muscle man to a hospital. Her humanity wins out, setting off Thor's awkward, humbling and often comic journey towards earning back his hammer-wielding mightiness.

"The Hammer is my penis."
-Captain Hammer in Dr. Horrible's Sing-a-long Blog

Thorbody "Where did he come from?" Jane Foster and her team keep asking about this hunky arrogant delusional homeless man. His magic hammer also drops from the sky forcing others to ask the same question. The hammer is the source of his power but he's no longer able to swing it. He's frustratingly mortal all of a sudden. Once the mighty hammer is in the picture, and every man in driving range wants to prove himself man enough to swing it, the men from S.H.I.E.L.D. also show up to ask questions. Their agenda is less honorable than Jane's. They're here to remind you about the Iron Man movies and about other Marvel Movies heading into multiplexes soon.

So where did he come from? The answer is Asgard.

Turns out the Mythological Norse gods are real (Points for the Scandinavians!). They live in a golden castle near a rainbow bridge. Let's just say it's a spectacle, and that's always the point of $200 million dollar budgets, yes?.

The All Father Odin (Anthony Hopkins, who else?) had to exile his beloved son Thor due to his hot temper and war-mongering. The Thunder God had just reopened old war wounds between the Frost Giants of Jotunheim and the Gods. These all powerful foes haven't been at war since their last skirmish in Tønsberg Norway, millenia ago.

Perhaps understanding that this particular superhero is the odd man out in the overpopulated Marvel Universe, director Kenneth Branagh (chosen for his Shakespearean gravitas?) brings much campy pomp to the proceedings from the director's chair.

More Thor, AFTER THE JUMP...

The intentional humor and boisterous filmmaking save the film which would otherwise be laughable for the wrong reasons.

The performances help, too. Hemsworth makes a fine Thor, a bit remote maybe but appropriately self-possessed given the character at hand and capable of charm. He's also good at the film's intentionally played comedy at Thor's expense. There's even a joke about steroids, in case staring at this super body makes the audience feel too jealous and mortal puny. The situational and physical humor almost always work, though Kat Denning's scientist sidekick is saddled with a few dud "jokes". Tom Hiddleston even manages to make some small sense of the ostensible villain Loki (Thor's brother) which is a feat since the screenplay hasn't even begun to decide how evil, ambitious, angry, hurt, morally confused or mischievous Loki is.


The action scenes are, on the other hand, disappointing. They're under-imagined and occassionally incomprehensible, even while they're easy to enjoy on a moment to moment or aural level (each magic weapon has its own obviously distinct "voice"). The battle on the rainbow bridge may be the worst offender in terms of "what just happened again?" as it reaches the film's climax.

But back to Thor, the man god. He's such a fish-out-of-water as superheroes go, that the question keeps nagging even after it's answered. "Where did he come from?"

The larger answer is the Marvel Universe. Marvel has been a comics powerhouse for many decades but their long term movie plan is modeled not on Asgard but on another magical kingdom, Disney. In the place of princesses we have superheroes, which are happily just as marketable. The key difference, beyond gender, may just be in storytelling. As Marvel grows their movieverse they seem perilously oblivious to the fact that movies, save for rare beasts like Harry Potter, need to be stand alone enchantments. 

With each new Marvel movie, and its cumbersome connections to the last and next (Jane Foster is the lead scientist here but her achievements are downplayed in the post-credits tag, which surely has more to do with contractual actor price tags than narrative logic)  the movies seem less and less like movies and more and more like introductory chapters to a movie that hasn't even started yet. This may work in the short term but how can it possible pay off in the long term?

After so many introductory chapters, Joss Whedon's currently filming The Avengers (2012), which will unite Hulk, Iron Man, Thor and Captain America, would have to be seven hours long to feel like enough of a middle and an end for all of these beginnings. All of this prep work for a team movie has the unintended effect of making each would be blockbuster feel like disposable bloated chapter in some old pulpy movie serial. (Netflix Instant Watch Alert: Flash Gordon is available and its both hilariously dated cheese and timelessly hunky beefcake: Hello Buster Crabbe!)


If you are planning to see Thor this weekend, see it in 2D. Like most 3D conversions the image is too dark and intermittently off-putting. Hollywood remains determined to make 3D the future of film but so far it only looks sensational in animated films or Avatar (same thing?). Though this technology is meant to add depth, fully immersing you in the imagery, it continues to have the ironic effect of making epic environments feel like tiny dioramas instead; you're NOT inside them, you're a god peering down into them. With that gaudy rainbow bridge as a set fixture, seeing Thor in 3D is a bit like playing with superhero dolls in dimly lit rooms, your floors strewn with glitter. Not that you've ever experienced such a thing.

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  1. Thanks for the skip the 3-D warning- and yes Buster Crabbe is a timeless sci-fi hunk in the original "Flash Gordon"

    Posted by: jaragon | May 6, 2011 5:44:45 PM

  2. Nicely written!

    Posted by: Timothy | May 6, 2011 5:44:59 PM

  3. I echo Timothy's statement that this was better written as a review than most of what I've read from "Top Critics" on Rottentomatoes.

    I definitely will skip the 3D, as I find that it adds little to the experience other than a headache and a lighter wallet afterwards. Though seeing Thor with his shirt off in 3D is kind of tempting. . .

    Posted by: Austin | May 6, 2011 6:27:34 PM

  4. I have never subscribed to the notion that beefcake is gay-friendly. Most movies that have beefcake - such as Thor - are distinctly NOT gay-friendly. As such, they don't really serve the GLBT cause.

    I refuse to give my money to Hollywood, one of the most homophobic institutions in America.

    Posted by: brian | May 6, 2011 6:31:15 PM

  5. Just saw it in 2D this afternoon and really enjoyed it as the escapist fare that it is. The humorous moments were well played and the action satisfying. I missed the post-credit tag but I should have guessed as they are becoming an annoying blockbuster cliche.

    Posted by: jrex | May 6, 2011 6:50:14 PM

  6. The dude is hot, but the movie just looks dull.

    Posted by: Max | May 6, 2011 6:52:32 PM

  7. I agree and disagree with Brian. It is true that just because a movie has beefcake doesn't mean that its gay friendly. However, Thor was in no way anti-gay or unfriendly to gays. However however, its hard to not see the homo eroticism in super hero comics, including their movie counterparts.

    Heres to hoping for Kate Kane Batwoman movie. Or a Midnighter film.

    Posted by: Robert | May 6, 2011 6:58:05 PM

  8. @Brian. I was unaware that a movie about a Norse god exiled on Earth needed to serve the LGBT cause. Thank you!

    Posted by: tranquilo | May 6, 2011 7:41:39 PM

  9. Saw it yesterday. It was a LOT better than I expected. See it for yourself.

    Posted by: Rodney Wollam | May 6, 2011 7:49:56 PM

  10. I just saw THOR today and had a great time! Chris Hemsworth is definitely hunky as Thor but is also refreshingly capable as an actor. Kenneth Branagh's direction is clearly influenced by his Shakespearean background and it shows in the actors, especially their use of language. Tom Hiddleston is also very good as "Loki" Thor's evil brother. Go for fun!

    Posted by: james Brown | May 6, 2011 8:06:59 PM

  11. Keep in mind that movies such as Thor are the product of people who pander. They are pandering to certain focus groups - usually, straight, male and not particularly gay-friendly. The movie is DESIGNED to be like this. It is designed by people in board rooms who are usually not very gay-friendly in their attitudes to gay people in general.

    That's why the super-hero is always 100% straight and there's always a woman as the object of his desires. It is DESIGNED to be like this by the people who made the movie.

    Going back to the beefcake notion, let's not fool ourselves with this idea that every movie that contains beefcake is serving the GLBT cause. It isn't.

    Posted by: brian | May 6, 2011 8:12:19 PM

  12. @Brian Comics (and their movies) focus may be rather heteronormic, but they are often times far from homophobic. That isn't always the case, obviously, but Marvel and DC comics have much a much greater effort to be gay friendly than Hollywood ever has.

    Posted by: Scott | May 6, 2011 9:46:45 PM

  13. I doubt this movie has any anti-gay agenda,it's more of a marketable things, I guess. like how pixar pretty much always has the main character be male. It's not so much hollywood's fault, they're just giving what the public wants and what we're responding to the most.

    Posted by: Poppy | May 6, 2011 9:56:32 PM

  14. This movie is awesome. I was kinda dragged into it not expecting anything but it's super entertaining, not too silly and looks spectacular.

    And no, there is nothing anti-gay in this movie. Well, maybe if you count the "princess" taunt against Thor. Ah - no, not anti-gay, more like pointing out the silliness of macho-macho.

    Posted by: galore | May 6, 2011 11:19:45 PM

  15. Im going to stop coming to this site if the bottom pop ups dont cease

    Posted by: steven elliot | May 7, 2011 12:55:55 AM

  16. God is he hot. Given the role he plays, is that a pun?

    And, yes, I will be seeing this. It looks like it has the right amount of fun for me, and the reviews have been very solid...

    Posted by: Ryan | May 7, 2011 2:24:56 AM

  17. PS. Just read most of the comments. What are you people smoking? There doesn't seem to be anything anti-gay about this movie, and none of the people surrounding this movie have anything close to resembling a checkered past on the subject. What gives?

    I agree that it would be nice if there were more movies out there with well-received gay characters in them, and I firmly believe that's coming given where TV is today versus even 5 years ago, but just because Thor's into Portman's "Jane" rather than Loki doesn't mean it's somehow anti-gay. Sheesh. Let's grow up -- and, if anything, put the onus on Marvel to write some more gay characters into its comic universe so they can make good movies abut them.

    Posted by: Ryan | May 7, 2011 2:30:18 AM

  18. If Thor were into Loki, this would be a very different movie. At least until it's discovered his true lineage ...
    Now, if Thor were into that blond sidekick of his .. that's a movie!

    Posted by: Rodney Wollam | May 7, 2011 3:29:49 AM

  19. Some people on here are really uptight. Personally i found nothing homophobic in this film. Usually when Hollywood tries to be homo-friendly they just resort to mincing queens, thinking that is what we all are and want.

    The film was silly, but very entertaining. Hemsworth really dominated the film, he was totally relaxed in the role. I thought he was hotter in Star trek, but that body is drool worthy.

    Posted by: Rovex | May 7, 2011 3:33:10 AM

  20. The X-Men movies were nothing BUT a metaphor for gay equality.

    I don't go see a movie based on whether it's "gay enough." I can't even imagine thinking like that! It boggles my mind how people can be so insular at times.

    Posted by: Justin | May 7, 2011 12:13:23 PM

  21. "Thor" is a comic book action movie not a gay epic- I never thought of Thor as gay even if in the original Norse legends he does pretend to be a bride in order to slay the enemies. These movies are eye candy and Hensworth's masculine beauty is part of the enjoyment.

    Posted by: jaragon | May 7, 2011 12:45:26 PM

  22. I liked it, though Hemsworth is way too overdressed in most of it. He needed to show more skin. It's fun to watch, and the art deco scenery in Asgard is as gay as it gets.

    Posted by: romeo | May 7, 2011 2:44:57 PM

  23. A fun romp. Saw it tonight in 3D, had a full house, enjoyed it. Asgard looked like a gold-spray-paint version of the Emerald City, though.

    Posted by: Raybob | May 8, 2011 12:24:59 AM

  24. Just saw it. It's a pretty good adaptation of the comic book, and although hairless blondes are not my thing.... Oooowwwwoooooo!!!!! (Translation: Chris Hemsworth looked really good). Oh, sorry, shallowness there. Good visuals, all sorts of eye candy, good humor and just generally all 'round enjoyable. This isn't art, folks, it's just a great Saturday-afternoon-with-popcorn movie. Sit back, don't think too deeply, and enjoy it.

    Posted by: Justin L Werner | May 8, 2011 2:13:28 AM

  25. Please tell me Betty White is in this too...

    Posted by: Bill Michael | May 8, 2011 2:41:45 AM

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