By Heather Havrilesky firstname.lastname@example.org
Thor: The big, the blonde and the arrogant
Arrogance is bad. Arrogance is particularly bad when you have super-human strength and a hammer that flies around knocking off the heads of evil ice giants at your beckoning. And if you’re a big, flaxen-haired Adonis who loves to fight and is about to inherit the throne of the glorious kingdom of Asgard, arrogance is downright unacceptable. Powerful, good-looking people in charge of wealthy planets (or nation-states, or hit sitcoms, or start-up religions) should never be arrogant. A whole herd of bad examples – from The Donald to Charlie Sheen to Tom Cruise to Barney the Dinosaur – have already taught us that Big, Important Lesson.
But every superhero blockbuster must have its moral, so here’s Thor‘s Anthony Hopkins (as King Odin, Thor’s father) schooling us on the costs of arrogance once again. Hopkins has played the hot-tempered but sage patriarch so many times he really must sigh and roll his eyes whenever he comes to the scene where his character’s thoughtful lessons (“A wise king never seeks out war, but he must always be ready for it!”) are replaced by outraged bellowing. Still, Hopkins gamely retreads old ground, donning funny-looking royal hats and pointing jewel-encrusted royal scepters at his smug blonde son, who looks like he just got back from performing lap dances at a Chippendale’s “Norse God Fantasy”-themed bridal shower.
Sadly, instead of having twenties tucked into his man-panties, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) was just out breaking skulls on Jotunheim, home of the aforementioned blue ice giants. Although his slender, haunted-looking brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) warned him not to pick fights (“You know not what your actions will unleash!”), Thor didn’t listen. Or rather, he listened at first, then one of the blue guys jeered, “Run back home, little princess!” And Thor took offense. Because, fine, maybe he does wear his blonde hair all long and loose and pretty, and maybe he does favor a flowing red velvet cape not unlike those embraced by a number of Disney princesses. But that doesn’t mean he’s a girl, damn it!
As if to emphasize this point, King Odin tells Thor, “You are a vain, greedy, cruel boy!” Instead of naming his son the new king as planned, Odin sends Thor down to our scrappy blue marble, where life will surely be much more humbling for him. After all, who likes cocky blonde men with perfect abs on planet Earth?
Lucky for Thor, he doesn’t land in the middle of the Amazon or a Mumbai ghetto or a World Wide Wrestling Federation ring. Instead, he’s tossed into the hinterlands of New Mexico, where a gorgeous astrophysicist with incredibly long eyelashes immediately finds him. Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) is out trolling the desert with her older mentor (Stellan Skarsgard) and her snarky female assistant (Kat Dennings), gathering information about some mysterious cloudburst that’s been occurring in the area.
Like most astrophysicists, Jane lives in a stylish, round building surrounded by big windows that lies in the center of an idyllic 4-block-wide New Mexico town, the likes of which might inspire those passing through to exclaim, “My god, this place is just like a movie set!” Although we don’t know a thing about Jane, she does seem pretty damn passionate about… whatever it is that she does, which isn’t entirely clear. She’s also starting to develop a big crush on Thor himself, who has by now yanked off his shirt, and in so doing, rendered Jane, her assistant and even her gray-haired mentor speechless at the sight of his deliriously well-formed body. Even a rowdy IMAX audience in Los Angeles fell silent as Thor’s gigantic man-boobs and superhero six-pack molested our eye sockets in all of their 3D glory. Apparently this reaction isn’t uncommon: A quick Google search on Chris Hemsworth elicits the suggestions “Chris Hemsworth workout,” “Chris Hemsworth married” and “Chris Hemsworth gay,” and countless other exercises in wishful thinking. “You know, for a crazy homeless person, he’s pretty cut,” the wisecracking assistant mutters to Jane, and we all laugh a little too loudly and wipe our sweaty palms on our pants.
“I need sustenance,” growls Thor, by which we can only assume he means pancakes and eggs instead of, say, pig fetuses or handbag dogs. You never know. And really, it might be nice if Thor could do something a little unexpected, like eat the head off a live rat. Because as it stands, we feel like we’re watching a weak imitation of General Zod’s trip to earth from Superman II. (“Is there a renaissance fair tonight?” one federal agent asks another when he spots visitors from Asgard strutting through town in shiny warrior clothing.) But where Superman II featured some interesting characters and a lot of action and just generally kicked ass, Thor is alarmingly plot-free and action-free and outdated and the stakes are hypnotically low from start to finish. In fact, Thor should consider trading in his magic hammer for some Hammer Pants and calling it a day.
And while Chris Hemsworth is certainly pretty enough to recall Brad Pitt‘s turn in his own girl-porn flick, Legends of the Fall (which also starred Anthony Hopkins as a wise/temperamental patriarch), Hemsworth really has far less flair or charm than Pitt. This lack of affect isn’t helped much by a series of scenes on planet earth that look like repurposed fiery sequences from RoboCop 3.
So what does Thor have to offer summertime movie-goers that’s new and fresh and exciting? Well, let’s see. The kingdom of Asgard is quite beautiful at sunset. Hmm. When Portman and Hemsworth kiss, they really seem to mean it – to such an extent that one wonders if Thor might be better reworked as a romantic comedy. What else? There are a handful snappy lines in the script. (When your budget is $150 million, they tend to spring on a few script doctors to punch things up.)
Aside from a few hearty laughs, though, Thor is astonishingly clunky, predictable and lackluster from start to finish, with almost no character development, very little action, not much romance, and basically next to nothing to keep audiences invested. Compared to any of the Batman, Spiderman or Iron Man movies, Thor doesn’t even rate. How this screenplay got made into a huge-budget summer movie is quite a mystery indeed. The lesson, for directors and producers and studio heads everywhere? Arrogance is bad. It might make you rich, but it’s still bad. The rest of us should remember King Odin’s words: A wise summer movie-goer never seeks out a mediocre movie, but he must always be ready for it!