Monday 16 May 2011

Thor in Theaters and Lore: A Review (Warning: Contains spoilers after the first few paragraphs)

Thor in the comics.
Image from IGN.
Last night, we watched the movie Thor.  I really enjoyed it.  I knew it wouldn't match the lore and sagas, since it's based on the comic book.  I never read the comic books, neither the ones he appeared in or the ones specifically about him, so I don't know how much it followed the comics.  There were similarities between the myths and the movie, and major differences.  Over all, I thought it was a good reimagining of the myths, and a well written and well executed movie.  I enjoyed the characters.  I enjoyed the plot.  I really enjoyed the images and art of the movie.  Asgard was stunning, and Jutenheim was amazingly done.  I'd recommend watching it, but don't go into it expecting the myths you are familiar with.  Though there are things you might miss if you have no familiarity with Norse myth.  To the complete novice, it will be a fun movie.  For the more knowledgeable, it will still be fun, but you will get some things and find some things very interesting.

Before I watched it, I had seen a few previews and had read the following two reviews, from a neopagan/neoheathen point of view.
Thor: A Pagan Review of the Film (Pantheon - The Pagan Blog At Patheos)
Is “Thor” a Religious Experience? (The Wild Hunt)
They gave me some things to think about while I watched it, but they didn't really prepare me for it.  That was a good thing.

Now I'd like to give my thoughts on the movie, based on my understanding of the sagas and lore.  I'm not an expert, so take it for what it's worth.


Thor movie poster.
Image from Critics Choice.
From the previews, I thought most of the movie would take place on Earth, in Midguard, with either flash backs to Asgard and other worlds, or him returning to them.  This wasn't the case.  The "prologue" part was them finding Thor, but then it went back and showed the original battle between the Juten and the Aesir on Earth, then showed a long section in Asgard and Jutenheim, how he ended up in Midgaurd.  Then it jumped back and forth between the two.  I think there was more of it in the other two worlds than in Midgaurd.  The previews made it look like the story would mostly be a love story between Thor and Jane, the scientist that is the "love interest".  But that part isn't that major.  It effects him and influences him, but the main story is between Thor, Loki, and Odin, not the humans.

My favourite character was actually Darcy, who works for Jane.

The Worlds

Asgard in the movie.
Image from ScreenRant.
As I said, Asgard is stunning.  Not necessarily the way I would have pictured it, but the feel I always got.  It was more metal and technology, whereas I pictured it with more plants and natural things.  But they did amazing.  The Bifröst was beautiful, though I never pictured it was the technological creation it was in the movie.  I loved the edge of Asgard where the Bifröst left from, basically the edge of the world with water pouring over it down into the stars below.  Very beautiful.  The stars and nebulae above and below Asgard were stunning.

Jutenheim in the movie.
Image from It Comes Naturally blog.
Jutenheim (I was impressed that they got the pronounciation of it and the Juten correct, with a English "Y" sound not "J") had the wasteland feel I always imagined it having.  Barren ice.  It was beautiful in its own way, though very forbidding.  It was dark, kind of twilight, while I had pictured it as bright with sun, but I think I like it twilight better.  The ruins and ice crystal things really added to the feel.  I liked that it wasn't just an ice-covered planet but was shelves and layers of ice with space underneath.  The monster running on the bottom upside down was awesome.  I always pictured it as just a flat plain of ice and snow with basically dunes, but I think I liked this better.  The Juten (frost giants) were awesome.  Not really ugly, but alien, scary, imposing.  I had always pictured them like the Dungeons & Dragons giants or the ones in Jack and the Bean Stock or Disney's the Brave Little Tailor, but covered in ice.  In this movie, they were dark blue and more alien and thinner, leaner, wirelier.  I liked them.

I would have liked to have seen something of some of the other six worlds, but that's okay.  They did make Asgard and Jutenheim very distinct in every way from each other and from Midguard (Earth), making the contrast between the worlds very obvious.  I loved that.

The Gods

Odin in the movie.
Image from Theiapolis.
Anthony Hopkins was awesome as Odin.  I thought he did very good at showing the character and the writing of him was very good.  You really get the feeling of him always having a plan, always doing everything for a reason.  Watching him fight was awesome.  I loved Sleipnir, but was disappointed at the notable absence of Muninn, Huginn, Geri, and Freki.  In the battle at the beginning when you first see him, and when he's with his two young sons, I was annoyed that he had both his eyes, but he had a patch when it got to modern day, so that was okay.  There was one view with a gaping hole in his head, I forget at which point.  If you didn't know the lore, you would think he lost it in the war.  My one objection is he seemed a little too much the loving, compassionate Father God that many Christians associates with the Father in Christianity.

Thor and Jane in the movie.
Image from Comics And...
Other Imaginary Tales blog
Thor was very cool.  I always imagined him more like Grimly in Lord of the Rings, more massive rather than trim, but had seen pictures even before the previews that showed him more like he was in this movie.  I had seen Marvel pictures of him, too, and he was accurate to them.  My only complaint is that Thor was always the champion of the people, and he didn't seem to care much about them until later in the movie.  Other than that, I think they got him well, complete with the impulsive side.

Thor and Loki in the movie.
Image from Teaser Trailer.
Loki is another manner (and this is where big spoilers come into it).  You don't hear his name until after Thor is exiled, but it was pretty obvious it was him.  When you first meet him, you see him and Thor as children and as brothers, with their father Odin.  Loki was shown as Odin's son rather than (blood) brother.  It wasn't until much later that you learn he's really the son of the king of the Juten, Laufey, and Odin had brought him home along with the Casket of Ancient Winters.  I thought they did a good job with his character, despite the change in relationships.  We're debating a bit, but I think he didn't plan for things to go as far as it did.  Letting the frost giants in to try to get the Casket, I think, was purely to disrupt Thor being crowned.  I think he did mean to manipulate Thor into disobeying, but didn't intend to let him get far enough to start a war or get exiled.  I think he was telling the truth when he told Thor he never actually wanted the crown, just as I don't think Loki ever wanted to rule in the lore.  He reminded me a lot of Mordred in Excalibur, Anakin Skywalker in Revenge of the Sith, and especially Harry in the Spiderman movies, curiously.

Frigga in the movie.
Image from Comic Vine.
Frigga was a disappointment, as Foster's review said.  She looked the way I always pictured Hera in Greek mythology.  I pictured Frigga larger, but I don't know if she was.  I haven't read many descriptions of her.  But she was definitely too weak.  She would have fought harder against the Juten and kept fighting, not give up when she was knocked down.

Heimdall in the movie.
Image from Pie Monkey.
Heimdall was awesome.  I never pictured him like that, but I thought they did a good job with him.  The "whitest of the gods" was black skinned and dressed in darkish gold.  His eyes were very cool, though.  His personality and attitude was exactly how I imagined.  Though I never thought of him as necessarily loyal to the throne.  I pictured him as above the dealings of the Aesir, kind of independent, defending them for the greater good, not as a servant.

The Warriors Three in the movie.
Image from Vox in a Box.
Volstagg, Hogun, and Fandral, the Warriors Three, are based on characters in the comic books and don't exist in the myths.  I was bothered by Hogun being oriental in the Norse world, but in the comic, he looks Mongolian and is from a different world and isn't Aesir, so that makes more sense.  They were amusing and added character to the movie.

Sif in the movie.
Image from Action Squirrel blog.
Sif was cute and fun.  Weird having her with black hair when one of the things she was known for was her golden hair.  There's nothing to show Sif as a warrior in anything about the goddess that I've read.  She has a different role.  Also, instead of being Thor's wife, she's his friend.  Reading about the comics, they never married in them.  Something happened every time they got close.  I enjoyed her character, though.

The Plot

Odin's last words to Baldr
W.G. Collingwood 1908.
Image from Julie Demboski's
Astrology blog
There's a lot I could say about the plot of the movie, in addition to the fact that I really enjoyed it, but I'm only going to talk about one thing.  Much has been said about the similarities between Baldr and Jesus (and similar myths) and between Odin and Jesus (whether the similarities or emphisis was added by the Christians recording the myths or were already there), but Thor has never been compared to Christ as far as I know.  So I was surprised to find the movie Thor being somewhat a Christ story, a parallel.  Thor comes down from heaven, god becoming man.  He learns to live as a man.  He sacrifices himself for others, dying.  The father (Odin in this case) morns for him even though it was his plan all along.  He rises from the dead, then rises up into heaven in glory.

Loki and Thor fighting on
Bifröst toward the end of the movie.
Image from Cinema Blend.

I did love Thor destroying the Bifröst to save Jutenheim, but losing the ability to return to Jane, and that that was when Odin awoke.

~Muninn's Kiss

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