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Thor (2011): **½

Who are you? I'm THOOOOOOOOR!

Directed by Kenneth Branaugh

Thor is ostensibly a movie about an arrogant, selfish prince who causes great ruin to himself and his kingdom through his thoughtless actions and then has to learn his lesson and redeem himself. Indeed, the movie does follow the beats of the story, but the main problem is that it just feels way too easy for Thor; I never felt that he actually earned his redemption or really learned his lesson.

I really enjoyed the bookend parts of the movie that take place in the mystical realm of Asgard. I liked the art direction, costume design, the spectacle of it all. Anthony Hopkins as Odin is regal, wise, and at the same time like a coiled spring that could pop at any second. Chris Hemsworth as Thor is full of swagger and belligerent overconfidence. Tom Hiddleston as Loki is sly and downtrodden and full of simmering resentment behind his smiles. Idris Elba is majestic and awesome as Heimdall. The action is fun and the story is well told.

It’s once Thor gets his powers stripped and is banished to Earth that things start to go a little wrong. It’s just... he never seems really upset about it all. He’s still all arrogant and full of swagger ‘cause he knows he’s gonna get his hammer back and everything for him will be just fine. Plus there’s a hot girl fawning all over him for no discernible reason. Sure there are a couple of setbacks (like getting tazered and then restrained at a hospital), but those are played for laughs and Thor just shrugs them off; it’s like he doesn’t even remember them or is mildly amused by them.

Let me sidetrack for just a moment and say how truly, horribly awful the “romance” is in this movie. I have no idea why Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster is at all drawn to Thor, other than his enormous pectoral muscles. He’s an arrogant jackass and for some reason she’s fawning all over him while he basically smirks at her like she’s a stupid girl. I found it completely unbelievable and a little bit insulting. Maybe if their relationship started out with them butting heads and having sparks fly it might have been a little more interesting. At least there might have been a hint of chemistry.

Anyway. Eventually Thor does have a setback when it turns out he’s not actually worthy of lifting Mjolnir, but right when it seems like he’s just about to learn a lesson in humility the third act starts up and he gets to be all heroic again. Hey, look, my friends are here! Awesome! I get to fight a giant magic robot/suit of armor? Fun! Even his ultimate sacrifice seems more like a grand, heroic, egotistical gesture (“Look how awesome I am because I’m gonna give up my life for the humans”) rather than an actual, heart-felt and anguishing sacrifice.

In redemption stories like this there are some emotional beats that need to be hit in order for me to buy that the redemption was earned. Thor strikes the maybe two-thirds of them, but the important ones are sorely missing for me. In order for a hero to be worthy of a redemption like this, he has to really suffer. He has to be made miserable. He has to be taken to the absolute nadir; he has to lose any hope of ever being redeemed. And then he has to find something else to live for; he has to find his humility and his humanity and make a new home. He has to completely forget about even the possibility of redemption.

Unfortunately I’ve heard reports that all of those parts of the movie are contained in the “deleted scenes” special features on the DVD and Blu-Ray releases. I’m very curious to see those deleted scenes; it might make this an actual good movie. But as it is right now, I don’t think Thor is quite worthy to wield Mjolnir.


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