I have never been much of a Thor guy, not in the comic books anyway. By the way, this opinion has nothing to do with my Faith. My tastes in superheroes were formed before I became a practicing Catholic. Still, now that I am a regular communicant (COVID-19 disruptions notwithstanding), the idea of a film about a Viking god did give me some pause. Did I think about these things when I saw Thor in theaters back in 2011. Nope. What I did have trouble with was wrapping my brain around the concept of Asgard basically being a planet out in the cosmos, which made the titular character a space alien. Still, as I have gotten older, this little twist has been a little easier to stomach, and in keeping with the source material, I suppose.
As with so many of the first few MCU films, Thor is the origin story about the being worshipped by Vikings. Being a deity (cannot emphasize enough the lower case “d” there), he is still alive and coming into his own as we begin to approach the events of The Avengers. That review is for tomorrow. Our story follows the maturation process of Thor (Chris Hemsworth). Actually, that is probably the best way to describe this film. But I will go into more detail, of course. As the one destined to rule Asgard in his father Odin’s (Sir Anthony Hopkins) place, the younger man(?) is eager to prove himself. Too eager, as it turns out. After leading his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston), and the Warriors Three to Jotunheim, the planet of the Ice Giants, because of some perceived sleight, Odin is none too pleased. For starting a war, Odin banishes Thor to Earth (which they call Midgard because you have to have your “gards,” I guess) and strips him of his hammer and his power. Once there, Thor befriends a band of scientists studying space phenomena (for lack of a better term) led by Dr. Jane Foster (Natalie Portman). Believing that he is the key to her theories on space stuff, she helps him try to retrieve his hammer. While this is going on, Loki assumes the throne of Asgard after Odin goes into some kind of coma because of . . . guilt? So Loki apparently was adopted from the Ice Giants, but this fact had been hidden from him until they attacked Jotunheim. When Loki confronts his “father” with this information, Odin seemingly feints. What was he the god of again? Anyway, thinking that Thor might still be a threat to his rule, Loki sends a seemingly indestructible robot whose face shoots fire. Neat, huh? Only by attempting to save the townspeople and his friends does Thor find himself worthy of Mjolnir (the name of Thor’s hammer, by the way). With his might restored, Thor makes short work of the metal beast, zooms back to Asgard, kicks Loki off the throne, and restores everything back to its rightful place, having learned a few things along the way about the meaning of being a hero.
I may have been getting a little silly in my description of Thor, but it really is not a bad movie. I have definitely seen worse, to be sure. And I remember when I first saw it, I did not think too much of it. In hindsight, though, it is okay. For this reviewer, the main thing I want to see in my main characters is growth. There is no other way to put it: in the beginning, Thor is a spoiled brat. When he comes to Earth, he continues to act in an entitled way, smashing coffee mugs at will and expecting them to reappear at the beckon call of people who plainly are not his servants. I guess when you grow up with space magic and stories of your father’s conquests, you come to expect these things to just sort of happen. It took having his power and rank taken away, being hit by a car upon arriving on Earth, tased, and finally not being able to lift Mjolnir for Thor to realize what all these heroes must: their status is not something given but earned.
The famous line from Spiderman is, “With great power comes great responsibility.” No offense to the famous web slinger, but while it can be said that Peter Parker attains abilities beyond that of a normal person, he does not have the same level of power as Thor. When Jesus commissioned the disciples to go forth to preach the Gospels and drive out demons, He gave them an awesome responsibility. I am reminded of Peter here specifically. While Jesus was among them, the disciples did, indeed, perform mighty deeds. But had they really been tested? Not until the Passion, and even though he protested that he would never do so, Peter denied Jesus three times. And yet Peter is the Rock upon which the Church was founded, so clearly he was able to recover from his failure. To be fair, all these origin stories have that humbling moment where the characters finally understand the gifts they have been given. The mark of a hero, though, is getting back up from being humbled and moving forward. Thor’s most heroic moment actually comes when he goes to face the walking metal destroyer while still in mortal form. He puts himself in harm’s way to save his friends knowing that it could lead to his death. Any of the other superheroes in the MCU would undoubtedly have done the same, but none of them had to do it as Thor did.
So there is a little more meat to Thor than Chris Hemsworth’s excuses to show off his muscles. Is it special? Not entirely. But if it is that one piece of the MCU puzzle that has been missing from your line-up, go ahead and see it. Park the whole family in front of the television for it too. And if you find things to be a little over-the-top, then sit back and appreciate the quips coming from Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings), who was thankfully shoehorned into this movie.