(Note: This review is pretty much spoiler-free. Even if something looks like a spoiler, it doesn’t really tell you anything. Also, I think that the plot would have to make logical sense to be spoiled anyway, so…)
“It was hilariously bad. It was funnier than Precious, and it made less sense than Precious…. The only thing that can compare to Thor is Precious.”
- The Brother of Godsauce
“There is no way to write a review of this. It was a specific experience for everyone involved.”
- The Roommate of the Brother of Godsauce
Guys, I did not come here to hate on anything. Some of the monsters thought that Thor was great, and I honestly respect and appreciate that opinion. I thoroughly enjoyed watching it with my brother and his roommate. We probably enjoyed it too much, honestly, because our enjoyment was so loud and obnoxious that it seemed to detract from the enjoyment of others. Had we gone to the IMAX show, we might have been thrown out. Luckily, all we got were dirty looks.
The crux of the matter is this: Thor is utterly ridiculous. Every expressed emotion is so completely out of reasonable proportion that it is impossible to accept the characters at face value. All of them are two-dimensional sketches, with sudden, outsize emotional responses completely divorced from the context of the movie. The characters’ motives make no sense at all, at least not in terms of how they are developed. I am willing to accept that the Asgardians represent mythic archetypes and that their behavior corresponds broadly to those archetypes, but that doesn’t work dramatically without a mythic structure. In something like this, Thor would need to undergo a hero’s journey. Instead, his character arc is largely passive and incredibly sudden.
Worse than that, the necessarily deep relationships between these primal characters is never shown. The viewer has to fill in all of the blanks. Considering the wildly insane familial bombs that this movie drops, those are pretty big blanks! (TWSS) Most significantly, the primary antagonist, Loki, has to deal with insane revelations about his family that would mess with anyone, but none of his subsequent actions make any sense at all without a whole lot more context into who he is as a character and how he relates to Thor and Odin and everyone else.
Even if we give the Asgardians the benefit of the doubt regarding shallow characterization, the regular humans have no such excuse. They are supposed to be scientists, but it is never really made clear what exactly they are studying or why. More importantly, their interactions with each other, with Thor, and with S.H.I.E.L.D. do not in any way resemble the behavior of actual people. Watching the central relationship “develop” between Thor and Natalie Portman’s character Jane, is like watching a Cool Abed Films production of a superhero love story. All of the beats of the genre are present, but they are completely divorced from the emotions they attempt to present. In short, none of the rules of human relationships apply anywhere in this movie! It’s almost as if the film were made by a director with great technical proficiency, but no experience with drama.
It seems that the director (and star) of Henry V had a hard time depicting succession drama in a war-torn, royal setting. The director (and star) of Hamlet found it difficult to dramatize a prince undergoing an internal struggle while coming to terms with the death of his father. Also, the director (and star) of Much Ado About Nothing couldn’t make it seem the least bit believable that two people were rapidly falling in love. Apparently, good writing is important!
It is so much fun to watch! The action scenes are kinetic and breathtaking, but edited in coherent way. The CGI is realistic enough to hold attention, but crazy enough to make the fantastic elements pop rather than fizzle. The costumes are insane, but strangely fitting. And then there’s this:
So does the good outweigh the bad? Not exactly. It’s more like the good and the bad have joined forces to fight the sane. The characters’ emotions are unearned, but they’re also hilariously over-the-top and stuck in the middle of a batshit crazy live-action cartoon where nothing makes any sense. Even the action sequences have little details (like Thor spinning his hammer) that highlight the absurdity of the whole thing. Ultimately, it is the accumulation of utterly bizarre what-the-fuckery that make this movie transcendent.
Multiple moments of this movie prompted me to say, “What?!” out loud. My entire party spent most of the movie laughing exuberantly at what was happening on-screen. Occasionally, the dialog is the culprit, but not as often as would be expected from the source material. More often, those great moments are crazy plot twists, like whatever Loki is doing at any given moment. Sometimes, they are bizarrely realized characterizations of minor Thor characters like Hogun, the vaguely Asian Asgardian, or Fandral, the swashbuckling Errol Flynn Asgardian. Crazy moments come during action scenes, and they come during the quiet moments, when characters are just sitting around or drinking beer.
The biggest of those moments came during the movie’s climax. I promise not to spoil anything for those of you who haven’t seen it, but several things surrounding the turning point had me falling over with laughter. Strangely, that scene wouldn’t have been at all funny were it not for the flaws I criticized earlier in this tl;dr review. That makes me wonder if Branagh did this all on purpose. Maybe he is a mad genius. When the result is this much fun, it might not matter.
My final verdict: I do not know if Thor was funnier than Precious, because I have not seen Precious, but my experience seeing Thor was worth both the time and the money.