This is one of the films that I wasn’t sure of, going back. It’s been a while since I saw it, and I just wondered…
Everything about this film is fine. Hemsworth is pretty good (although gosh a decade is a long time); Portman is great, actually; Hiddleston is fine. Idris Elba is always wonderful, as is Jamie Alexander. And Kat Dennings as Darcy and Stellan Skarsgaard can help me with my research any time. Also the criminally underused Rene Russo.
There’s just something about the film that feels … odd. Or off. Especially coming on the heels of Iron Man.
I think that, compared to those (internally) earlier movies, Thor – and Thor – feel… naive, somehow. Matched against the cynical, world-weary but still philanthropic Stark, Thor feels… young. Arrogant – or proud? – although at least theoretically committed to doing what’s right; and naive, even innocent. And still so much in his father’s shadow (which, actually, is very much a Tony thing too. OMG how much of the MCU is actually about fathers?? Wait, I don’t want to think about that too much or I might get really sad). The film itself is an example of how the MCU films are allowed to have their own aesthetic, matching the different aesthetics of the comics (I assume); and I think this more fantasy-oriented feel does feel jarring, coming after the very-high-tech, very modern, Iron Man – and even Captain Marvel.
The plot is nothing exceptional; it’s fine as an introduction to Thor and his world. I had forgotten what we learn about Loki and his relationship with Thor; it felt simultaneously like a lot and too little. The one thing I did notice and appreciate greatly is that right from the start, it’s unclear whether Loki is being devious for the sake of evil, or because it’s his nature to be a trickster. Does he know that he’s revving Thor up about their father, and is he doing it for nefarious purposes, or… not? There’s so much about Loki that is vital to however many films, and I think some aspects of him remain unknowable. At the same time: it is clear he loved Odin and Frigga, and that his world being shown to be a lie is the catalyst for most of his later actions.
It’s not quite the Platonic Ideal of Captain Marvel, but. Well. It’s definitely in my top 5 MCU films.
And it’s not just because of Sam Rockwell. Not… entirely, anyway.
It is definitely problematic that a narcissistic, arrogant man like Stark is so compelling as a character. I think partly it’s his self-awareness that helps this. Also, what I noticed on this viewing – perhaps more than any other time – is just how much of his behaviour in this film is driven by the knowledge that he is, in fact, dying. I don’t think I had fully appreciated that before. I continue to love watching his genius at work, and the fact that he is perfectly willing to take a sledgehammer to walls in order to build – what? a synchrotron?
I continue to like Pepper. I like that the development of her character makes sense – also driven by a desire for getting things right, at heart – and that she was perfectly capable of cutting off from Tony when it was clear that he was going in a bad direction. And then there’s Rhodes – now played by Don Cheadle, and maybe it’s just because he’s been Rhodes for longer than Howard had the chance but Cheadle really IS Rhodes for me. There’s something that he brings to the character – understated determination and resilience, and humour, that I really love.
Far, far more than Obadiah, the villains really make this film. I do not love Mickey Rourke as an actor, but as Vanko here he is magnificent (“I vant. My boid”.) It’s just such an off-the-wall character – out of proportion, an exaggerated and distorted vision of Stark himself, as shown by Vanko making an arc reactor in his own version of a cave – and all of his actions are outrageous. He’s so much fun to watch. And then there’s Justin Hammer. Truly, any opportunity to watch Sam Rockwell cut a dance move is all right by me. Everything about Hammer’s character is such a spectacular cringe: he wants to be the exaggerated vision of Stark and he just. Never. Will. Be. Calling Stark Anthony! Trying to sleep with a woman who slept with Stark! Copying his weapons! Oh Hammer. You’re terrible.
Another thing that makes this film is the soundtrack. I am not the biggest AC/DC fan, but it works in this context. As with Captain Marvel, all of this comes together with a fact-paced narrative with an appropriate number of explosions, chases and well-choreographed fight scenes to make a really great film.
This makes it sound like I’m mostly here for the characters, but that’s not true: the story is great! Genius-billionaire-playboy-philanthropist goes on self-discovery trip that nearly destroys the people around him and is nearly brought low by psychotic Russian genius-poor-convict-revengenut!
Also, Scarlett Johannsen in some of the most ridiculous outfits a woman has been compelled to wear while pretending to be “from Legal” or while being an assassin. Plus a cold, tired, take-no-shit Fury, who really can’t be having with Stark’s nonsense.
I am so ready for Avengers. I don’t mind watching Thor first, but… I am so ready for Avengers.