Going to movies: Thor (2011)

Thor (2011) poster
Thor (2011) poster.

My husband and I went to the movies on Friday to see the new Thor movie. When it came to theaters in early May I was excited about it, but for some reason as time passed I had got it into my head that the movie would be bad. Lucky for me it wasn’t. In fact, I’m happy to report the movie was surprisingly fun, well made and entertaining.

Thor, the much improved version of exactly what?

…Not to mention the short moment of eye-candy for all of us who can appreciate a well formed torso. One friend of mine, who went to see the movie back in May, when asked how she liked the movie, the only thing she could say was something about the muscles. I can see why.

The actor portraying Thor, Chris Hemsworth, was perfect – and I’m not only referring to those muscles. I thought his performance was belivable and he looked perfect – and still I’m not referring to those muscles, but to his Marvel comics counterpart.

Thor shirtless
Shirtless Thor. Notice ochre torso and pink face. I swear I have only adjusted the levels and other small things in the original photo.

While looking for photos of shirtless Thor, I found this photo here. The original photo was quite dark so I did some Photoshop magic to it to give us a better look at his torso. Nothing big, just adjusted the levels and similar small things. What happened was, in the end Thor’s head was clearly of a different colour than the rest of his body. The color changes on his neck where the background changes from earth to sky. At first I thought my photoshopping had changed the image, but at closer look at the original I noticed it, too, had different coloured head and body. I can come up with three explanations for this. 1) The “wrong” coloured head is a result of post-production. Maybe they did something to the background and it affected also his head’s colour. 2) Make-up. They use heavy make-up (not heavy metal, just large amounts) to make the actors look good in hard light. Maybe that’s where his face make-up ends. And yes, you usually apply make-up also to the neck. 3) They used a body double in that scene. I suppose this is the most likely explanation, since to my understanding using body doubles is quite common in movies these days. That doesn’t mean Chris Hemswoth doesn’t have the muscles (just look at the following photo, that’s no body double) for Thor himself, they just might have thought his physique didn’t give that oomph to the scene. Well, whatever the explanation, nice muscles.

Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and some muscles
Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and some muscles.

Rest of the cast

As for the rest of the cast I was quite happy. Anthony Hopkins was good choice for Odin. His charisma and stature made him a very convincing Odin (although this much used publicity photo of him is not very good).

Odin (Anthony Hopkins) from Thor (2011)
Odin (Anthony Hopkins) from Thor (2011)

It’s been a long time since I last read Thor comics and throughout the movie I had a bit of trouble accepting his friends, the Warriors Three. Thinking of Norwegian gods I had a hard time accepting a French dude and an Asian samurai-wannabe to the group, but when searching for reference images from my comics collection, I noticed they all were as they should be. After a quick look at Wikipedia I found out that they are all Marvel created additions to Asgard. Fine. The Warriors Three are Fandral (Josh Dallas), Vollstag (Ray Stevenson), and Hogun (Tadanoby Asano). Fandral the Dashing is supposed to be a Errol Flynn type of a ladies man, but in the movie he seemed like one of the Three Musketeers. A bit odd. Hogun the Grimm is known in the comics to be short tempered and looking a bit like some Hollywood version of Genghis Khan, but in the movie he was more like a Japanese samurai. I liked the Vollstag of the movie, who was like an oversized dwarf (I’m thinking of Warhammer Drunken Dwarfs) with an insatiable appetite. In the comics he’s a hugely obese man, with a weird French (?) outfit and feathers (?) protruding from his helm. I didn’t remember he was like that in the comics. I liked him more in the movie. But all in all, except for Vollstag, the rest of them felt really out of place in the movie. Well, I could also forgive Fandrall. But Hogun looked like he didn’t really even like being in Asgard or belonging to the rest of the group.

Vollstag sitting on a poor man
Vollstag sitting on a poor man. I'll rather see the movie Vollstag than this antenna head.
Sif (Jaimie Alexander) from Thor (2011)
Sif (Jaimie Alexander) from Thor (2011)

I also sort of liked Sif, who was portrayed in the movie as sort of belonging with the Warriors Three to Thor’s group of sidekicks, but in the comics she is a strong female character, who supports her own. In the comics it seems she has hots for Thor. Well, all in all a notable warrior woman. Unfortunately the actor, Jaimie Alexander, suffered from a common flaw in Hollywood actresses – not convincing as a warrior. She looked like a Hollywood princess trying to act like a warrior. (I’m sorry, Jaimie.) I don’t know if it’s just the women who are drawn into acting, or if it’s the American culture (as to how they raise their children) in general, but almost all the women are like porcelain doll princesses afraid to use some force. Or maybe it’s the casting people who think the audience wants to see only pretty princesses. But to think of beautiful women who could take a role of a woman warrior with no difficulty: Lucy Lawless (Xena), Linda Hamilton (Sarah Connor from Terminator movies), Sarah Michelle Gellar (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Eliza Dushku (Faith from Buffy and Echo from Dollhouse), Grace Jones (Zula from Conan the Destroyer, I knwo she wasn’t a very good actress, but she had the attitude), Sigourney Weaver (Ripley from Alien movies), Summer Glau (Cameron from Sarah Connor Chronicles, River Tam from Firefly), …And those were just the first ones to pop to my head. There are numerous beautiful women who have the physical strength to take on a role of a warrior, so why choose a Hollywood princess instead? I know she looks the part, but I’d be willing to take a “wrong” looking woman who makes a convincing warrior. Besides, since the Warriors Three didn’t look like the original heroes, why does the only female warrior have to be chosen based on her looks and not on her warrior acting skills? As another example of Hollywood getting it Totally Wrong, just think of Halle Berry as Storm in the X-Men movies.

Sif as portrayed in the comics
Sif as portrayed in the comics. She fights an army of demons side by side with Thor and volunteers to stay behind alone so the others get a chance to destroy the demons' nest.

But really, I have many friends who incidentally happen to be females, and for some weird reason the majority of them, if not all, would make some bloody convincing women warriors. So is it only Finland or the women around me, who just for some freak of nature happen to have the required attitude and physical power (and no, they are not all weightlifters, just normal women, some skinny, some overweight and some in-between) to make a believable warrior? Or could it be that Hollywood just has such a narrow view of women that you just have to be a beauty peagant to make it big, except for those few selected rare women who have the luxury of playing a major role in an action movie? Where are we, the normal, strong, physical women real-life-warriors?! If for nothing else, you need us for Marvel and other superhero movies!

Besides, I must oppose the decision to make Sif just one of Thor’s sidekicks. It’s almost like they had to diminish the only strong warrior female in the story to a sidekick status and replace her with a “normal” human female instead. At least the human was an active female and an intelligent one, but still her character was only of a love interest. I would have rather wanted to see Thor make out with Sif, who has balls enough to kick his ass if need be.

Sif gives Thor her kiss goodbye
1) "Well... Er... Lady Sif?" 2) "I see." 3) "Even though I don't breathe as sweetly, my lord Thor, please accept this kiss goodbye..." 4) "A kiss from a warrior, not from some soft toy!"
Loki (Tom Hiddleston) from (Thor 2011)
Loki (Tom Hiddleston) from (Thor 2011)

One other major character in the movie was Loki, the trickster of Norwegian mythology. Tom Hiddleston looked spot on for the role, but his intepretation left me thinking if he had ever even read Marvel comics. His Loki was like an angst-ridden teenager looking spineless and constantly on the verge of tears. In the comics, Loki is a badass sniveling snake. He stands straight, sure of himself and full of power. Just because he’s evil and conniving doesn’t mean he somehow lacks in physique. I hope in the Avengers movie, if he’ll be there like it seems from the short clip at the end of the movie, he’ll have grown a backspine.

Loki shows some attitude
Loki as portrayed in the comics. Here shoving Madeline Pryor head first to snow.
Marvel 1/1993 Cover
Marvel 1/1993 Cover with Nick Fury at his best.

The last weird casting is that of Nick Fury, the head of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Btw, the Finnish translator of the movie had left S.H.I.E.L.D. as it is and not translated it to YPKVV – “Ylimmän Päämajan Kansainvälisen Vakoilun Vastustamisjaosto”, what a silly name –  like it’s in the comics.) Nick Fury is a badass, older man, white, chewing a cigarette, black hair with some grey in it and in tip top shape. In the movie he only appeared at the last clip after the credits. In the epilogue Eric Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård), one of the humans, walks into a corridor and meets a black man. Holy shit, it’s Samuel L. Jackson! It took me quite a while to realize he was playing Nick Fury! 8-@ My first thoughts were “blasphemy!” Shiiiiit, he looks nothing like Nick Fury! After the movie my husband and I were talking and he said he thought Jackson will make a perfect Nick Fury. Fury is a really unpredictable, ruthless character. My husband thinks only Jackson can play a character who can make horrible things, kill innocent people and scare you shitless while still keeping his character believable. I must agree. The only other person that comes to my mind is Clint Eastwood, but he might be too old and “respectable” an actor to play with actors wearing spandex. Well, maybe after seeing the Avengers movie I’ll accept him as Fury.

Heimdall from the comics
Heimdall as he's portrayed in the comics.

And Fury was not the only character to change into a dark skinned man. Heimdall, the gatekeeper, and brother of Sif, was played by Idris Elba. Being a real Norwegian god originally he really should have been blonde, northern viking-y type of a man. But after a short while, I accepted him fully. With his outfit, which mostly covers him, with his fiery yeallow eyes and everything I didn’t even notice there was something “wrong” with him. Very well done. And this is exactly my point, if you can turn Heimdall into a black man (and nobody cares about it because he’s so good at it), why can’t you keep Sif a warrior.

Heimdall (Idris Elba) from Thor (2011)
Heimdall (Idris Elba) from Thor (2011)

Of course, there were some mandatory humans in the movie, too. The main human role in the movie, Jane Foster, was played by Natalie Portman – being the love interest of Thor. Let’s just say, I sort of see why she found Thor so appealing after that shirtless scene, but I can’t say the same about Thor. Don’t get me wrong, she’s a lovely woman and everything, but I would have loved to see them spend some time together and get to know each other. Well, this is the Marvel Universe after all. You just fall in love when you see her/him and that’s final. No need for courtship – except if you are Peter Parker. But regardless of that I’m very happy with Natalie Portman. Great to see a woman so fond of popular culture despite her more serious movie roles like in the Black Swan. And the other humans were great, too. Especially Jane’s friend Darcy (Kat Dennings) in the movie made a funny character. Quite lovable. I could say she quite nearly stole all the scenes – except, you know, when that shirt not there…


Frost giants back in the days
Frost giants back in the days. From Marvel Saga #4.

The story itself was quite entertaining. The movie told the background story of both Thor and Loki, who both will apparently appear in the forthcoming Avengers movie. The background story differed from the story shown in Marvel comics (in Finland published in Marvel Saga #5 for Thor and #6 for Loki). In the movie the frost giants were blue, nude (?) giants, but in the comics they looked like giant lumberjacks. Go figure. Maybe this new look is more believable to  modern audiences. Btw, no female frost giants spotted, so maybe they haven’t completely abandoned their lumberjack background. *wink, wink, nudge, nudge*

King Laufey of frost giants
King Laufey of frost giants. Concept art for the movie Thor (2011) by Michael Kutsche. (See source below.)

There were other differences, too, to the original story. For example in the movie Loki is just left behind by the frost giants and adopted by the goodhearted Odin. In the original story Loki is hidden in the caves by the frost giants because he’s so tiny. Odin adopts him after he has killed his father Laufey, the king of the frost giants.  But all those differences are minor and acceptable in order to make the story more interesting to the audience.

The only thing about the movie was that the story itself is well known by every Marvel enthusiast and therefore I would have hoped they had added some extra to the story. Maybe less of a birth story and more of a life on Earth or something.

Great costumes and sets

I must also mention the sets and costumes of the movie, which both looked great. I’m curious to know what is that material they use to build those detailed armour pieces. It makes the costumes look just as in the comics and still they look light enough to make them easy to wear. Also the rainbow bridge was a pleasant surprise. Thank god it didn’t look like in the comics. All in all, great work from the costume designer(s) and makers.

Thor, Odin, and some amazing costumes and sets
Thor, Odin, and some amazing costumes and sets.

3D < 2D

Odin, concept art for Thor (2011) by Michael Kutsche
Odin in another costume used in the movie. Concept art for Thor (2011) by Michael Kutsche. (See source below.)

Last thing I must mention is the fact that we had to go to see the movie in 3D. For some reason the local movie theaters didn’t have it in 2D at all so we had no choice. It was horrible. The glasses were uncomfortable, I had to adjust them all the time since they kept sliding down my nose. I also got my neck stiff, since I couldn’t lie my head back on the seat because the 3D effect was so sensitive to the angle you watched it in. Also it seemed the movie was shot in 2D format and the 3D format was added to it later (thay can do that). Many times the perspective got skewed so bad it spoiled the experience. Also most of the battles had such short cuts it made following the action impossible. Everything just got a blurried flurry when your eyes couldn’t conform to the new images fast enough. And in general the 3D image just looked wrong somehow. It wasn’t blurry, but it was a bit grainy. And in the end my eyes got really tired of looking at the movie in 3D, and it was impossible to just relax and enjoy the experience when you had to take care of keeping yourself in good position. Also at the sides of my field of vision, the effect didn’t work and I could see ghost images.

All in all I’d say the 3D is just ridiculous. I don’t see any reason why people would want to see their movies in 3D – unless, of course, they were originally made to be watched in 3D – or pay extra for the experience. In Finland 3D movie tickets costs 4€ more than 2D. All in all, I would have rather watched the movie in 2D. Except maybe for those muscles.

Was it worth it?

Yes it was. I was happily surprised by the movie. I doubt I’ll ever buy it, since the story was nothing extraordinary. The plot was quite predictable from the beginning if you’ve ever read Marvel’s Thor comics. It would have been nice if they could have given the story some clever twist, but it was very simple and straightforward. You-know-who lets the giants in, because he is you-know-what to you-know-who… Some surprising change to the too often seen story would have kept us old Marvel fans up on our toes in the end. But taken that this was more of a background story for the upcoming Avengers movie I’ll say it was a fair job.

Go see it and take your girlfriend along. She’ll thank you later – approximately quite soon after the shirtless scene. ;)

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Michael Kutsche’s concept art for Thor (2011) found from: http://michaelkutsche.blogspot.com/

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