Oh, hey, look, they made a movie about the comic book version of my favorite proto-Germanic deity.
Opening day for Thor happened to fall on Friday the 6th, the very last weekday of my extended paternity leave, which gave me the all-too-rare opportunity to catch a matinee. The little guy was in daycare, and my wife briefly flirted with the idea of securing the little girl to her bosom with a Moby Wrap so that the three of us could hit the theater together (operating under the assumption that my wife and I would enjoy the sparsely-attended movie while the three-week-old would sleep through it, defensively shutting down amidst the cosmic clamor of sci-fi mythology in surround sound) but ultimately opted to pass. Normally that would be enough for me to pass, as well, partly because I prefer doing fun things with my wife rather than alone (and alone was in fact the only other option, as all my buddies seem to still have day jobs or somesuch) and partly because it didn’t really seem fair to go off and do something self-indulgent while leaving my better half at home with half of our childcare responsibilities (admittedly, the much easier half at this stage, but still).
However, my wife managed to convince me of a couple of things. First, she knew I was really keen to see Thor on the big screen, but for the two of us to see it together we would realistically need to leave our newborn in someone else’s care for a few hours, and that wasn’t likely to be feasible any time soon, possibly not any time during the Asgardian Avenger’s theatrical run, and she just didn’t want me to miss it. Second, she still (and despite my every insistence and protest) felt like she owed me one for not responding more quickly to my attempts to get her attention when I was locked out of the house a week before. I extracted a promise from her that if I treated myself to the movie, she would feel absolved of any further guilt about the dogwalking lockout incident, and she agreed, and off I went.
So that is how I ended up seeing Thor by myself on opening day. Also a good opportunity for me to proclaim once again that my wife is very, very sweet and in fact a real keeper.
The flick itself was really good, which I believe is broadly and semi-objectively true and not just my own biased inclination as a geek who loves superheroes and the Norse pantheon in equal measure. In terms of the vast tapestry of movies based on Marvel comics, I break things down as follows:
1. The best of the best, which is the first Iron Man movie, a solid action-adventure elevated to another level by Robert Downey, Jr.
2. The pretty darn good ones, including the second Iron Man and the first couple of Spider-Man installments
3. The flawed-but-OK ones, like Spider-Man 3 and Daredevil
4. The godawful messes, like the two Fantastic Four efforts, Ghost Rider, and Ang Lee’s Hulk
And I would unhesitatingly put Thor up there at the top end of category 2. It really doesn’t have any glaring problems, the changes made from the source comics to the screen version make a lot of sense and to a certain degree represent actual improvements, and basically it’s well-made and fun. Not mind-blowing or life-changing, but a superhero movie done right, which is all I wanted.
I saw it in 3-D, which was fairly cool. You might recall my cantankerous pre-release dissing of Avatar way back when (a movie which I still have not seen in any format) and some mentions since then that while Avatar seemingly kicked off a 3-D revolution at the multiplex, I hadn’t seen any of that new breed of films at all. I kept my expectations low, and thus they were met as I thought the effects were shiny enough but not absolute game-changers. The glasses don’t give me a headache, at least, so there’s a point of small curiosity answered.
There was some crazy brouhaha when images of the film started to leak and people saw that Idris Elba would be playing Heimdall, and a vocal minority proceeded to flip the hell out because that was PC absurdity run amok, how in the world could someone of African descent believably portray the Norse god of … whatever Heimdall is the god of? (Seriously. He guards the entrance to Asgard and watches for Ragnarok but it’s not like he’s the God of Bridges or God of Vision or anything like that.) Most of the ruckus was raised by groups that had not-very-hidden white supremacist/racial purity agendas so nobody paid it too much mind. But I couldn’t help but think of it again as I was watching the movie, because as it turns out, Elba doesn’t play the Norse God of Comings and Goings at all. He plays a powerful being from another world who operates a wormhole generator that can connect that world with Earth, and whose whole alien civilization may possibly have inspired some of the details of certain pagan legends. In which case, yeah, skin color and nationality all become kind of moot. On the one hand I think the reasoning behind constructing such a convoluted not-really-gods explanation for the Asgardians has something to do with modern, rational movie-goers preferring sci-fi explanations for things, rather than magic/fantasy explanations, because sci-fi has a ring of respectable believability about it (especially if you say “Einstein-Rosen Bridge” enough times) whereas fantasy seems childish and silly. But on another hand, I am convinced that the not-really-gods approach was more or less necessary to avoid offending the same people (neither rational nor really terribly modern) who condemn Harry potter for all the devil-worshipping witchcraft. “Nobody here is saying there are any other gods in the universe besides the One True YHWH, folks! Just making a movie about wacky aliens!” So yeah, you zig one way to avoid offending fundamentalists, you wind up offending neo-Nazis. Crazy world.
But enough about that, and let me finish up by addressing the question I’m sure is foremost in all of your minds: does the Thor movie earn its thumbs-up from me by including a scene in which the God of Thunder drinks a lot of beer? YEA VERILY! I was actually pretty charmed by the bar scene in particular because after it dispensed with advancing certain story beats, it proceeded with a few more coulda-been-cut-but-thankfully-weren’t minutes that seemed aimed right at me, with Thor’s new friend Dr. Selvig ordering a couple of boilermakers, which seems really random except that particular drink requires that the beer be served in massive glass steins with enough room to drop the shots of whiskey in, and the steins make decent enough stand-ins for tankards, and Thor proceeds to upend the stein and drain it off in one go (prompting a double-take from his drinking partner) and that may or may not have been a deliberate reference to the myth I am thinking of but I am just going to choose to believe that, in fact, it was.
I still intend to go see Green Lantern and Captain America in the theaters, not to mention taking the little guy to Cars 2 and my wife to Hangover 2 (since we saw the first Hangover in the theater together for our anniversary a couple years back) so this year is shaping up to be my Big Return to Big Movies, but it may have already hit its high point with the simple acknowledgment that you really can’t have a proper Viking god origin story without beer showing up at some point.