Film 4 in the M.C.U.. I know. Old Jack here is on a roll. Lockdown tedium had reached new heights: Nurse Stabby Fingers offered me a shoulder massage ahead of vaccination day. I said yes.
It was like having a needle scraped along your nerves, scratching axons ’til your only hope is a lingering paralysis. Or death. Which is exactly how old Jack here felt after the masked vaccinator subsequently stabbed me in the arm. I’d had a second shower in case she went for my arse, but my charm wasn’t appropriate, apparently.
Three days of marrow-level weakness later, I made it to the TV room. My trembling old hand reached for the remote, fancying a tale of a disempowered god. So, to a Thor is Born and the be-starring of Chris Hemsworth: Thor (2011).
In M.C.U. terms, this is the best yet. Yuh-huh, Marvel fans, I’m ancient and wise so fucketty-up-shut. I’m right.
As the film historians of the 22nd century will note (quote this bit girls, guys and whatever genderless blur you may be), the fourth entry in Marvel Studios’ ouvre is one more trip to Daddy Issues Town. But, oh, it’s warm, funny, knowing of its pompous poppiness. A joy.
Natalie Portman, Stellan Skarsgård and Kat Dennings are the single prettiest bunch of astrophysicists to mooch about a desert, happening jeep-bangingly on a fallen god. They bicker and jest like real people until – oops.
Cue long segue to the god’s time back home: Thor (bluff and trustworthy yet crass Chris Hemsworth, who the crabby old women and men of the TV room say is the handsomest dude out there) is your actual Thor, brother of Loki (sleek and sneaky Tom Hiddleston, who they all booed), son of Odin (Anthony Hopkins – honestly, he blinks power) and putative King of Agard… were it not for the aforementioned crassness and brother. Prideful in a crowd, he takes his buddies to a land of fighty Frost Giants (other franchises suggest themselves), has to be rescued by Odin, and is banished for the problems he causes. Of course, he’s been tricked by Le Hiddleston…
All very grand, but stylishly done. It took me back to director Kenneth Branagh’s performance in Hamlet in the 1980s. I think he played Laertes. Brian Blessed was in it. Old Mrs Jack made me drive to Stratford for it and… she’s dead, but, you know, grudges…
Anyway, Branagh’s Laertes shagged Machiavelli and made Hiddleston’s Loki. Who is pissed at his Dad and discovers – the hard and intensely shouty way – that he’s not. Oh yes. It justifies manipulating his way to the throne in Thor’s absence. Odin sleeps it off in a glowy bed.
And then the sexy stuff. Thor’s hammer is stuck in the desert, attracts soldier types (S.H.I.E.L.D., canon fans), while the god wakes up powerless and ready for comedy. Odin did this to him, and laid down a Major Plot Contrivance (only the worthy can pick up the hammer… and Thor has some growing to do). Which by the by, albeit old Jack here enjoyed the Daddy of the Issues being right. The fun is in Hemsworth’s god-out-of-water schtick with Portman and co, the passing locals and those soldier types. He makes himself a star in these scenes.
Portman supplies the missing ingredients: smart incredulity and romance. The pull between human and god, made all the more convincing by Hemsworth sans shirt, is sweet and silly. Their mutual clumsiness shunts a whopping dollop of heart into Thor’s attempts to get back his hammer, sob-worthy realisation of what Odin’s done, and face-off to an undefeatable avatar of his brother’s…
As with the first three films, things get special effecty, but this cast share the charm and give Thor the scaffolding to earn his redemption.
Hemsworth and Portman are well matched and make you care. Each is hurt in their own way; Branagh’s camera knows it and doesn’t let their damned prettiness get in the way. They’re quality actors amongst the fireworks. So, there’s cool. And kissin’.
Thor is the tonic you need if you’re training antibodies to quell a pandemic. Watch it.
Hell, watch it twice. It’s that bright. And that breezy.