For the last 10 years, my dad and I have built a tradition out of going to see the big Marvel Comics, summer kick-off movie. It always falls on his birthday weekend, so I treat him to dinner and a movie. It’s not the deepest of intellectual excursions, but it’s fun, and each year, our time together gets better and better. Though admittedly, the movie itself is not always the highlight of our time, even though it is usually the main event. Some years, the movies are excellent, X2: X-Men United and Iron Man come to mind. But in recent years, the movies have been relatively disappointing (X-Men 3: The Last Stand, Spider Man 3, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Iron Man 2). That said, I did not go in with the highest of expectations, but I was hopeful. “Cautiously optimistic” would be the best way to put it.
I was hopeful first because of the director, Kenneth Branagh. You might recognize him for his role as Gilderoy Lockhart in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, but he is actually a well-respected director, known mainly for directing massively epic (read: 4+ hours long) Shakespeare movies. The second reason I was hopeful is because I was convinced that Thor couldn’t possibly be worse than some of the movies I mentioned above. And, if I have to choose a third reason (which I guess I don’t), I would say that I have never had much interest in Thor comics, so I didn’t have the same preexisting emotional investment that I had on the X-Men related films, and I didn’t really care if it was that bad or not.
All that said, Thor exceeded all of my expectations. It was a really enjoyable movie. It was action packed, very clean (only one kiss and not even one low-cut top, though Thor had his shirt off once), light on foul language, solid on CG, and surprising not cheesy. That last comment has to be one of the highest compliments this the movie can receive. It is very obvious that the whole crew worked hard to make this movie not cheesy. I mean, if you’re making a list of cheesy super hero movie ideas, Thor would be at the top of that list. He’s a tall blonde with a hammer who wears a red cape and crosses galaxies on a rainbow bridge. If you can succeed in making that not cheesy, you’re halfway to a good film already.
I don’t want to give much away about the direction of the story, but one of the best parts of the film is the central message of the perils of pride versus the blessings of humility. As I watched the movie I was reminded of James 4:6 “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Thor is the eldest son of the Norse god Odin. He is a fierce warrior and an arrogant, prideful prince. His arrogance leads to his banishment from his world, which is how he ends up on earth. While he is learning to live selflessly, he is forced to put his humility to the test in order to save his new-found friends. And, like I said, I don’t want to give too much away, so I’ll leave it for you to fill in the holes.
If you’ve been following the Marvel comics movies for the past few years, you know that they are building to an Avengers movie in a year or so. This movie does a good job of tying things together without falling into the trap of Iron Man 2, and the surprise extra character introduction is much more subtle and welcomed than Scarlet Johansson as the Black Widow. So, in my estimation, Marvel is 3 for 4 in the Avengers series of movies (the one semi-dud being Iron Man 2, though you are free to debate that one with me). I’ll reserve acting comments for those more qualified, though I think that everyone did a fine job, and, as I said before, the CG effects were well done, and surprisingly not overdone, even with Thor’s home world being almost entirely computer generated.
What I am most excited about is that I can, and do, recommend that fathers take their older boys to see this movie. It’s about as soft a PG-13 as you will find, and it will provide lots of opportunities for you to talk about what truly makes a male a man. So load up on the popcorn and enjoy. It may not become a classic, but I like it more today than I did yesterday, and that is one of the best tests of a movie’s quality.