Kenneth Branagh’s Thor

Marvel Thor Asgard Thor is quite possibly my favorite of all Marvel Comics, so I have been waiting very eagerly for this movie since late 2009. Though I worried that Kenneth Branagh wouldn’t be able to pull off a film adaptation, he did a fantastic job. But for all my love of this movie, there are some things I’m not too sure about. There are just a few little tidbits here and there that don’t match up with the comics and don’t make too much sense either.

To start off, this movie received a lot of negativity before it even hit theaters. The Council of Conservative Citizens had called for a boycott of the movie due to the casting of Idris Elba as Heimdall, and even without these assholes interfering, the casting choice had also sparked a series of internet wars where both sides tried to see who could be the bigger douchebags or who could yell “no, you’re racist” the most. On the one hand, we had the people who supported Mr. Elba; he’s a talented actor, Heimdall is not that big of a character (or at least he’s not in the comics), and it’s good that movies are starting to become more diverse. On the other hand, he’s a black man playing a Norse god, and he’s Sif’s brother, which begs the question as to why she’s still white—and Lord knows that she will never be played by a black woman anytime soon without pissing off a lot of people. This issue has become so tangled and convoluted, and it’s been just about everywhere that I’m sure everyone reading this will have heard it before, so I’ll try to keep this part of the review as short as possible before moving on.

When I first heard of the casting choice, I was a little surprised. In Norse Mythology, Heimdall is known as the white god, and I think we can all safely say that Idris Elba is anything but. However, if I was going to bitch about that, I would also have to bitch about how Thor and Loki were no longer gingers to avoid being a complete hypocrite. Throughout the years, the Marvel Norse mythology has differed greatly from actual mythology: the Warriors Three are original characters (and Hogun isn’t white, either), Amora is often portrayed as a combination of Idun and Freya, and the golden apples are almost nonexistent. My biggest problem with the casting choice came from Heimdall and Sif being siblings. There is no way anyone is going to convince me that Idris Elba and Jamie Alexander have the same biological parents. It’s just not going to work, but the movie avoids the issue altogether by never stating that they’re brother and sister. Anyway, they’re fictional space aliens, and I’ve yet to be given a good reason as to why they can only be white.

Moving on, this movie had a lot of things going for it. The relationship between Thor and Loki is fleshed out, and we really get to see their pain. This doesn’t happen as much in the comics anymore because their epic sibling rivalry has been going on since the sixties. But this movie starts at the beginning, when they’re still brothers. Loki, however, brings me to another problem this movie suffered from: Laufey.

What was the point?

Odin very clearly states that he hopes Loki could someday bring peace between Asgard and Jotunhiem, and that’s why he adopts him. Okay, but how exactly is Loki going to bring peace if Laufey doesn’t even know who Loki is and can’t recognize him? And if Laufey does recognize him, he certainly doesn’t care. He leaves Loki to die as an infant and orders Loki dead partway through the movie (though he later retracts that order, he still doesn’t react to Loki being his son in anyway). If that isn’t a sure sign that he doesn’t care about Loki, I don’t know what is. If anything, he’s probably pissed that Odin saved Loki because he was ashamed of him. There was so much the movie could have done here between Loki and Laufey, but it didn’t. The only family dynamic seen is between Odin, Thor, and Loki. So why not Loki and Laufey? I feel as though leaving Laufey alive and not putting another Frost Giant on the throne is cheap. Loki makes a big deal about his true parentage, and then nothing happens. He just sort of tricks Laufey so he can kill him in front of Odin to prove himself, and that has nothing to do with Laufey being Loki’s real dad because he would have done it to any Frost Giant. And killing the Jotuns brings me to my next problem.

My other major issue with this movie came from the Bifrost. I was not expecting the rainbow bridge to turn into an epic destroyer of worlds. The Bifrost originally is harmless and only connects Midgard and Asgard, which is why Heimdall is rarely seen in the comics. But since it now gives passage to all worlds, Idris Elba gets to show off his kickass acting skills every other scene and Loki gets to use it as a rainbow of death against Jotunhiem. And since the Bifrost in the movie is obviously something the Asgardians made rather than something that just exists, it makes one wonder why the hell they can’t just rebuild the damn thing.

As much of the story is about Thor and Loki, the other Asgardians are a little underdeveloped. Even the Eternal Realm itself left much to be desired. For as big and magnificent as it is, with the exception of the very beginning, it seems as though no one outside the royal family and the Warriors Three live there. Jaimie Alexander’s portrayal of Sif was very impressive, but I’m sure being fully clothed certainly helped. I’ve always been a bit on the fence about Sif’s character in the comics. Her character struggles to fit in as the only female among all the other warriors. She achieves things no other woman has done and proves herself over and over again. She can certainly hold her own in a fight, and she doesn’t put up with anybody talking down to her for being a woman. I just get annoyed sometimes, because most comics I see her in she’s always complaining. Half of everything she says is something negative about Loki or her brunette hair. Not having to listen to that for the duration of the movie was certainly welcome.

Granted, if someone cut off my hair, and then got me new hair of a completely different color, I’d be pretty upset, too.

While I am glad the movie avoided this, and while I am glad gaining Thor’s affection is no longer one of her motivations as it is in the comics, she’s still one of his love interests. She does care for him, so I have to wonder what she thinks when Thor and Jane kiss. The two of them used to date, or at the very least have sexual tension, and it’s just not there anymore. Furthermore, other than some kickass fighting scenes with the Warriors Three, she doesn’t really do much. I’d say out of the four of them, she’s the most developed, but more could have been given about such an interesting character.

Rene Russo did a fantastic job as Frigga, who was never meant to be some kickass embodiment of woman power, but despite her calm, motherly nature, we still get a scene of her going at Laufey and another Frost Giant with a sword.

And that brings me to Jane. She originally appeared in the comics as a nurse who worked for Donald Blake. Her career change from a traditional female job (a nurse) to a profession occupied mostly by men (a physicist) would have been a great step in the right direction for women in comics, if her new job hadn’t been for the sole purpose of furthering Thor’s plot. It had nothing to do with anything outside of Thor himself. Even though in the comics she only exists to get saved and create unrest between Thor and Odin, her profession wasn’t specifically chosen to benefit Thor. In the older comics, she is a pretty weak character who can’t do anything for herself. She grows more over the years, and not being dressed in some ridiculous outfit certainly helps (though at one point Thor takes her to Asgard, and revealing outfits ahoy!). And while the Jane of the movie takes more initiative than the Jane of the comic, she—again—only does it for the sake of furthering Thor’s character arc.

According to Under the Microscope, Natalie Portman stated about her role:

What a great opportunity, in a very big movie that is going to be seen by a lot of people, to have a woman as a scientist.

She’s right. It was a great opportunity, and obviously a lot of effort went into making her role in that profession believable—but what exactly is she doing? We see her doing sciencey things, but what are they? She says at the beginning of the movie that the anomaly she’s studying happens in exact intervals. Well, that anomaly can’t be the Bifrost because Heimdall doesn’t open it like clockwork—oh, wait, it is the Bifrost and Thor is conveniently dropped in front of her car.

Not to mention, her motivation in the movie jumps from furthering scientific discovery and actually benefitting mankind to searching for the crazy Norseman she met two days ago. Furthermore, while nursing is a traditionally female occupation, it’s not an easy job to do. In some versions, such as Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes she’s a paramedic. It’s good to be encouraging young girls to pursue the sciences, but Jane Foster was already a successful, skilled woman.

Changing her profession solely for the reason that they did was possibly the worst way the movie differed from the comics. I can’t justify Jane Foster’s career change. She was better off as a nurse, sadly to say.

All in all, I was disappointed with the female roles. Not so much with Frigga and Darcy, but mainly with Sif and Jane. Sif is just there to be the friend. Her character doesn’t really have any time to grow on screen. We know she overcame social stipulations and “proved that a young maiden of Asgard” could be just as tough as the guys, but what else? We know she hates Loki, but so does everyone else. And she talks bad about him before she even has a reason to. Natalie Portman always gives a stunning performance, but her character left much to be desired, and her romance with Thor blossomed out of nowhere in the span of a couple days. At least in the comics they know each other for quite a while—or at least, she and Don Blake know each other for quite a while—before anything happens between them. But I don’t know which is worse: attraction to Thor just because he’s a hero and having no thoughts outside of him, or attraction to Thor because he’s endearingly crazy and has a six pack and having no thoughts outside of him.

Regardless of the above, the movie was still a lot a fun. The sets are magnificent, Thor and Loki’s drifting apart is captivating, and the acting is fantastic, even if some of the characters could have been better. That said, Darcy, a completely original character, is just so much fun to watch. The Warriors Three, what we see of them, stay traditional to their comic counterparts and build up the comic relief. And the director certainly captured how awkward Asgardians would be walking among the mortals. Some of the cultural mess ups as a result contribute a lot to the film. It’s funny, it’s dramatic, it’s well worth checking out.

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About MadameAce

I draw, I write, I paint, and I read. I used to be really into anime and manga until college, where I fell out of a lot of my fandoms to pursue my studies. College was also the time I discovered my asexuality, and I have been fascinated by different sexualities ever since. I grew up in various parts of the world, and I've met my fair share of experiences and cultures along the way. Sure, I'm a bit socially awkward and not the easiest person to get along with, but I do hold great passion for my interests, and I can only hope that the things I have to talk about interest you as well.

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