After being thwarted by opening weekend opportunities, I caught Thor on Monday night. I was pretty disappointed and I’ve been struggling to understand why that might be, considering the acclaim that it has received, both from the real critics, and the comic community. I think I’ve narrowed down why it didn’t resonate with me, and it comes down to a simple fact: Thor is not my superhero.
The Conditions: To start with, I could have seen it under better conditions. While a quality movie shouldn’t be dependent on context, pretending that context doesn’t play a role in enjoyment and perceived quality is naive. I could have seen it in a crowded theatre with a giant screen surrounded by the fans that would have laughed and cheered along with me. Instead, I saw it with a small crowd in a small theatre. I’m not sure how much of that contributed to the 3D aspects being extremely underwhelming to the point of making the movie look cheap, but that was only half the problem. Without the fanboys, there was no excitement or fervor in the air. Studies I totally just made up show that being surrounded by people enjoying a thing contributes to your enjoyment. It’s subconscious peer-pressure. Instead, I was left turning to Ryan asking if the Asgard bits were as silly as I thought. (they were)
I was the only one who cheered when Hawkeye showed up. For serious. Also, I cheered when Hawkeye showed up. What have I become?
The “Ironman” Factor: “People” kept comparing this movie to Ironman. It doesn’t matter if they said it was almost as good as Ironman or not, I walked into the theatre with the expectation that I was going to heart it as much as I heart Ironman. And beyond any discussion of quality, this movie has very little in common with what I enjoyed about Ironman. There’s something about movies made by Jon Favreau that work on me in a special way. WIthout realizing it, I went in expecting to be entertained by Kenneth Branagh the same way I’m entertained by Jon Favreau. Lord, what fools these mortals be, indeed.
If I had considered this movie was going to be similar to Ang Lee’s The Hulk (which I liked and it totally is), I think i would have enjoyed it much more.
The Super Story: But here’s the real “problem:” Thor’s story and Thor’s problems aren’t interesting to me. What I dig most about superheros and supervillans are their origin stories. What were they like before they got this power? How did that transformation change them? How do they deal with their new lives within the context of their old ones? Thor was never not a god. He starts the movie as a big, arrogant, blonde oaf who solves every problem with a hammer swing. He ends the movie slightly less arrogant (arguably more arrogant), but other than that, pretty much the same. Yaaaaaaaaaawn. Add to that the choice to have most of the peril/battle/ultimate stakes take place on worlds other than mine? Why am I invested in this?
There were so many interesting looking characters with stories just begging to be told, but nothing came of any of them. The only character that didn’t end exactly the same as he’d begun was Loki. His arc was as close to interesting as the movie was. Even though he’d always had the power, there was still a rather traumatic “reveal” and aftermath. The movie glossed over most of that, since he wasn’t the big, dumb hero.
The Fallout: Consider my expectations completely reset for Captain America. I don’t really know Joe Johnston from a hole in the wall, and the movie certainly doesn’t lend itself to a Favreau-style joy ride. I do hope/want the actual Avengers movie to have a Favreau-like tone, and with Joss at the helm, it should.
I am suddenly terrified for X-Men: First Class, though. That’s the one that I’ve been most looking forward to and that I “need” to be great.