Thor: The Jumpy World

The main thing about Thor is: he jumps. Like a yellow lab tethered to a stick, he's flung as much as he flings his hammer--an object of which he "will try to be worthy." I have a sketchy feeling there's something reversed about that, but I'm certain that villains stop thrown objects. Hence the hero's motivating envy, because his life is all topsy-turvy. Thor hops between planets more impulsively than we hop between countries. He appears behind a woman with a magical umbrella to shelter her from the storm that follows him around (a bit troubling, I know). He, ahem, crosses stars to save the damsel he sneaks up on. His brother, the ur-trickster, is no help. It's not even clear the writers know what he wants.

Meanwhile, what kind of story is Thor in? At first I thought (with glee) he was in a princess plot. His stern, battle-scarred father (so stern he has to speak in tedious implicatives to say anything kind) wants him to have a practical marriage to the warrior princess (an obvious choice, as she appears to be the only female warrior in the nine realms, and indeed, one of two non-mortal females). But he doesn't love her, daddy. Sadly that is not the story. There is a kind of metaphorical rape-revenge plot, which seems totally thoughtless. Jane gets unwillingly invaded by a malevolent liquid called "the ether," which makes her faint, turns her eyes black, and violently dispatches anyone who tries to touch her other than Thor. For half the movie she's just wandering around asking "how do I get it out of me?" Once the evil elf man sucks it out of her, somehow it becomes power to wield instead of burden to bear. Hm.

Is that the story? There's also a caper. The gang of vaguely recognizable warrior-buddies rescue Jane, free Loki, and dash off through Loki's secret passage. On the way there, one of the gang turns it into a pirate movie for five seconds, swinging by rope from one ship to another. There's also a few minutes of Star Wars, all pwee-pwee dogfight and destructive sperm trying to enter a well-protected sphere. And some grave Peter Jacksonesque mythological backstory, complete with CGI battles with elves. By the way, about the ether, Thor tells power-hungry Loki "you cannot wield it."

Fittingly, the overarching plot becomes in the end about the colliding of worlds. Things fly wily-nilly in and out of portals. Thor is in his element, jumping around blind trying to stop bad things. In this case, he must stop the elf from bringing about that venerable standby of diabolic plots: the destruction of the universe. This vampirically pale man has plunged his dagger-like ship smack in the middle of Greenwich, like a burning cross, or a to-scale Google Earth pin. Because with a flourish lifted from Ancient Aliens wingnuttery, all the great wonders of the world point to Greenwich. All the portals float overhead there, variously inbibing and disgorging villain, henchmen, hero, sidekicks. It does seem the logical aesthetic climax of such a mishmash of tones and genres. It felt much like a firework: a bunch of sparkles and pops, accompanied by a concussive bang and a dispersal of glowy bits.

To be honest, I would prefer the barriers between worlds didn't collapse. Thor and Jane are more bearable when they can't reach each other. The pining shakes them up a bit, and for that short moment they have pathos, even if it can only be signified by a black cloak or a half-hearted date. When they meet, the instant affection runs an iron over them. I think this long distance thing is working just fine for them.

17 November 2013