Thor 2

I watched the latest Marvel movie from two perspectives.  First, I enjoy the Marvel universe and I have been able to appreciate how the Avengers movies have done such a good job of maintaining their integrity to the comics.  Second, I am a student of the world’s mythologies and I hoped that the new characters and different species to be introduced in this movie would continue to match up with the Norse stories.

The Dark Elves, likely Dwarves according to mythology scholars, are rarely and then vaguely mentioned in the myths; making them ripe for interpretation.  The comics have done this, and  they are Thor’s enemies there.  However, they don’t have the same level of insanity in the literature; the villain of the latest movie wanted to destroy the Asgard as well as all the inhabited worlds because his species had been reduced to a small number in a war and he wanted revenge.  The movie did not provide enough background to rationalize thinking like that, nor did it give the villain enough significant dialogue to provide some explanation.  The plot device that allowed a Dark Elf to become virtually unstoppable until it killed them was also not thought out very well.  It is not in mythology, it is not explained, it’s an invention for the movie.

The general relationship to mythology was even less well done.  The Thor of myth is a giant-killer, who goes to the land of the Frost and Fire Giants on campaigns.  He often goes alone, but occasionally with comrades.  He does not interact at all with Loki, who is chiefly Odin’s concern.  I knew from the start that such dynamics would not play well in a movie, and was not surprised by the adjustments made for the first one.  Loki was used as a facilitator, the Frost Giants became aggressors.  It then became necessary for them to be sealed off from the other planets in order to give the audience some closure.

However, I also recognized that the writers had painted themselves into a corner there; the Frost Giants had no leader, and without Loki to cause trouble the Fire Giants had no means of posing a threat either.  Their solution was disappointing.  They took an undeveloped species from the comics and stretched their history back before time itself.

I liked the movie for a lot of reasons.  I enjoyed the chance to see more of Asheim.  I could appreciate the coninuing development of Thor as a character in his abilities of deception and self-sacrifice.  Loki’s fascinating personality was on display here as well.  I found the Earth asides with the quirky assistant and the half-insane former mentor to be great fun.  I even found myself happy that Loki had survived (despite the new and unexplained enhancement of his illusion power).  But Marvel needs to remember to stick to the comics as closely as possible in order to maintain its audience.  They must respect the mythology as well.  The Norse stories have developed over thousands of years.  They are product of our communal human psyche.  They work, they touch us on an emotional level that all the FX in the world cannot match.  Best not to interfere with that relationship.

About Cian Beirdd

I live with my kitty, and encourage his tuna and catnip addictions. I have a website as well;
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1 Response to Thor 2

  1. Loki says:

    I really loved this movie. But its great flaw, as you seem to agree, is the lack of fleshing out of the villains. I deeply hope that this movie will be the first one for which Marvel releases a Director’s Cut including the many scenes regarding the villain and his backstory that the director in interviews has lamented were cut for pacing (as well as some stuff with Frigga), but as I’ve not yet heard rumours of any such release, that seems infinitely unlikely. The movie would have been so much better if such scenes had been kept in, no matter if the pacing had been a bit laxer as a result.

    One thing, though — you say Loki chiefly interacts with Odin in the myths, not Thor. That’s outright false. While Loki is indeed connected to the gods through Odin (they mix blood and declare themselves brothers in their youth) and appears prominently in several of his adventures in the “backstory” of the gods, in the myths that are considered to be more recent to or concurrent with human history, Loki is Thor’s companion and foil more than anything else. When Thor’s hammer is stolen by the giant Trym, Loki offers to go with him to get it back, with Thor dressing up as Freya (whom the giant has requested as his bride in order to return the hammer) and Loki as his servant girl, who softly speaks for him (Thor having much too deep a voice — and too great a temper — behind the bridal veil to talk for himself). When in perhaps the most famous myth Thor visits the halls of Utgard-Loki (a giant sharing Loki’s name, hence the prefix to keep them straight) and is tested by magic and treachery, Loki is his only companion aside from Thor’s human servant boy Tjalfir. Loki’s famous bet with the dwarf (or dark elf, if you’d like) who made many of the gods’ finest magic items sprung out of a commitment to Thor to rectify having shaved the head of Thor’s wife (Sif) and getting her a golden wig that would become as her real hair once donned.

    Now don’t get me wrong, Loki appears in many myths where he is not particularly connected to neither Thor nor Odin (for instance he has a legendary mutual hatred for Heimdal, is responsible for the death of Baldur, and in stories involving all or a majority of the gods as a group, the go-to quick thinker for problem solving). But saying he’s connected more to Odin than Thor is quite misleading. If anything, Marvel Comics (and thus the films) have chosen to accentuate Loki’s arguably two strongest relationships in the myths: as Thor’s cunning (if sometimes untrustworthy and envious) companion by making him a brother instead of an uncle, and as an outsider brought to Valhalla through Odin’s good graces as an adopted son rather than a companion of his youth.

    In any case, your analysis seems otherwise sound. I would very much enjoy a higher involvement of the myths in the movies (though I’ve heard Marvel representatives understandably state they consciously try to adapt the comics, _not_ the myths that sometimes inspired them), and this movie would have benefited greatly from a more fleshed out villain. That said, the central plot device of the Aether is clearly going to be one of the Infinity Gems and as such tie into the larger Thanos plot as hinted in Avengers and Captain America (the first gem being the Tesseract). So I can understand that between Loki and the Aether, the “third” villainous element of the movie took a back seat, even if I dislike it.

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