Movie Review: Thor

Movie Review: Thor

Thor Rating:  M Distributor: Paramount Release Date: April 21, 2011The son of the Father god comes to earth in the form of a man where he confront forces threatening all humanity – and the only way he can save those he loves is to die. This story might sound as familiar as Christmas and Easter but it doesn’t […]

By Mark HadleyWednesday 27 Apr 2011MoviesReading Time: 4 minutes

Rating:  M
Distributor: Paramount
Release Date: April 21, 2011

The son of the Father god comes to earth in the form of a man where he confront forces threatening all humanity – and the only way he can save those he loves is to die. This story might sound as familiar as Christmas and Easter but it doesn’t come from any Bible you’d recognise. No, this is the plot for the new Marvel Comics film Thor, and it gives viewers a bit of an idea what Jesus might have looked like if he fancied furs and arrived wielding a thunderous hammer.

In this modern retelling of the Norse myth, Thor is the dissatisfied son of the supreme god Odin. He longs for war even though his father has achieved peace with the ice giants at great cost to the forces of Asgard. Thanks to this short fuse, Thor finds himself in a new battle with their ancient enemies that threatens to plunge all of the nine realms – including earth – into “… the horror and devastation of war.” Odin banishes him to earth for his stupidity and there, reduced to the status of a mere mortal, the former God of Thunder discovers not only the real source of the evil that threatens to engulf the planet but the humility necessary to defeat it.

Thor is the next film translation for a long line of Marvel heroes. Hollywood has been eyeing off the Norse comic book character since the late 1990’s with names like Sam Raimi, Jim Carrey and Brad Pitt all associated with the project at one time or another. But it was the unexpected combination of English dramatic legend Kenneth Brannagh as director, and Chris Hemsworth as his lead that eventually brought the God of Thunder to the big screen.

Branagh brings more than epic story telling to the film. It was the film’s unusual choice for director that tempted Academy Award winner Natalie Portman to be star as Thor’s love interest. “Kenneth Branagh doing Thor is super-weird,” she told reporters. “I’ve gotta do it.” But don’t go looking for performances with the pedigree of Black Swan. Portman fell to earth to star in this film in much the same way as her hero did. Thor is first and foremost a comic-book tale. Despite the universe hanging in the balance, it retains a strong grip on unreality. There’s also a fair dose of quirkiness thanks to the director’s comedic timing. Among the many laugh-out-loud moments, I particularly liked hearing a perplexed federal agent radio in, “I’ve got Xena, Jackie Chan and Robin Hood walking down the street…”

But Thor isn’t all fists and furs. Branagh saw the film as an opportunity to do a Norse version of Henry V in which Shakespeare’s young king undergoes immense trials to gain a purified character. Screenwriter Mark Protosevich also described his original script as “…an Old Testament God who becomes a New Testament God,” and the story is laden with numerous deliberate references to the Christian god-come-to-earth story. Midway through the film Thor offers his life in exchange for a group of defenseless earthlings. Slipping into the void, he mutters “It’s over,” echoing Jesus’ own dying words, “It is finished.” And Thor also has his own unexpected, earth-shattering resurrection. Though where Mary Magdalene joyfully proclaims, “I have seen the Lord!” all Natalie Portman can manage is a lame, “Oh my god!”

If there’s a distinction to be made between these two sons of god, though, it has to be the willingness with which they submitted to their tasks. Thor rages at his father Odin, calling him a “… foolish old man,” for thinking peace could be gained by sacrifice rather than power. Jesus’ response when he faces his cross is infinitely more humble: “Not my will be done, but yours.” However the denizens of Asgard and Heaven do agree on one thing, “There’s always a purpose to everything your father does.” And where Odin simply had in mind gaining a better son by sending Thor to earth, God was searching for an entire spiritual family when He sent Jesus.

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Paper Giants: The Birth of Cleo
Rating:  TBA
Distributor: iView
Release Date: Now online

If you missed the airing of Paper Giants on ABC1 last week, then you really should take a trip over to Auntie’s online service iView to catch up on what is a compelling insight into a formative decade in Australian history.

Paper Giants covers the first four years of the women’s magazine Cleo. It’s a biopic in many respects of Ita Buttrose, Australia’s iconic style doyen. The two-part series reveals her struggle to shepherd the fledgling women’s magazine through a culture only just escaping from the prudery of the Victorian era. The drama is set on a backdrop of the political and social eruptions taking place in 70s Australia, culminating in the dismissal of the Whitlam government and the constitutional crisis that followed. Just as interesting are the insights into the Packer family’s publishing empire and the emergence of Kerry Packer as a force to be reckoned with.

Paper Giants discovers a certain naïveté in the Australian culture with its behind-closed-doors examination of the Women’s Lib movement. Asher Keddie provides a Logi-worthy performance as Ita Buttrose, a woman struggling to raise the profile of women’s issues while preserving their right to retain their femininity. Sexual liberation became the focal point of the discussion at the time, and viewers should proceed with caution. But the series does a good job of displaying just how little satisfaction is actually derived from a swinging lifestyle. What does emerge very clearly, though, is the inner beauty and ability God has endowed every woman with. Christian husbands would do well to remember that He ordained wives to be their helpers, not their chattels.

1.2 million Australians have already seen Paper Giants – add yourself to the list.