Rebecca Black should be careful with her hit song as Friday is named after Norse goddess Freyja. As the goddess of love, beauty, fertility, gold, war and death; this is one goddess not to be messed with. A composition about the difficulties of choosing between the front and backseat deserves divine wrath. Apart from Friday, another weekday named after a Norse god is Thursday or Thor’s Day – as in Thor the god of Thunder. I am a big fan of Norse Mythology ever since I read it in an encyclopedia entry when I was a child. There was still no Wikipedia in sight. Huginn (thought) and Munnin (memory) are my favorite characters. They are a pair of ravens perched on Odin’s shoulders and fly around the world to bring information to their master. Think of Odin as Zeus. It is quite unfortunate that Norse myths are not as popular as its Greek or Roman counterparts when its stories are at par with them. But this did not prevent some of its legacies to seep into popular culture. Case in point: Ragnarok. No. Not the on-line game. This refers to the apocalypse in the Norse legends where a number of gods and goddesses died. Case in point: Thor, the Marvel comic book-turned-movie superhero. Of all big-budgeted summer movie offerings, I was not expecting much from this Kenneth Branagh-directed film. First, I do not know much about Thor the comic book. Second, Chris Hemsworth. Third, Kenneth Branagh directing a SUPERHERO movie. Then I noticed I was laughing at the jokes; marveling at the the set of Asgard; and just feeling it. Good job Kenneth!
Odin (Anthony Hopkins) is about to anoint his brash first-born Thor (Hemsworth) when his old enemies, the Frost giants break into Asgard to steal back their source of powers, the Casket of Ancient Winters. Good thing though, a gigantic robot-like guard demolished the intruders. Thor volunteered, along with the Warriors Three: Volstagg (Ray Stevenson), Hogun (Tadanobu Asano), Fandral (Joshua Dallas); and his childhood friend Sif (Jaimie Alexander), to retaliate against their enemies. His wise father dissuaded him. But his brother on the other hand, Loki (Tom Hiddlestone) agreed to his plan. Soon enough, he is in Jotunheim confronting the Frost Giant leader Laufey then killing the rest of the giants. Odin intervened and rescued the Asgardians from imminent death but in turn, broke the fragile truce between their realms. As punishment for his pig-headed decision, Thor and his terrible hammer is banished to Earth. In particular, New Mexico where Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and her colleagues Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings) and Dr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard) is working on an unfamiliar astronomical-related phenomenon. Unknown to them, this has something to do with the strange man they met who calls himself Thor.
The sets are astounding, especially Asgard. The humor is subtle, almost dry. The actors are good, no annoying over-the-top performances. Hemsworth is not the typical good-looking lead star and thank goodness for that. Thor is supposed to be a hammer-wielding warrior. I am not sure if chiseled features are required. Thor should be big and muscular, rough and tough, a divine working-class hero. Hemsworth has all of those qualities and some. Portman doesn’t have to do much here, after all superhero leading ladies are like beautiful garnishes in a delicious entrée. But it is Tom Hiddleston as Loki that had me glued on-screen. (I watched the last full show schedule of Thor after a get-together in Mall of Asia so the nagging exhaustion should have an effect but the film just kept me awake.) Of course he is the villain. He is Loki, the god of mischief. Think of him as the Norse version of Pan. But his innocent aura had me rooting for him. I am still rooting for him. The cold and calculated bad-as*ness has a strong appeal. Kat Dennings bless her needs more movies. She keeps hitting the right note and timing in her role as the political science student assistant of Portman.
The attraction of these ancient gods and goddesses is their human-like reasonings and reactions. Capable of love, sin, vengeance and forgiveness. Their incapabilities of handling their powers is close to home. Most of us change in the presence of fame, power and wealth. Like these things give us the perfect reason to f*ck other people up. No it does not. Doing so will just f*ck us all up. Ask Thor. Another appeal of ancient deities is their close relationship with humans, as in people can talk with them, laugh at their jokes and even bear illegitmate children. Mortals have long sought to communicate with the gods, as in the case of the Tower of Babel and countless oracles. One consistent lesson though is it is never a good idea. Deaths and destructions follow whenever the gods and goddesses are with us. This is not the same, “I have a great relationship with God because I attend church services all the time” thing but more of, “Man, I met Zeus last night and we drank like a fish in the pub near the river. Crawling. We were crawling from too much drunkenness. That Zeus is the man er god.” The ancient gods are both heroes and villains, valiant warriors and bickering idiots – just like us. But to think we deserve to live and breathe alongside is a terrible mistake: gods > mortals. This: gods = mortals? Not gonna happen.
I am grateful if this movie can put a much-needed spotlight on Norse legends. Bring on the hammer. Oh. Thor will be back alongside his friends Iron Man, Hulk and Captain America. Yes. Together. In one movie.