What is your relationship like with Thor? Have you accepted Thor as your summer’s personal savior?
One of the comic bookiest summers in cinema history has finally stopped pussyfooting around and arrived, already, and its herald is a 3D movie by Kenneth Branagh. People in nations other than mine have already had the pleasure of seeing this movie and report back from the front that it is good. 94% good, if Rotten Tomatoes is to be believed the week before most U.S. critics have a crack at the thing. (I don’t mean to belittle non-U.S. critics; it’s just that, as luck would have it, the first early Thor review I tried to read happened to contain the phrase “when I visited the set of the movie,” and I sort of threw the Beta Ray Bill out with the bathwater. I love every movie I hung out at, too.)
I don’t know why I was surprised to hear that it was good. I can’t remember a time when Kenneth Branagh the director has let me down before. But then, Kenneth Branagh’s never made a movie about Thor.
I guess I had not initially accepted Thor as my summer’s personal savior. I’ve always had a deeply ambivalent relationship with the Odinson, and there’s no sense denying it now. Part of the reason I never really liked The Avengers as a kid was that I used to think, “’Earth’s Mightiest Heroes’? Give me a break. Doctor Druid, the Black Knight, and Thor?” Something about him always seemed deeply square in a way that not even Captain America could touch. Maybe those speech patterns of his always made me feel like a pop quiz was around the corner. Maybe he just seemed too adjacent to Fantasy, my very least favorite in all the Mystical Realms of Genre. I can’t help myself; if I feel like I’m about to hear about elves or dragons, I reflexively begin scanning the room for exits. I was born this way. What else was I to make of a character with a helm and a hammer?
If anything, pity me in my ignorance. That amazing Walt Simonson run being Omnibussed now was happening right under my nose while I was buying up back issues of Transformers.
Looking back, I don’t even really know where my impression of Thor came from. For all I know, I saw him in Secret Wars II and based years of bias on it. I do know I bought a grand total of one Thor comic as a kid, #385, because it featured a battle with the Hulk. It was called “Be Thou God or Monster,” but given that it was credited to Jim Shooter and Stan Lee and was the only book on the shelves in which the Hulk was still green, it’s clear in hindsight that it should have been called “Be Thou Patently a Fill-In Issue Out of a Drawer Somewhere.” (Back then, I didn’t know there were fill-in issues; I just knew the books came out like clockwork.) It did not make a lifelong impression.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the multiplex: I got excited about Thor. I’ve been counting the days until this movie is released, and not just because I want to see Anthony Hopkins’ hockey hair in 3D. Although I do so much.
Maybe Matt Fraction, Brian Bendis and (gulp) JMS have shown me a new side of the Mighty One in the last few years, or at least shown me once and for all that any character besides Deadpool and Superman can be entertaining in the right pair of hands. Maybe I’m just beside myself with curiosity to see what kind of world they’re going to build that both has Frost Giants and fits naturally right next to Robert Downey Jr. and Sam Rockwell’s orange hands. Maybe it’s Fear Itself spillover enthusiasm.
Or maybe this is just one of those times when, without being too self-conscious about it, I find myself waving the flag for Team Comics a little bit. Occasionally, something from our cultural niche will find itself out in front of the world at large in an impressive, non-Punisher-movie sort of way, and I find myself getting excited that my mom’s friends know what a Hellboy is even if I myself have not previously been the world’s biggest Hellboy fan. A part of me says, “More people are getting exposed to this group of things I enjoy, and maybe they’ll enjoy them too. The party is getting bigger!”
The inverse, of course, is that you find yourself aching for Jonah Hex fans even if you’re not one. Alas, love makes us vulnerable.
Am I the only person who does this? Did you still find yourself sort of hoping Ghost Rider 2 is good, against all laws of probability, economics, and possibly quantum physics? Did you ever root for a comic book movie even though you’d never bought the book?
In the case of Thor, I’m mainly looking forward to it to see how they pull it off. Adaptations like this can be tricky, and English-speaking Norse gods with rainbow bridges and world trees could be a real tightrope walk to adapt in a world where they can’t even get Catwoman right. But the cast is good, the critics seem happy, the Marvel Architects are in Their heaven and all is right with the world. Four days and counting until things get underway.
I can’t wait to see Thor. Stranger things have happened, but none come to mind.
Jim Mroczkowski thinks in a way he can’t articulate that the future of Doctor Strange scripts may hinge more on the success of the Thor franchise than you might think. They have a lot of hocus pocus in common.