How does THOR stack up against the 10 Rules of Quality Superhero Fiction? Let’s find out!
SPOILERS to follow, you guys, but the movie’s been out for awhile, so I figure it’s cool.
1) Start the story by showing how horrible the badguy is. THOR’s got not one, not two but three badguys. How does it set that up? Quite elegantly. Odin tells astory about about Frost Giants to Thor and Loki. Here our two main conflicts set up from the get-go. Two scenes later we get more Frost Giants, the Loki/Thor relationship is underlined, and we see our third badguy, the Destroyer, in action. All done in very organic way.
2) If you must have a damsel in distress, go out of your way to show how smart and capable she is. Jane Foster is unique in super hero movies. Not because she’s intelligent beyond her years and a driven career woman. Nope, it’s because she’s has a female friend to talk to. That’s right: this may be the first superhero film to unequivocally pass the Bechdel Test. It is also worth noting that Jane is never in danger by herself. If she’s in danger, so are Darcy and Erik.
3) Mentors are important, and full of wisdom. Speaking of Erik, Thor get’s a nice surrogate father when his own is down for the count. Erik gives Thor a direction when Odin only provided punishment. I mean, he bails the guy out of jail, for crying out loud. That’s such a Dad move.
4) When out of costume, your hero should have a leather jacket. Thor gets a series of flannel shirts and a canvas hunting jacket. However, the hunting jacket has some seriously sweet detailing, so I’m going to give it a pass.
5) Don’t explain how things work. The beauty of having a god as a superhero is you can just say “magic,” and move on. It’s telling that when Thor attempts to explain the Nine Realms, he draws a picture, and then the sound fades out. We have a diagram, time to move on.
6) Have some other people dressed similar to the hero. My favorite characters in the Thor mythos are his friends the Warriors Three (+ Sif), and they’re in fine form in the film. When they show up later after Thor has reconciled himself to his fate, it only underscores how different he is now than who he was.
7) Super-violence affects us all. Here’s where the film falls short. The small New Mexico town is sparsely populated to begin with, so there’s precious few “regular people” we see effected by the Destroyer. Plenty of property damage, and a lot of comic relief, but not a single emotional beat.
8 ) Evil looks evil. Frost Giants have creepy red eyes, the Destroyer has the fires of hell within him, and Loki has a giant horned helmet. Gold stars all around.
9) Sacrifice is necessary in order to triumph. THOR actually doubles up on this. Not only does he sacrifice himself to save the town, he also sacrifices the Bifrost bridge to save Asgard. That’s what being a man of two worlds gets you: two sacrifices.
10) The story is over, but the legend continues. Considering THE AVENGERS movie is just down the pike, Thor looking over the ruined rainbow bridge and musing about another way to Earth is downright expected.
FINAL SCORE: 9 out of 10. There’s a lot going on with Thor–perhaps too much, as everything feels like it happens much too fast. But I’d rather an ambitious story than a lazy one, and THOR gets props for having a friend for the female lead and villain who feels properly motivated. If anything, THOR feels emotionally hollow. There’s no real chemistry between Hemsworth and Portman, and the non-god drama isn’t really grounded.
THOR has the misfortune of being released in the same year as X-MEN:FIRST CLASS and CAPTAIN AMERICA, which have much stronger emotional cores. Still, a nice story in the IRON MAN mold, where our protagonist has to grow up before he can be a hero.