Thoughts about Thor
The first ever novel I wrote and finished (as opposed to abandoning 5 chapters in) was a historical fantasy that featured Loki interfering with the lives of people in two Anglo-Saxon villages, while simultaneously re-telling some of his adventures from the Norse myths. It was called “Wildfire (in his own words)” and seeing the film has inspired me to dig it out again and see if anything can be done with it. I’m thinking that if it’s not too awful, it might be fun as a free serial or something.
Anyway, I’m a big Loki fan, though I’ve forgotten a great deal since the days when I knew a lot about him. (I do know enough to snort and go “he’s Odin’s blood-brother, not his adopted son!” But actually that leaves him in a very similar place of not quite belonging, so I don’t mind the change.)
I also have a large box in the attic crammed with The Mighty Thor comics, also left over from 20-odd years ago, when a new issue was the highlight of my week. So there was never any doubt about whether I would go and see the film. I went as soon as it opened, and saw it in 3D. Reactions below:
It’s not worth seeing in 3D. Although the sequences in Asgard are beautiful, they don’t really use the three dimensions, and they would be equally good in 2D.
I enjoyed it and would like to see it again, but boy is it full of stuff to give the thoughtful viewer pause.
On a trivial level, I was extremely miffed that they had been faithful to the comic and kept the warriors three. I hated them in the comic. Who thought it would be a great idea to add the three musketeers to Norse myth? Only someone who was tone deaf to the quality of a mythos, clearly. Rubbish in the comic, just as bad in the film.
On a less trivial level, I was kind of staggered that we were supposed to accept that Odin was a good father, while also accepting that both Thor and Loki could both have grown to maturity with the idea that genocide was a good thing. Seriously, All Father, never telling your children that the wholesale slaughter of another race is a bad thing makes it your fault that your kids grew up to be douchebags. Nor is it something you can fix by stripping one of them of his divinity and hoping that the humans will teach him some ethics. Worst father in the universe.
On an even less trivial level, though linked to the last point, I found it all but impossible to believe that the Asgardians were the good guys. They stopped the Jotunn from destroying Earth, so far so good. But then they stole their defeated enemy’s source of magic/power, thus condemning them to permanent ruin. And to add injury to injury, Odin also stole Laufey’s son. (I gasped in horror in the cinema, and was startled to find I was the only one doing so). After which Odin educated his children to regard their defeated foes as monsters, leading the kids (I use the term loosely to describe a bunch of adults who ought to know better) to think that it would be a great idea to test their manhood by going – fully tooled up – and picking fights with an already disarmed and defeated people. What a bunch of bullying thugs.)
At any rate, after establishing that Odin was the worst parent in the universe and also a very bad king, and that Thor was a muscle-bound jerk, I found myself even more predisposed to be desperately sorry for Loki. And for a long and enjoyable time I was able to believe that the film itself might be aware that he had some cause for grievance, and might actually be going for something in the way of nuance.
I often hope this of movie villains. It seems I never learn that a child with black slicked back hair, dressed in dark green, is inevitably going to turn out evil. If only I could learn this simple fact so I could get stuck in to hating people properly on the evidence of colour coding! Silly me!
Loki seemed very allegorical to me in this film. He’s ‘feminine’ in the sense that he is physically weaker than Thor, he uses magic and deception to get his way, where Thor (and Odin) use the ‘masculine’ power of physical force. And I’ve started wondering recently whether power created by force or the threat of force is really so very much more noble than power created by persuasion, even if that persuasion involves lies.
When I said to my husband that I felt desperately sorry for Loki, he said “why?”, which I thought was a fair question, though it surprised me that he didn’t see or feel it himself. But here’s a child who wants to grow up to be equal to his brother – but he is different, he cannot conform to the warrior stereotype which is the only way in his society to gain acceptance. His natural gifts of intelligence and magic are regarded as slightly despicable, and even when he uses them to prove that he’s just as capable as his brother, he cannot gain praise or acceptance.
If he wishes to be accepted and valued, the only way he can do it is by accepting a subordinate position – and why should he be subordinate? Because of an accident of birth? Because his society says that his perfectly good talents are not as praiseworthy as the ability to beat people up? To me, as a person who happens to have been born female, this dilemma is one that resonates with me. It’s not that I want to be superior, but I understand the desire to be equal in a world whose power structure is set up to only value a kind of power that I don’t and will never have. Who in this world really wants to be second-best?
There’s also a sense in which Loki is clearly a character of colour, disenfranchised of his own culture & raised in the dominant one, but never quite considered as good as one of their own.
Both of those things make it grindingly sad to me that there cannot be a happy ending for Loki in this film (or franchise) – that he is destined to be a villain. On a meta level it just seems to reinforce the feeling that unless you’re capable of playing by the rules of patriarchy you will always be second rate. That beating people up trumps out-thinking them every time. And on a personal in-this-film level, it seems so damn unfair to have two children (as Odin’s honest but cruel dialogue puts it) “both of whom are born to be kings, but only one of whom will ascend the throne.” Maybe – just maybe, Odin – if you’d left the boy with his own people they could both have been kings.
So yes, that part of the film made me sad in a thinky sort of way. The other part of the film (involving Natalie Portman as a storm chasing scientist finding a ripped but delusional stranger in the desert) was slightly more amusing, but far more forgettable. I do believe I’ve seen it all before in every other superhero film. I must have zoned out during that part because I can’t remember where anyone said anything at all that would have caused Thor to suddenly rethink his entire ethical standpoint. Possibly the power of love alone brought his conversion about without the need for conversation, thought or debate (because talking to people with a view to changing their minds is evil, right?)