Thor is coming to our theaters. The Norse God of Thunder is the latest in a long, and largely undistinguished, line of superheroes to bring their capes and antics to the big screen. A few of these have been pretty great (Spider-Man 2, X-Men 2, Nolan’s Batmen, Iron Man), but most have been middling (Spider-Man 1, X-Men 1, Iron Man 2, Watchmen), or even downright terrible (all the others).
I know this. I have seen almost all of them. I even saw Ghost Rider, for Zarathos’s sake. Because I was a comic book nerd, and even when you largely stop reading comic books, the nerdery dies hard. I haven’t read a Superman comic in ages, but you can bet your mint condition Action Comics # 1 that I will see the new Superman reboot movie, despite knowing ahead of time that it will suck, because Superman is an icon, not a character, and any depiction of him on the big screen will probably suck. It’s an illness.
Thor is a double-whammy for me, as the character is the glistening Nordic love-child of two totems of nerdery: superheros and fantasy.
But Thor is probably going to suck, for the same reason the Thor comic books have almost always sucked. Thor has no business being a traditional superhero. He’s a god. Not only is he a god, he’s an actual historical god, known for laying the hurt down on frost giants, world serpents, and sun-devouring wolves. And yet most of the comic books have Thor not in Asgard, but in New York. Most of the comics have Thor working as a doctor named Donald Blake and only turning into the Norse God of Thunder when need be. This is bogus. I mean, if you could spend your time as either 1.) A doctor, or 2.) The Norse God of Thunder, which would you choose? I’m sure saving a life is exciting and all, but hitting a frost giant in the face with a hammer is objectively better.
Like the Silver Surfer or Dr. Strange, Thor is always at his best when in his own element. When he’s a mythical/fantasy superhero in a mythical/fantasy world. When Jack Kirby was allowed to let his imagination loose and draw dream worlds and nightmare land on par with Dali and Hieronymus Bosch. In other words, the Norse God of Thunder should not have to rearrange a colonoscopy procedure in order to stop the Mole Man. He’s better than that.
Thor could be a great character. After all, you can draw a direct line from the hero-gods and demi-gods of old (like Thor, Hercules, Bran, Gilgamesh) to the superheroes of today. The Thor comics should turn that line into a dot, but they don’t. Marvel’s Thor has usually been more hero than god, and in a universe (and now culture) boiling over with superheroes, we don’t need more. A god would be welcome. Especially a thunder god.
Which is why I have little hope for the new Thor movie. Based on the previews, it seems the Norse God of Thunder will spend some time smashing frost giants with a hammer, but an equal and perhaps greater amount of time fighting SHIELD agents in the rain and exchanging awkward dialogue with Natalie Portman in small town New Mexico (I mean, seriously? You put a Norse god in the damned desert? At least drop him into Wisconsin or Minnesota where the descendants of the people who actually believed in Thor lived. Or better yet, y’know, Norway.)
I have little hope for the new Thor, but I will see it anyway. I will vaguely enjoy the poorly choreographed and shot fight scenes, I will groan at the willful inaccuracies of Norse myth, I will sigh every time Thor struggles to deal with 21st Century New Mexican life and wooing Natalie Portman.
I will see it anyway, because I am a nerd. I will see it anyway, because Thor is a god of nerds, and gods demand sacrifices. I will see it anyway, and consider the price of my ticket and the Fandago surcharge my burnt offering.
May it please the gods.