A really fun, enjoyable movie. You should see it.
When I was at film school we studied the first ever serialisation of the Ramayana on Indian television in the 1980s. At the time the country was a long way from becoming the next global economic powerhouse like it is today. It was still extremely undeveloped.
Which meant reactions to the progamme were mixed. And I mean physical reactions.
Some families would get down and pray during the opening credits. Others would light candles and incense and leave them burning on top of the TVs. The television sets themselves would be placed in or become shrines.
It’s some of the world’s oldest religious literature on what was at the time some of the world’s latest technology. So, in much the same way Queen Elizabeth’s coronation did great things for TV sales across the Commonwealth, a straight (yet camp) adaptation of holy scripture made buying and watching your new; presumably wood-panelled; television a religious act.
Which brings me to Thor.
Now, I genuinely cannot stand other cinema-goers at the best of times. This goes double right now as my closest decent cinema is inside the largest covered mall in Western Europe. The hordes of overly-made-up adolescents shrieking, cackling and texting, their monstrous teenage version of perfume mixing together and rolling down from the back seats like nuclear fallout. The minimum of six solo fat guys who have clearly decided that because they aren’t going to the cinema with anyone they are actually invisible and hence can show up in their billowy house t-shirt and the world’s first ever pair of jeans even though the rest of us have to look at them. Pshah.
Anyway, in order to avoid this rogues gallery I booked a couple of those giant VIP seats in the private, no-kids cinema where you can drink wine and eat your (as a result now substantial) body weight in unlimited popcorn so I was looking forward to it.
You probably all recognise the feeling of your brain starting to stray from what it’s doing the way a car drifts when you take your hands off the wheel and you realise “I’m going to blog about this.”
Well that happened pretty much straight away. The first act of the film is thoroughly enjoyable for mythology nerds like us. It’s all just a really stylised, personal take on Asgard (which is totes deco), Jötunheimr (Meh), etc. It was kinda fun going “ooh! rainbow bridge! Ooh! Hemidall!” Except for Tony Hopkins once again phoning in his performance (can you even remember the last time he put any effort in?) it was big fun.
In fact, it occurred to me that I would be perfectly happy to sit in a dark room drinking wine, eating popcorn, wearing ridiculous glasses and watch hour after hour after hour of somebody’s take on various mythologies. I would dig that. Most of us would.
And that got me thinking about Indian TV in the 1980s and how this is decidedly not the same thing.
Because this is something that is -in my opinion- much, much better, more dynamic. It’s a superhero story. Which becomes abundantly clear after Thor’s banishment to Earth end of the first act. The whole thing is gripping. Here’s a not-unattractive Norse God bouncing around the place, breaking coffee cups and getting hit by cars.
Then it occurs to me… This is what myths do. At night on those longships they would have made up tales -brand new tales- about Thor and Loki and Odin. They were their superhero stories. Sure, there would have been the canonical ones, the songs, the poems, etc… but that’s the thing about both myths and comic books: They don’t have to be internally consistent. (How many times has Superman or Batman actually died?) The best myths aren’t holy writ.
Obviously there is going to be the same, predictable, buzz-killing whine from corners of the magical world about its inaccuracies or its lack of fidelity. To them I am tempted to say “well, there’s always Indian state television from the 1980s.”
But instead I’m going to take a more spirit-model approach and say: don’t take a photo of a river and try and tell everyone what water is. You think the gods are something fixed, something static? You think there is one way to see them? May I then suggest you build yourself a two thousand year old, genocidal, war-mongering global empire of pedophiles?
Because gods and myths are like rivers, not photos of water. You can’t step into the same fractal twice. They appear as they choose.
And sometimes they choose to be movie stars.