The Importance of Being Mjolnir

(I hate when blogposts get lost in the draftosphere. That’s what happened here. But I like what I wrote so, here it is, years late.)

For those who prefer the short version: Thor is great. I was surprised.

More thoughts follow.

I’ve said this to some of my kid friends, as we’ve gone, over the last several years to see big-screen renditions of things like Spiderman, Iron Man, and the X-Men: I have been waiting for these movies for my entire life. It is a feeling almost embarrassingly embued with emotion, a swelling in my throat.

That’s because I grew up on Marvel Comics. At age 13 or so, my first magazine subscriptions (a custom I think of as fairly adult) were to The Uncanny X-Men and The Mighty Avengers. I can still clearly see the brown sleeves they would arrive in (the ads used the excited term “mailed flat!” which was so obvious that it was actually puzzling for a minute)

My imagination was cast in Kirby Dots, my curiosity enthralled by Marvel’s fragile, flawed heros. DC’s Superman? He was perfect, how boring. Marvel’s Spiderman or Daredevil? They had humanity — expressed through frailty and flaws, an approach that has informed the fantastical canon ever since, from Buffy to Heroes to Kick Ass.

All along the way, through the years, the “bullpen” page (Marvel’s popular term for a page containing fan letters, news updates, and the occasional awarding of a “no-prize” for astute readers who caught some continuity error in the mag) would frequently proclaim that Spiderman or The Avengers or countless other favorites were SOON TO BE A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE! Or a TV SERIES!

And we “true believers” (again in the parlance of Stan Lee’s institution) waited with excitement. And waited. And waited.

It rarely happened, and when it did — the short-lived TV series Spiderman, for instance — it was … pretty terrible. But we True Believers choked it down because we wanted — so badly — to see our heroes writ large. We KNEW they were great. The rest of the world would, too, if only somebody could  manage to not butcher the mythos.

And in the last decade that has finally happened. Why? I think it’s simple. Among us true believers are brilliant writers, actors and producers who, like me, grew up loving Marvel Comics. Now those people are in a position to bring the Marvel Universe in all its intricate glory to life, and not muck it up in the process.

The latest chapter in this — and the most surprising to me — is Thor, which, again to cut to the chase, is great. This came as a great surprise to me. In my comic-reading days, I was fairly non-plussed by the God of Thunder. In fact, I thought he was fine, and a great member of The Avengers. But I was never much of a reader of “the title” (meaning: the comic book “Thor, God of Thunder”). I think I was somewhat exhausted by the “thou’s” and “thee’s” of Thor’s Asgardian medieval-speak. But he seemed like a decent superhero, along with his fantastically powerful hammer mighty Mjolnir, which could destroy shit, whip up hurricanes, and fly him around, too.

But upon first hearing of a movie version of Thor, I thought it was the first misstep in what has generally been a movie golden age for Marvel.

I was wrong. Thor is great, for several reasons I discovered as the movie played out before my eyes.

Reason 1: Thor comes from Asgard. He’s a demi-god. Translation: it’s a pretty exciting place to look at, and the wonder of modern eye-goggling special effects left me thinking that Jack Kirby himself would be just creaming over the glorious city of the gods. If you’d seen it in comic books, seeing it in movie form — especially Real D — is like seeing a dream made flesh.

Reason 2: Loki, Thor’s step brother. In the comics, I never really got Loki. He didn’t seem too powerful (especially for a demi-god) and his specialty seemed to be brooding and tricking people into fighting each other from time to time. What the movie showed me that Loki had is probably the single greatest real-world evil power there is. Namely: He is a motherfucking liar to beat the band. What could be more timely in an age of spin-control? Years after I read the comic, Thor (the movie) helped me finally get Loki’s awesome power. He is a master motherfucking liar.

Reason 3: Royalty. I have to chalk this up to the royal wedding. I didn’t much care about it, and then when it happened, my omnivorous curiosity opened up in the direction of the British Royal Family, and the ideal of a sovereign lineage. Any mythology — in the case of Thor, Norse — is magnitudes beyond this. The amazing thing that I never would have expected is that the movie makes it work. It’s partially a tribute to __________________, who does an amazing job of portraying a god among mortals and just how unnatural that would be. ____________ carries himself with this uncanny swagger that seems so very appropriate. He’s not so much a dick, as he just has no idea how to behave any other way.

The parade has been — sorry — Marvelous: Spiderman. The X-Men. Iron Man. None without issue, of course, but all showing boundless love and passion for the source material, I think. And all bringing to life the heros, the villains, the cities and circumstances of the world that I grew up paying rapt attention to, often at the cost of coolness. This has changed.

Once being in a superhero movie would have been a Hollywood kiss of death. Now you can levitate with milked-over eyes one year and pile up award trophies the next. Way to go, Halle Berry. You can have claws pop out of your hands, and then host the Academy Awards, like Hugh Jackman.

And that’s a Marvel.

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