I have to say, I've been very excited by what Marvel has been doing with the assorted superhero movies leading up to the "Avengers" movie-- there have been assorted cameos, and references, and other Marvel characters showing up, etc.
Between Marvel and Kenneth Brannagh and a quite excellent cast, you'd think that it would be awesome, but, unfortunately, their version of "Thor" was kind of.... yeah, (Viking) epic fail.
Or would that be 'saga fail'?
Really-- that is, apparently, something that the comics themselves decided to do at SOME point to make the whole "Norse gods" idea into something that would play better with other Marvel comics. And I can totally see that; if you have mutants and various victims of wacky radiation-related side effects, and so on, tossing in a pantheon makes a lot of things potentially very complicated (namely, why just one pantheon, and why the Norse gods in particular, etc.). So, fine-- the Asgardians (...to which my brain says, "they're guarding what, now?" because I apparently watched too much MST3K at an impressionable age) are really a race of super-powerful alien beings who live out in their own realm with a pan-dimensional "rainbow bridge" and there's another planet with Frost Giants and another planet with, I guess, Norse-type elves, and so on, and somewhere Earth is in there, too.
Also, the Viking Space God-types are not limited to actual Vikings (seriously; this movie had a more ethnically diverse cast than "The Last Airbender"). This results in Random Samurai Viking Dude, among other things.
That, however, was really not a problem. Bit weird, but not a problem.
The fact that the Fabled Hordes of Asgard were almost entirely absent, except for one scene at the beginning, was the first weird thing. I mean, this is supposed to be an entire civilization, where the model is something like Valhalla, with feasts and celebrations, and ceremonies, and a court, not five characters running around the vast echoing halls with nary a dustbunny to get in their way.
Secondly... okay... the film starts with Thor (played as good-natured, hot-tempered, and... um... "'cause I'm a blond" by Chris Helmsworth) getting ready to be crowned king. Because Odin has decided to step down? Because Odin knows he's going to be out of commission for a while shortly? It is never clear.
Now, the proceedings are (of course) interrupted, and Thor decides to do something epically stupid and go bother the Frost Giants, and he persuades all five of the other people in Asgard to go with him, plus his kid brother Loki, who (it turns out) has the brains to tell other people where they are going, so that Odin can show up and ensure that they are not going to get wiped out by rampaging hordes of very cranky Frost Giants. Odin, predictably, decides his eldest is too dumb to reign, and smacks him down to Earth, depriving him of his hammer (which will come back once he has gotten a clue. The hammer settles down for a long wait).
This is where things got wonky. And the wonkiness was not really so much a problem with Thor wandering around Earth and encountering a troupe of wacky and/or cute scientists investigating pan-dimensional bridges, and figuring out that possibly personal growth is a good thing, and so on. The problem was what they did with everything going on back in Asgard (on Asgard? Is it a city or a planet; I can't tell...). See, Loki, during the battle, realizes that something is different about him, and when he confronts Odin, he learns that he is in fact a Frost Giant, son of their king, who had been left out to die due to being scrawny, and Odin found him and took him in and raised him along with Thor, with the hopes that the two boys would grow up as brothers and this would prove...something about Frost Giant/Space Viking relations, except of course NOT EVER MENTIONING IT seems to have scuppered that idea. It certainly causes a bizarrely rapid inferiority complex and attendant scheming disease in Loki, who proceeds to flip out, claim that his father banished Thor permanently (and, also, how much trouble would it have been for Odin-- or Freya-- to explain at least to Loki and the five-hero-band that Thor is exiled until he gets a clue and that, contrary to all appearances, that will probably not entail an eternal exile), take the throne while Odin is passed out in the Odin-sleep, and not have ANYBODY at all in the throne room, including Freya, any courtiers, or anybody, except for the distressed (and suspicious) five-man-heroic-band of the friends of Thor.
Can I just mention that Brannagh has tackled Shakespeare, and yet there was a serious lack of Bard-level emotional drama going on here? Loki just kind of wibbles his way downwards into villainy, not helped at all by the fact that everybody just kind of assumes he must be evil and scheming, nobody ever really explains anything to him (like, "You are my son, and anybody who says otherwise will answer to me... or to your father," or, "Don't worry; your brother needs to learn a valuable lesson, but we still love him, and we're sure he'll figure out humility eventually").
The big conflict is the extent to which Loki has fully embraced The Evulz. Especially since he goes to the Frost Giant planet and makes a deal with their king, giving him everything he needs to know to assassinate Odin.
Of course, this turns out to be a clever ruse, because what Loki wants--- what he really, truly wants-- is a) to be seen as a hero who rescued his beloved (adoptive) father and who is thus a worthy heir, b) to parlay rescuing Odin from an assassination attack into a groundswell of support (among the teeny, tiny population?) for a massive, all-out, nuclear-option attack on the Frost Giant planet, to, again, make himself look like a heroic war leader and c) really stick it to the parent who was responsible for abandoning him and tossing him aside to die when he was a baby.
Except, since Loki is the designated villainous trickster, and Thor is the designated hero, it all goes wrong, Odin denies Loki's claims that he was doing it for the good of all of them, and Loki ends up falling (literally) deeper into craziness and villainy (not to mention the Depths of Space), the better to appear in the "Avengers" movie as a crazy psycho-villain.
And I... did not buy it. Seriously. Did I mention the lack of Shakespearean complexity going on here?
I will take one example-- Loki goes to the court of the Frost Giants, and, when the King says, "Oh, you were the one who gave us the information about a secret way in during Thor's coronation, so that we could try to steal the MacGuffin of Ultimate Frost Giant Power."
And Loki says, "Yes-- just a bit of fun for my brother's celebration."
And this is presented as completely true and serious
That's right-- a trickster god who is there specifically to manipulate his target into a situation where said target will get himself killed, says, "yes, absolutely, I completely did the one thing that will get you to trust me and believe that this is not in fact a clever plan to kill you, yup indeed".... aaaaaaand everybody not only completely and immediately believes him, it apparently is in fact meant to be the truth. In spite of the fact that there is no real confirmation that it actually was Loki-- he doesn't suggest that he was responsible for that until the Frost Giant King assumes it, thus demonstrating that the King doesn't actually know who did it.... and thus won't laugh in Loki's face when he claims responsibility.
And all I can see is a horribly missed opportunity to have somebody ELSE end up being the traitor, with Loki using all of his considerable skills at trickery to stay one step ahead of the real bad guy, who is probably trying to set him up, and unravel the plot, and get his brother back, and run things while Odin is in a coma.
And/or a great chance to have Loki end up exiled, either with his brother or on his own, because "Loki learns to deal with the human world" has just as much comic potential as all of the wacky hijinks with Thor.