Thor, The Avengers, and The Human Heart

Partly because of my deep mash on Loki I decided to stream the first THOR movie to my X-Box and then watch my DVD of THE AVENGERS.  I’m also going to give the Thor sequel another look when I don’t have people talking in their outside voices directly behind me.

Watching both films gave me some interesting insights about writing in general and these films in particular.  First the screenwriter(s) Ashley Miller, Zack Stentz & Don Payne or at least one of them seemed to get that at its heart THOR was a movie about a family in crises driven by sibling rivalry.  What’s happening on Asgard, and Odin’s manipulation of his sons is the real juice, and I think that’s why there was the confusion over who are the actual bad guys?  The Frost Giants?  The big ass robot that shoots fire out of its head?  Loki?

The real villain is untreated emotional and family issues.  It starts right up front when Odin tells the children.  “You are both born to be kings, but only one of you will rule.”  Way to cause a problem between the brothers, pop.

Thor is a bombastic man child who takes his clever younger sib for granted.  Loki clearly adores Thor, but also resents him, and it’s high school all over with Thor’s bosom buddies making Loki the butt of the jokes, and denigrating his skills as opposed to Thor’s “I’ve got a hammer, that problem must be a nail” approach to life.

So Loki is shocked to discover he seems to be one with the monsters who were soundly defeated by dear old dad, and the confrontation between Odin and Loki is poignant and once again Odin is clueless which was okay.  Old Odin thought he’d done a good thing.  “I lied for your own good, son, but no, I’m not going to make you king.  I’m going to favor my own flesh and blood.”

So Loki goes off and does all of his nefarious deeds, but what I realized on this second watch was that the writers really did delve into Loki’s emotional and psychological issues.  He lures in the Frost Giant real father, and then kills him (nice bit of Oedipus there), and he does it in front of mom (more Oedipus), and then his ultimate act is to kill all the Frost Giants because he is horrified to discover his actual parentage.  He has been raised to view them as monsters and losers, and he has to eradicate them.  Self loathing is a powerful thing.  Thor breaks the Biofrost to save the Frost Giants not to save Asgard.

Thor’s emotional journey is less fraught and nuanced then Loki’s.  Thor basically has to grow up, and be willing to be a hero even when he doesn’t have great power.

So then I watched THE AVENGERS again.  Overall I love that movie, but there was a missed opportunity that I think might not have been missed by the writers on Thor.  After Thor hauls Loki off the SHEILD plane they have an intense moment where Thor talks about his grief thinking his brother was dead, and he ends it with I want you to come home.  Loki rejects it “Your father, not my father”.  I liked the scene and thought Chris Hemsworth did a nice job with them moment.

Cut to a later scene on the bridge of the big flying boat, and this is where I got a lesson in what not to do in a screenplay.  I have enormous respect for Joss Whedon.  He gave us Buffy and Firefly, and The Avengers, but he also took the opportunity to undercut what had been a moving and emotional scene and completely step on it by going for a cheap quip and an easy laugh from the audience.

Someone says something nasty about Loki and Thor warns them this is his brother they’re talking about.  Fury’s assistant points out that Loki killed 80 people in five days, and Thor adds — “He’s adopted.”  Got a laugh in the theater.  Didn’t work for me at the time, and after this careful watch of both movies I understood why.  It denigrates the relationship between the brother, and it wasn’t in character for Thor.  That line was pure Tony Stark, not the earnest and noble Thor.

I can’t write if I don’t know in my gut the theme of the story I’m telling.  There were some really interesting themes being explored in Thor that had nothing to do with the eye candy and the CGI festival and that made the movie better for me.  I love good action, but I want it to be in support of something more meaningful i.e. the human heart in conflict with itself.

4 Responses to Thor, The Avengers, and The Human Heart

  • Dan Gunther says:

    ** WARNING! SPOILERS for Thor: the Dark World! **

    Excellent analysis! I thought that the sibling relationship was at the very heart of Thor, and I was very excited to see that explored more in The Dark World. I’m really eager to see where that relationship goes in the future, especially with Thor believing that Loki is well and truly dead.

  • Melinda Snodgrass says:

    I’m going to give The Dark World another chance. I think the noisy people spoiled my enjoyment, and now that I’ve watched Thor and the Avengers back to back it should help. Hiddleston is just rocking my world. I want this guy to play Noel Matthews in Wild Cards so badly. I also want to put him in this new idea I’ve got. I’m trying to decide if it’s a movie or a TV series. That will determine how I plot it.

  • Zack Stentz says:

    Nice to know that someone else hated the “he’s adopted” line as much as I did.

    • Melinda Snodgrass says:

      Zack, I’m so sorry I took so long to approve your message. I’ve been having mega mail problems, and I got lax. I usually get a notice that I have messages to approve, and now they haven’t been arriving. I’ll be better about just coming to my admin page and checking. Again, my apologies.

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