Everything I know about Thor I have learned from the trailers, so fear not, this article will have no comic-book based insight with which to introduce spoilers. Thor is a guy of a majestic, super-human race who is exiled to Earth for lack of integrity (or something) and who learns through contact with needy human beings the importance of using his powers for good. Various pieces of this should feel familiar, if you’ve been paying attention, but there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s the super-hero genre, and it’s supposed to play along certain well-defined rules, unless it doesn’t, in which case it is intending to make a point by breaking those rules. What interests me – today at least – is where this universe of super-heroes (or universes, if you will) is coming from, and why that’s a good thing.
I’ve never liked comic books. (Gasp, shock, anger, indignance, get it all out, it isn’t going to change anything.) They have always struck me as the middle ground between movies and books, suited for an audience lacking the attention span for either. Last I knew, Quaid and Shep were fans of the genre, so I’m not firing salvos off into the ether – I know that perfectly reasonable, rational, engaged movie enthusiasts and readers can enjoy graphic novels and their ambiguous relations, the comic book. Hang with me, here, though. Books shine in background, non-dialogue information – thoughts, impressions, and descriptive language. Movies are about the sensory details that are too involved for text – sound, color, light, costuming, expression, and music. Comic books are the worst of both worlds – they lack the narrative insight of books and the dynamic detail of film. They hit the bullet points of the plot in short clips of dialogue with some well-shadowed picture-boxes, and they call it a day. But they must be doing something right.
Out of this genre have come Super Man, Spider Man, and Batman in generations past, and Xmen, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, The Punisher, Hellboy, The Fantastic Four, and The Green Hornet, amidst various others, in the more recent past. There have been winners and losers in that pack, but on balance the contributions the comic book universe(s) has made to film have been undeniable. Most notably, the characters have been epic. Noble, self-sacrificing, torn, tormented, and always wrestling with the tension between human relationships and a higher calling, they form a fantastic spectrum of heroes. On one level, every one of these movies is pretty much the same, but on another level, the same virtues that make comic books endlessly engaging, reboot after reboot, even with the same characters each time are what carry the hero genre in movies to endless recyclablity. Maybe the two Incredible Hulks was a bit quick, but beyond that, there’s nothing that I can see that says that we should slow down converting these comic book heroes into film. They’re at home there, and this deep pool of content shouldn’t be off limits because it’s been used recently.
The long and short of it is this: I’m psyched to see Thor, and I’ll keep ponying up my theater dollars to attend comic book movies just as long as they keep them coming.