The mythic land of Asgard as envisioned in director Kenneth Branagh's intensely butch retelling of the Norse legend
of THOR is visually stunning with a marvelously comic book sense of wonder. It is as if all the album covers of one's favorite
heavy metal groups had come to life
in 3-D. I mean, just get a load of Sir Anthony Hopkins as Odin, supreme ruler of Asgard: all flash and filigree complete with
silver eye patch. He is every inch a god (Christian, of course) booming his displeasure at his court while maintaining a sense
of humor very unlike his Nordic
Why Hollywood seems so willing to invest millions in the myths and legends of our neighbors to the far north is understandable
simply because they immediately change everything to suit the current standards of our pop culture of the moment. Hollywood
likes their Norse legends to be preternaturally buff, blonde and sexy (so they can mate with earth women like Natalie Portman,
don't you know).
I had just seen SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER prior to going to the IMAX for the screening of THOR so my mind was still in a Tennessee
state of mind when I sat down to experience this epic. Imagine if you will what I thought when I first got a load of the ultra-jacked
Chris Hemsworth looking like a Sebastian Venable wet-dream, having crashed literally to
earth after getting the boot out of Asgard from his dad, Sir Anthony.
The lines Cathy speaks toward the end of Tennessee's play regarding Sebastian's taste in men that summer ("Blondes were on
the menu; he was fed up with the dark ones and famished for blondes") come to mind. If
you consider what Hollywood did this summer in mixing genres like the Western with science fiction (i.e. COWBOYS AND ALIENS)
then let's take it a step further and mix THOR with SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER: Thor lands in Sebastian's pre-dawn-of-time garden
just in time for Mrs. Venable's
feeding of the Venus fly trap...The mind boggles. The line My son Sebastian would have liked you...." was (both in the play
as well as the film) referring to another blond, a doctor with a Polish name that translated into "sugar. You can well imagine
what Mrs. Venable could do with some rough trade named THOR.
Naturally, all the main characters in SUDDENLY would be smitten by THOR in one way or another, making Mrs. Venable's desire
to lobotomize her niece Cathy somewhat more tiresome than it would have been without his godly presence. For the record Williams
used the lobotomy ploy as
a way of exorcising his own personal demons regarding what was done to his own sister many years before. I have always felt
the real monster in SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER was Mrs. Venable in the first place since Sebastian is a phantom character from Act
One until the finale. My comparison of the two films is really just more about the objectification of male beauty which plays
such an integral part in both
films. The scenes on Asgard with THOR and his warriors is all muscle-and-sweat, a Tom-of-Finland bonanza.
I mean there are no women to speak of in that entire alternative universe yet both THOR and his father have wives (goddesses,
in fact). Thor's wife Sif is the goddess of fertility, a potent force in her own right; of course we see little of this in
the film because it just gets in the way. Another very kinky point here Thor's half brother Lokiis a shape-shifter with a
decidedly open sexuality who at one point took the form of Thor's wife for months at a time...and this was featured in the
Marvel comics as well! The Norse myths had very little concern for who was having sex with whom as long as there was enough
to go around.
One must realize that these myths are rarely set for accuracy in the comic book realm and certainly not in the film. The real"
Thor had red hair and a red beard in the myths and a very bad temper, which made him a bit of a monster himself. This is all
overlooked in Hollywood as well as the comic book universe that spawned the film. We now enjoy a blond superman instead of
a fiery red avenger. In this film version of the Nordic nightlife of the gods Earth remains a playground of humans who, down
through the ages, mistook space aliens for gods, a concept best served in the Erich Von Danniken's book Chariots of the
In any case we have in Kenneth Branagh a director who, while best known for his arthouse leanings with filmic adaptations
of Shakespeare, we still have an talented artist who is not past playing villains in junk films like THE WILD WILD WEST as
well as the odd British sex farce. Branagh manages to include the Bard when and where he can in
THOR. There are moments as Thor battles in the mud that we see the various HENRY plays at work and certainly he invests all
Thor's father Odin's scenes with a certain Shakespearean rivalry usually found in MACBETH (sans the Lady of course). Branagh
seems confident enough in
his own sexuality that he can and does set a lovers glow on every scene that involves his leading man, as he well knows a
good director must be somewhat in love with his leading man to make it all work.
When Branagh did his version of FRANKENSTEIN he at once set about making his character the doctor as buff as his workout schedule
would allow, putting a decidedly different spin on the nervous Nellie persona established by Colin Clive. When it came time
for a reboot of the theater chestnut SLEUTH Kenneth Branagh went the distance in taking
Harold Pinter's homoerotic dialogue right to the limit until Jude Law has to spell out in a shouting match on a bed just what
an "old poof Michael Caine was in asking him to move in with him and chuck his on-camera wife. The original play had no such
dynamic set in motion even though it was always a two-character play; the men were at best rivals but never closeted gay men
with designs on one another that is, until Kenneth Branagh's remake. There are moments in this version that put anything between
Brad Pitt and Antonio Banderas in INTERVIEW WITH A VAMPIRE to shame.
Now with his production of THOR we have more male eye candy than the male strippers in "Thunder from Down Under" ever had
on Ladies Night in Vegas. The woman in THOR (that is, Natalie Portman, still reeling from her BLACK SWAN tour-de-force) is
an odd choice to stand alongside this mega hunk since even on her toes she barely comes to Thor's nipples. Yet his time on
earth is spent with both the male and female
population of earth in awe of his torso. Branagh does give the God of Thunder a number of moments to be funny and most of
the time it works on a comic book level. Let's make no mistake, this is a grand entertainment that does what it sets out to
do: create a franchise.
One must always remember this Norse God was introduced to the world by Stan Lee (with the aid of the fantastic Jack Kirby)
way back in 1962, yet the legend itself is very near two thousand years old. Thor was idolized by the Vikings in the day although
the real pretty boy of the myths was never Thor but his blood brother Baldr, who is described as blond and beautiful. The
Norse Gods were really defined by their
abilities and not necessarily on their personalities. Branagh understands the Western culture's obsession with violence and
gives the film more than enough with his depiction of the frost giants that inhabit the other realm outside of Asgard. The
rainbow bridge that separates these realms (known as the Bridge of Bifrost in the myths) separates the "Joluns" from Asgard.
A rainbow bridge certainly rings a bell on earth as well as the realm of Asgard since this is acknowledged as the colors for
gay liberation (I know this is taking some license here but after all this film is gay enough already; I don't need to grasp
at Frost giants to make a point). Odin as played by Sir Anthony Hopkins reveals a softer side when it comes to his sons, a
concept not to be found in Norse legends regarding this powerful god. Odin is by all accounts a wizard of great power, who
traded his eye for knowledge. He is sexual in a monstrous way, being a born predator with deviate tastes (sound familiar?).
Yet the Marvel comic Odin is almost benevolent in his wisdom,
more like Laurence Oliver in CLASH OF THE TITANS. It would be interesting to see a film adaptation that dealt with the real
Norse myths regarding Odin and especially Loki, who is made the villain in this film, yet in the myths sometimes helped the
gods in their work. His current personification is more in keeping with the rash of fey villains that keep popping up in films
like TRON-LEGACY where the villain is coded-gay in manner and eyeliner.
While Hollywood may decide that LET THE RIGHT ONE IN is good
box office THOR'S success will certainly pave the way for more films about the God of Thunder and his pals. I think the market
is wide open after the worldwide profits from the LORD OF THE RINGS films, which mine similar myths and legends that began
with the Norse and Germanic people of the ancient world.
If we can go back for a moment to my original concept of SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER-meets-THOR: what indeed would Mrs. Venable not
do to keep this other-worldly male beauty in tow, as her son Sebastian would have insisted she do her best to accomplish?
I think Thor would be the likely candidate to take to the gay beaches of the world wearing a swimsuit (to quote Tennessee's
Cathy) that "was a disgrace to the jaybirds...when I would come out of the ocean it was if I was wearing nothing at all!"
Thor would soon realize that sex and beauty come at a price here in Midgard, the term his world gave to Earth. The God of
Thunder as a male escort well, maybe for a season....As Mrs. Venable
would remind us, "they never just referred to us as mother and son. It was always Violet and Sebastian..." Well let's rethink
that for a moment: to Violet and Thor never seeing one without the other. And all the most interesting and beautiful people
would be in our court...Sounds like Asgard all over again, only this time without those unappealing frost giants.
If Sebastian Venable had made a checklist of his favorite Norse films from the vaults of Hollywood done after his summer poem.it
might look something like this:
ALFRED THE GREAT(1969):
David Hemmings is dark and somewhat appetizing. Yes, he can stay.
THE TARTARS (1961):
Great camp fun with Orson Welles and a few blonds. I mean, a very few blonds.
THE LONG SHIPS
Well, at least we have some sailors to explore with...
Nothing says Norse myths quite like Kirk Douglas in a leather skirt.
Now, Angelia Jolie is someone to take to the beach. What she would bring back would be truly appetizing.
THE 13TH WARRIOR
Well, Antonio Bandaras is on my menu regardless of hair color.
ERIC THE CONQUERER
All I can say is that Mario Bava is one dizzy queen when it comes to lighting and set
design. Make it work, Mario!
KNIVES OF THE AVENGER
That zany Bava working it with Vikings and with a Shakespearian revenge plot to boot.
Who says you can't make it pretty and cerebral as well?
I sure Sebastian could think of more but it is time for a nap and then that late afternoon Daiquiri with Violet. If Chris
Hemsworth ever finds himself in the Garden District believe me a good time will be had by all. Work those Thunderbuns
David Del Valle
is a journalist, columnist, film historian, radio and television commentator on the horror/science-fiction/cult and fantasy