Thor: Hammer of the Gods (2009)
The cable channel Sci Fi continues to redefine the term “bottom of the barrel.” A few months ago I caught their airing of Bram Stoker’s Way of the Vampire, a low budget horror flick shot primarily in a church auditorium, complete with collapsible Bingo table on which to display their lethal, undead killing wares. Their Van Helsing was some blond Australian bloke who ran around in a t-shirt, leather vest and blue jeans. BLUE JEANS! What’s next, a monster fighter who wears corduroy slacks (tag line: “He leaves his mark on his enemies.”)?
Well, Sci Fi must have bought some new sonar equipment and remapped the bottom of that barrel, because their latest offering, Thor: Hammer of the Gods, is my new lowest of the low. We missed the beginning, but from what I could tell, they were telling the story of a band of Vikings named Thor, Baldur, Freya and company who would go on to inspire the legends of their namesake Norse gods. If that wasn’t the story, and they were supposed to actually BE the Norse gods, well, Ho-lee shit and Odin's beard, are we in trouble.
You would expect someone who inspired Thor the god of thunder to be a big, strapping Conan the Barbarian-era Schwarzenegger type. Think again. Here we get Zachary Ty Bryan, famous as the chubby son on Tim Allen’s Home Improvement TV series. He plays Thor as a chubby blue collar Viking, sort of a Nordic Ice Road Trucker (he sports a thin beard and a faux hawk, so he looks EXACTLY like an Ice Road Trucker). The rest of the cast is a real mishmash of accents, some American, some British, some American trying to do a British accent, a little Bulgarian or Czech. The chick that played the villainess (she’s not even listed on the movie’s imDb page) was hilarious with her very precise pronunciation of things, like “swort” for sword. Mac Brandt who played Baldur looked like a slightly more muscular Ed Grimley, I must say.
They shot this Norse turkey in the cold and snow of Bulgaria, in what looks like just a handful of locations: a small stretch of snowy woods, a lakeside, and the most ridiculously designed and built “fort” ever committed to celluloid. The thing was literally a bunch of sticks, that wouldn’t have protected them from an angry mob of third graders, let alone the "werethings" that were after them. The costumes looked like rentals from some European costume shop; they resembled stuff you’d see at your average Renaissance Fair. The best part was nearly everyone wore helmets that had these WIDE nose guards hanging down the front, making all of them go cross-eyed several times!
Our heroes would walk a few feet in the snow, stop to have long stretches of expository dialogue, then walk a few more feet to stop at the next non-descript location (usually a snowy hillside with black tree limbs scattered about), and stand around in the snow having more long stretches of expository dialogue. I don’t think “The View” has as much lip flapping as this movie. A highlight of the movie was the fighting scenes with swords (or sworts, if you prefer) and shields, featuring some supremely lame combat choreography - I've seen day care slap fights that were more thrilling. They tried to hide the pitiful fighting with quick-cut editing, but they weren't fooling anyone.
The CGI was hands down the worst I have ever seen. The bad guy was some kind of dog or wolf in a cave – it looked like something that would have been at home in the Dire Straits "Money for Nothing" video. The design was crude - its fur even looked painted on and not like real fur. The animation of it was inept; a hand puppet would have been scarier. The compositing (placing it into a scene) was so poor it looked like it was pasted in there. And those werethings I mentioned earlier were such a sad design, it looked like too many animals were blended into it: wolf, bat, hyena, Joaquin Phoenix-with-his-beard on Letterman. I think they had a full-size were-head mounted on a stunt guy, augmented by CGI versions. I can’t say for sure because when they were on screen they’d cut away after just half a second.
How do you end this grand epic quest? Thor jumps on the big bad CGI cave dog and whacks him with his ginormous hammer. You gotta see it to believe it.
My knowledge of Thor and Norse mythology comes from Marvel Comics’ “The Mighty Thor” comic series. As it was co-created by the legendary Jack Kirby, Thor comics had an epic sweep and grandeur like none other. If this movie was inspired in any way by those comics, or even the actual Norse myths, you really, really couldn’t tell.