Growing up, I was very much a comic book kid. My friends and I lived just a few blocks from the local shop, and we would often skim change off the top of our lunch money so that we could make a pit stop on the way home to pick up a new issue of Alpha Flight or check out the latest mini-series that was making news.
This was a few years before Frank Miller debuted his Dark Knight series, and most mainstream comics, for better or worse, were still considerably less edgy than they are today. But even among that raft of pablum, some seemed more harmless than others. And for some reason, none seemed as bland to me as did Thor, God of Thunder. A blond jock with a hammer, there was just something about him I couldn’t get behind—far more intriguing to me was his adopted brother Loki, a mischievous god who often started the fires his muscley brother went around putting out.
But Thor got a little more interesting as a member of The Avengers—a superhero supergroup that has featured a rotating cast of members over the years. Truth be told, the group was largely made up of B-list heroes, but if each lacked a little zip on his own, they came together nicely enough. (I didn’t buy their comic, but I’d read it if it showed up at a doctor’s office.) It proved to be a formula that would repeat itself at the box office: while the first Thor movie made many millions of dollars, The Avengers was a blockbuster that made well over a billion.
This week, Blondie gets a chance to even the score with the release of Thor: The Dark World, the first post-Avengers release for the franchise. The success of the team movie has reunited star Chris Hemsworth and a top-notch supporting cast to share the sequel, in which an ancient race returns to plunge the universe into darkness. Natalie Portman is on board again as complicated (read: earthly) love interest Jane Foster, while Anthony Hopkins pulls on the eyepatch again as Odin, the god even the gods don’t mess with. The excellent Tom Hiddleston returns as Loki, with whom Thor must forge an uneasy alliance against their new enemy.
To give the hero his due, Hadley’s Cinemark theater is running the Thor Movie Marathon. For a good seven hours on Thursday afternoon and evening, interested moviegoers can take in not only the new movie, but also the first Thor film and The Avengers movie. It might be an ideal way to experience the story of one of Marvel’s lesser-known superheroes—while three Iron Man movies might seem numbingly repetitive, three movies about figures from Norse mythology (with a few liberties along the way) seem like a chance for something a lot of hero movies leave out: a bit of storytelling.
Also this week: On Monday, Amherst Cinema brings back one of the Coen Brothers’ recent films for a special screening of A Serious Man. That 2009 film, set in the late 1960s, harkens back to the Coens’ youth in the Minneapolis suburb of St. Louis Park. There gentle physics professor Larry Gopnik finds that his marriage is disintegrating just as his professional career begins to tank thanks to an anonymous letter writing campaign.
While his wife plans for a future with the unbearably new-age Sy Ableman (played by Fred Melamed, whose early work in theater took place at Hampshire College) and his deadbeat brother is sleeping on the couch, Larry turns to three different rabbis in the hope that someone can put him back on the path to mensch-hood. Screening as part of the People of the Book series, the film will be introduced by Ilan Stavans of Amherst College, who will go on to discuss the film in relation to the Book of Job.•
Jack Brown can be reached at email@example.com.