Episode 149: Hammertime

The Overthinkers tackle 2011 summer blockbuster Thor.

Matthew Wrather hosts with Pete Fenzel, the return of Mark Lee, David Shechner, and speical guest Chris Morgan to overthink summer blockbuster Thor, including its narratology, its relatability, its religious aspects, and its poor use of dutch angles in 3D.


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21 Comments on “Episode 149: Hammertime”

  1. Chris #

    Thanks again for having me on guys. And to listeners, I hope my appearance wasn’t a detriment to the show. I will readily admit that when I became aware I had room noise going on around me I became quite distracted by it.

    There were a couple of things I wanted to mention but didn’t get the chance to. First, when you were discussing that part of the movie was about Thor losing his powers and sort of finding himself, I wanted to make the joke that they could have called the movie, “Are You There Odin? It’s Me, Thor.” Also, the plot seems sort of like the plot for Superman II, only in that movie Superman willingly gives up his powers. Lastly, when Mark Lee was discussing the lack of music quality, I thought to myself there had to black metal bands out there with songs about Thor. Sure enough, just a brief internet search shows that there is a Swedish metal band called Amon Amarth who has an album called Twilight of the Thunder God.

    One more thing, if I may. I actually just started my own podcast and released the first episode Saturday. While Overthinking It has a set agenda from which it often strays, my podcast eschews even bothering to set an agenda. I’m looking for people to have on the podcast, so if you have nothing better to do, let me know. Here’s a link to the RSS feed in case you are interested in listening: http://cheers.libsyn.com/rss


    • Brian #

      So this is the more expensive podcast mentioned by Samuel L. Jackson in OTI’s credit cookie?

      You’re appearance on the show wasn’t a detriment, it was entertainingly nervous which I enjoyed, like The Daily Show and late night talk show interviews are nerve wracking and painful for me to watch most of the time, but this wasn’t painful it was personally identifiable and clipped along enough to keep the rhythm of the show.


      • Chris #

        Oh, if only Samuel L. Jackson, or even Peter Fenzel as Samuel L. Jackson, would appear on my podcast.

        While I didn’t really necessarily add much to the podcast, part of that is due to the fact that the show has a real flow to it that is hard to get into. It’s almost like they’ve been doing the show for years and have known each other for longer than that. Also, I couldn’t think of a good answer for the question of the week. Oh, was I spinning my wheels on that one.


        • Lee OTI Staff #

          “It’s almost like they’ve been doing the show for years and have known each other for longer than that.”

          True statement.

          First time that members of the Overthinking It crew met each other: September 1998.

          First episode of the Overthinking It Podcast: February 2008 (though it didn’t get produced on a consistent weekly basis until maybe a year after that).

          So yeah, we’ve been at this for a while. ;-)


          • Rob #

            Well, actually, if Belinkie and Shechner indeed knew one another from the summer camp where they reportedly knew The Artist Subsequently Known As Matisyahu, then it was earlier than even ’98.

    • petrlesy #

      as a fan of Amon Amarth amd metal in general, i don’t think pop-culture can include bands that rock harder than AC/DC – simply because most people find it unpleasant to listen to

      which is one of the reasons i loved Lost Highway so much (and i would really appreciate other counter examples)


  2. Lee OTI Staff #

    I don’t *think* I mentioned this during the show, but I actually have substantive complaints about the soundtrack beyond my joke about not using the song “If I Had A Hammer” (or, upon further thought, “Thunderstruck by AC/DC”).

    Like the rest of the movie, I thought the orchestral score was exceedingly mediocre. Did anyone else notice this? A whole lot of straightforward I-IV-V, rinse wash, repeat. It was especially bad by the end, when Thor and Odin are looking out wistfully into the distance. I-IV-V, I-IV-V. Bo-ring.

    The score was composed by Patrick Doyle, who, interestingly enough, previously worked with Kenneth Branaugh on “Henry V”:


    The score of which is notable for the song that accompanies most of “40 Inspirational Speeches in 2 Minutes”:


    I guess Patrick was phoning it in on this one.


    • Adrian #

      I follow comics-illustrator-extraordinaire Brian Hitch on Twitter, and he would seem to wholeheartedly agree with you. Apparently he’s huge fan of Patrick Doyle’s soundtracks (mentioning Henry V specifically) and was really looking forward to it, but was disappointed that he basically wrote “a Hans Zimmer score.”


  3. Wade #

    In my Battlefield Earth drinking game, you take a drink at every dutch angle shot.

    Consequently, this is the only rule you need.


    • Stokes OTI Staff #

      Heh. You should make it that you have to tip the glass at the precise angle that the screen tips, and keep drinking for the duration of the shot. That would actually work well with a lot of movies. In Alien 3 when the monster runs up on the ceiling you dump a beer on your head.


      • Wade #

        Whoa, that would turn pretty much any Sam Raimi film into a challenge in both dexterity and balance. The way he uses Hitchcock zooms and rapidly tilting angles in The Quick and the Dead or Army of Darkness would bring seasoned drinkers to their knees (both figuratively and literally).


  4. gary #

    I think the odd thing about the movie is that it isn’t meant to complete. The Thor comic is just a really long “middle section.” We know he is meant to die in the future. We know that Ragnarok is coming. We have a lot of comics that actually fullfill that part of Norse mythology.

    But the original Thor series by Stan Lee had a lot of pathos to it. Thor wasn’t just “weakened” before, he was crippled. He had to walk with a cane. Odin hobbled him and Donald Blake (as he was known) became a doctor in war zones. That was his penance, that was his price for defying his father: to not only be hobbled, but to serve others that were at the cost of war.

    Honestly, I don’t know how you could do that in this movie, but I always liked that part of the character. He is the most powerful character once he strikes his cane to the ground and becomes Thor, but when he becomes Donald Blake, he has to deal with the aftermath of any war he commits.

    Oh, and if you ever need a “comic book” guy, I can be your guy. I’m Ph.D. english trained to look at comics.


    • Brian #

      I want to second more comic book articles. I don’t know if this is the case just because there’s more movies made from comics, but it seems like comics are becoming more popular and have a wider audience now that there’s so many adult themed comics plus all the manga.

      Also “sequential art” as a form of everyday communication is increasing, look at emoticons and message boards- or something like 4chan where they have an ever evolving roster of formats to recontextualize a sequence of reaction shots from movies and stock photos for humor.


      • Brian #

        Not suggesting overthinking 4chan memes, but that comics are a relevant medium in their own right not just something related to movies or tv shows.


  5. JosephFM #

    I was slightly disappointed that, during Wreather’s Fast Five digressions, not one mention was made by anyone of the other current movie set in Rio de Janeiro, namely the 3D parrot cartoon Rio. Admittedly, I assume no one on the podcast even saw it, and I haven’t either, though I have been playing the Angry Birds tie-in game on my Android phone.

    …and now I am fantasizing about a Fast and Furious Birds game, and using the yellow Angry Birds to destroy little cartoon versions of Vin Diesel hiding in structures made of cars parts.


  6. Adrian #

    I have been assured by friends who have spent a lot of time among the Dutch in their natural habitat: they are very cheap, and the phrase “going Dutch” does indeed come from their skinflint race.


  7. James Verdegem #

    Was an interesting discussion on the fact that Thor did not head down the obvious religious path that a film about an “Ancient God” may do. My guess is likely a deliberate decision by Marvel. However it has been done before very well in the long running show Stargate SG1. In that there are parasitic aliens who act as Gods because they use technology to do impossible things, including rising from the dead, energy weapons etc.

    As was mentioned in “Thor” ( who appears as another a small grey alien called the Asgard in Stargate) Magic can be seen as science that isn’t understood. When the Conquistadors met the Aztecs, it is probably safe to assume that they saw the intruders guns as magical/Godly weapons. Same if you took modern technology back to ancient times. Religious/Godly explanations of the unknown have always been simply an attempt of looking at the world with very limited knowledge and making the best guess one can.

    Would it not be fair to describe any Superheros “Powers” as “God-like just with explanation”? (if one is given of course, radioactive spider, yellow sun,Power ring etc)


    • fenzel OTI Staff #

      I think it’s important for Marvel to make the explanations and contexts of their Avengers characters to be comparable, so they can exist onscreen together. Otherwise, you run into what screenwriter Blake Synder calls “double mumbo jumbo” – according to Snyder, you’re only allowed one really huge suspension of the rules of reality in your Hollywood screenplay. If you start combining them, it becomes difficult to comprehend and the audience loses interest.

      If Captain America’s and Iron Man’s powers are technological, but Thor’s powers are magical/divine, and the Hulk’s powers are surreal and psychological, then the Avengers movie will feel disconnected and nonsensical.

      Instead, all of them have been moved in the direction of “superheroes come from strong, brave, highly trained, charismatic people taking advantage of advanced technology.” There’s no Daredevil, Gladiator, Fantastic Four or Dr. Strange to make superpowers seem like an accident, something hereditary or something mystical. Even the movie Hulk is on the deliberate side of where his powers come from as far as Hulks go – they really stress the genetic engineering angle.

      This is also a good reason to keep the Avengers and X-Men franchises in separate movies as much as possible.

      In comics and movies in general, superhero powers have all sorts of narrative and symbolic unpacking. I wouldn’t describe all superheroes as having “godlike powers with explanation.” All superheroes aren’t even all that superhuman in their inborn talents (like, say, the Punisher). Superheroism is more a series of motifs and tropes that are then used to tell a wide variety of stories.


      • Lee OTI Staff #

        “If Captain America’s and Iron Man’s powers are technological, but Thor’s powers are magical/divine, and the Hulk’s powers are surreal and psychological, then the Avengers movie will feel disconnected and nonsensical”

        Right now, I am working off the assumption that the Avengers movie will “feel disconnected and nonsensical,” no matter how well they’re able to put the various heroes’ powers on parity.

        Can you imagine someone who has never read any of the source comic books or seen any of the preceding movies watching this movie and making any sense of it? I would love to find such a person and get their take after this movie comes out.


  8. Gab #

    Late to the party, but I wanted to hold off until actually seeing Thor to comment.

    Music: Since I’m a huge Hans Zimmer fan, I am a little miffed at how his style is used as an insult (like the dude quoted above), especially since it is simultaneously replicated over and over again by other composers; and when they do this, it’s a watered-down version that isn’t as good as his (and I’ll get to that in a sec). As for this movie in particular, I do think the style is suitable for the film- blaring horns and brass to represent the power and strength of the titular character, while the quick strings in the background represent the joy and childlike delight he gets from using that power and strength. The reason it came across as “bo-ring” was because it wasn’t an in-depth attempt, though. It may have been suitable, but it wasn’t really done as well as it could have been. I too am surprised Doyle didn’t do a better job, given his experience (I’m particularly fond of A Little Princess and listen to it frequently)- I was expecting a name I wouldn’t recognize during the credits, yet another imitator of Zimmer’s style. So Lee, I’d say you’re 100% correct: he totally phoned it in this time. Sad. Oh, how the mighty fall. So what happened? One can speculate. Perhaps since it’s a comic movie action flick visual extravaganza, Doyle and whomever had to approve the finished product (by him) didn’t think it was necessary to make it sound that “deep” and do one of the things “good” soundtracks do (and that I think Zimmer does each time, even when he gets made fun of): 1) Take the emotion and meaning of the scene to the next level, a place it didn’t and couldn’t get to without that music, or 2) become its own character. I suppose there’s also 3) become such a good extension of a character that you don’t think twice about it when it’s there, but notice its absence (and if listening to the music without seeing the movie, you immediately think of that particular character). But this is a watery comic movie, so making music that intensely isn’t necessary? I’d hope not, but I can see that as a rationale.

    Which brings me to my own critique of the writing and plot. It, like so many others before, had potential, but there wasn’t enough development. There were way too many things hinted at and teased. I’ve never read any Thor, but I also realize there were a ton of Easter egg name-drop-type things and allusions. I felt rather distracted by them at times. On the other hand, there were also some things left unexplained that a reader would probably know but a non-reader wouldn’t. None of that is really OVER-thinking, just critique, though, so I suppose I should prolly let it go.

    And about Jane being relateable or not for a woman. I had trouble relating to her, yes, but not because of the gender factor- rather, because I didn’t know a damn thing about her. I liked that she was smart, even crazy smart, and that could have been fun and highly empowering for a female character, but there wasn’t much else about her as a person. She was a watered down caricature of a generic mad scientist, and that was difficult to click with. I suppose it could be dragged back down to the argument that ultimately she didn’t have much purpose other than to serve as Thor’s love interest, but I don’t think that’s quite right. She did seem to have her own motivations, but they weren’t presented clearly enough. She has “her research,” but we’re never even told what that is. I guess my point is I didn’t see her as a badly-written woman, per say, but just a badly-written character; and whether the fact that she is, indeed, a woman, makes it worse or not- I can see arguments for either side.

    Speaking of woman characters, a few quibbles, since I can: 1) Darcy doesn’t have a last name? I totally didn’t understand that. What, would they have had to increase her pay that much to give her a last name when Thor says goodbye to everybody? She’s listed as “Darcy Lewis” on the IMDB page, but would it really have been that hard to say it in the script? If someone can explain that to me, please do, because I couldn’t tell if it was supposed to be a joke or what. 2) Frigga, the queen? The politics of the Asgardians were a little confusing, and her political power could have been fleshed out more- Thor accepts that a declaration by her after Odin is supposedly dead is law-binding, so it would have been cool and helpful to see more of her influence. She even knocks down a Frost Giant at one point (!!), so I don’t think her character was given enough justice. 3) Sif, what was up with her? They seemed to be beating us over the head with a hammer (HAH!) that she’s in love with Thor, but maybe I was reading too much into it? That move with the spike in the robot’s neck was fantastic.

    Anyway, I’ve rambled enough about this.


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