The main points of the story are familiar terrain. A rock star achieves moderate success. He ages and struggles to adjust to the “real world.” The rockstar plans a comeback and the audience pivots from excitement to horror and back again as it unfolds. But while the central tenants may be the same, I am Thor is truly a thing of its own creation. Canadian-born Jon Mikl Thor began body building in his early teenage years. While invigorated by its showmanship, Thor thirsted for the rock n’ roll lifestyle. With only some B-grade, nude acting credits behind him, he combined his efforts to create the character of “Thor”; a hyperbolized alter-ego who sang glam and metal-based tunes, displayed his incredible strength, and performed utilizing the costumes and reference points associated with the Norse god of the same name. Seemingly on the cusp of great success, although this may be conjecture more than reality, the Thor project never quite reaches its potential, leading to the real man’s breakdown. And then, after nearly 20 years of retirement, Thor decides it’s time for his comeback, even if it’s at the expense of his own safety or well-being.
The film succeeds in making Thor look both entirely absurd, and entirely human. And unlike most films of this nature, Thor succeeds, at least in a moderate way. Sure, he is older and somewhat falling apart, but his audiences are always thrilled, particularly in the last few shows filmed in Scandinavia. The narrative never becomes depressing as Thor’s bubble of, what may be legitimate delusion, never bursts. There are moments where his body gives out, his bandmates quit due to a lack of payment, and festival-goers don’t know who Thor is. But amidst all this, Thor manages to be likeable, mostly gracious, and relatable. And director Ryan Wise doesn't exploit Thor's pain. Rather, he simultaneously celebrates the spectacle of Thor the icon and the minutiae of Thor, the man. His genuine stress over lost luggage (luggage that holds the key, or rather the costumes, to turn him from man to god) is treated with the same intensity as the contents of the luggage itself. Ultimately, I am Thor is a fun snapshot into a strange past subculture, and an enjoyable wrestle with trying to reacclimate that narrative to a more present setting.
I am Thor has its Philadelphia premiere on Monday, April 20 at PhilaMOCA as part of the Cinedelphia Film Festival. Event info and tickets here.