What happens when nothing of note happens in the world of cinema? You open Netflix and pray like hell something interesting pops into your recommended queue. This weekend I Am Thor popped up because a good chunk of my Netflix viewing has been documentaries as of late. Sex with Strangers was a bit weird (about swinging culture) and seemingly there isn’t anyone who hasn’t been blamed for 9/11 either.
I Am Thor follows Anvil! The Story of Anvil in profiling a rock band of significance from long ago that never quite made it to the level they thought, still holding on. In this case it’s the rock band that coalesced around bodybuilder Jon Mikl Thor, a former Mr. Canada who wound up achieving a level of fame in the 1970s and 1980s as a power rock band focusing on two things: harder tunes and Thor’s impressive physique. Trying to make the transition over into film, Thor wound up in a handful of B films during his heyday (and married a porn magazine cover model) but never found the sort of arena rock fame that similar bands like KISS did. Retiring after a mental breakdown, Thor would come back to try and resurrect his career as a nostalgia act.
It’s a look at the origins and attempted comeback of a rock legend (in his own mind). And that’s the interesting thing about the film: Thor is well past his heyday, when he was nearly cast for the part of Thor in Adventures in Babysitting (played by Vincent D’Onofrio), and now is an out of shape guy in his 60s holding to a quasi-weird sort of fame level. Having had some medical problems, and advised by his doctors to let go, it’s an interesting look at how far people will push themselves in pursuit of a dream long passed them by.
Comparing this film to Anvil! would be easy but it’s also the easiest because both capture that fall from grace of guys who never really made it to that highest peak of superstardom. It’s fascinating to see because everyone who’s ever failed at becoming a rock star has a number of reasons why … and the closer you get to the mountain top the more interesting they become. Thor never took off to the levels he thought he should’ve because the gimmick didn’t have the strength of the music behind it.
Say what you will about KISS but they were a terrific rock band when you removed the paint, pyro and shenanigans. Thor was a band that is more reminiscent of a band like Gwar, which had a cult following but didn’t quite have the legs to break into the mainstream. From archival footage it looked like a hell of a show and seeing the band now, just Jon Mikl Thor and whatever band mates willing to play as Thor’s antics, and lack of quality pay, led him to an ever revolving group of support musicians.
As we see him progress through the 21st century, reviving his career around 2001, it’s interesting to see a guy who stopped working out as hard as it would take to maintain that original Thor physique still try to be that guy. It’s like watching a pro wrestler who was famous in the 80s still work the indie scene, having let themselves go from their previous hard bodied look. He’s still doing his same act but now it’s less impressive because it’s like watching your middle-aged, out of shape father do a full Hulk Hogan impression. It’s almost to the point of comedy at some points, watching Thor do his act, but the film doesn’t play it for laughs as it does for Thor’s commitment to putting on a show his fans want.
It’s interesting to see them indulge on this fantasy as so many of them were fans in his heyday; it may not have been the show they remember but it’s a nostalgia thing one can understand. It does take the same sort of “sad man trying to hold on” viewpoint of Anvil!, as it’s easier to roll one’s eyes throughout, but it avoid outright condescension. The film has no qualms showing how sad his touring dates were over the years, as Thor went from the cusp of arena tours to playing to a crowd of six at one point.
I Am Thor never found the audience Anvil! did but it’s a solid Netflix viewing.
Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings his trademarked irreverence and offensive hilarity to Twitter in 140 characters or less. Follow him @ScottSawitz .
Tags: Anvil! The Story of Anvil, I Am Thor, Monday Morning Critic