Two Reviews: Thor (2011) and Night’s Master by Tanith Lee
Okay, so on tap today are two reviews: the 2011 Thor movie and Tanith Lee’s Night’s Master. Let’s go in chronological order.
Night’s Master by Tanith Lee is the first book in what has become known as The Tales of the Flat Earth series. Set on a world that is flat (hence the name), this book follows the various visitations of the demon prince Azhrarn, the titular Night’s Master.
The novel is really more a collection of six novelettes or three novellas. What unifies the six or three is the presence of Azhrarn. He moves, seductive and dangerous, through the various stories bringing joy, pain, and always desolation wherever he goes.
If you remember back to a few posts ago when I talked about myth and history in fantasy, here you will find a useful example of the former. Night’s Master is written in a heavily mythic style. This style works well with Lee’s technique. She is a mistress of simple poetic storyteller prose. This is an early work, but her style and writing skill is really good.
But this same style also hurts the stories as well. As much is said as is left unsaid, and things are left to assumption that should, perhaps, be better explained. Let’s take an example from the very first story- Sivesh. Why does Sivesh so desire the sun? From shortly after birth to about the age of sixteen or seventeen, he was raised by Azhrarn and his servants. Despite his curiosity, he should still think more like a demon, like an eshva or vazdru, than he should a human. His upbringing should preclude thinking like an ordinary human, much less an annoying Romeo figure.
As in mythology, the stories of Night’s Master have a sociological meaning imparted by the storyteller. In this case, the clear message is: do not so readily fall for the love of demon kind, for so often the destroy what they most desire. This typifies Azhrarn character very well. Often he will act to destroy those he once helped, those he desired after they have moved on. But with Sivesh (and even Ferazhin), they should be different than they are.
Despite my criticisms, I am rather fond of the book. Many of the stories are delightful to read. And Lee’s willingness to explore sexuality is a great bonus.
Thor (2011 Kenneth Brannagh) surprised me immensely. I did not think I would like it, but I found the movie to be one of the best super hero movies I’ve seen in years. Essentially, this is the story Thor (Chris Hemsworth) proving that he is worthy of being the god of thunder and Loki (Todd Hiddleston) descending into genocidal rage against Jotunheim.
The film can be seen to be two movies in one: Thor’s redemption on Earth and Loki’s fall on Asgard. In this way, I think, as much time could be spent on that absolutely gorgeous world called Asgard.
The visuals are stunning, especially the CGI renditions of Asgard and Jotunheim. Wow, those images are just amazing.
The acting is very good with Anthony Hopkins owning Odin, Hiddleston’s Loki is wonderful, and Natalie Portman is good as Jane Foster. And Hemsworth is really surprising as Thor.
That said, I have to admit that I am actually more sympathetic to Loki than I am to Thor. I wonder if it is intentional that Thor and Loki can both be seen as protagonists? Thor is clearly the protagonist of the overall movie, but Loki has his own subplot in which he himself is the protagonist (though not a super hero). Loki’s plot depicts his tragic fall from a trickster jealous of his brother to a deluded god wishing to prove his worthiness by exterminating the Frost Giants. Which is more compelling, I wonder, Thor’s redemption through self sacrifice or Loki’s fall through revelation?
In the end, I fear that Thor 2 will not be as good as this first movie. More than likely, a director more attuned to action/ super hero films with just rehash the standard formula. Brannagh’s directing on this film is excellent. And it is a pity that he will not be back for the sequel.