For years, I’ve been fascinated by stories that explore important juxtapositions – good and evil, science and magic, green and purple, etc. The 2011 movie Thor gives us a two-fer.

As entertainment, it was pretty good. There were no “moments of blinding stupidity”, as is so often found in mass-market SF&F. While the plot was somewhat predictable (especially if you’ve seen the trailer), it was nevertheless interesting and entertaining. The visuals were effective without being overdone. I would give it a solid 3 (I’m loathe to give it more without seeing it again).

One of the intriguing aspects of the movie was the use of science and magic. Modern day Earth is clearly a technological society, and nothing presented in the movie alters that in any way. The world of Asgard, on the other hand sometimes looks like a super-advanced technological society and sometimes looks like the home of the gods. Chris Hemsworth (Thor) tells Natalie Portman (Dr. Jane Foster) “Your ancestors called it magic…but you call it science. I come from a land where they are one and the same.” From what is presented in the movie, it would be reasonably easy to argue that the Asgardians are long-lived aliens with super-advanced technology. However, it didn’t seem to me that their being gods practicing powerful magic could be conclusively ruled out either.

The other interesting dimension to the movie was the portrayal of good and evil. It’s difficult to go into details without spoilers, but suffice it to say that none of the characters struck me as entirely good or entirely evil. Even the good guys commit acts of questionable morality, and not always with the best of motives. The bad guys aren’t entirely bad as they often act with good intentions or are amoral rather than strictly evil.

In any case, I enjoyed the movie and would very much recommend it. But take your brain with you, you might need it.

P.S. Stay to the end of the credits. Seriously.