The rise, fall, and return of the shock-rocking Odinson.
Recently, a friend recommended that I watch the documentary about the metal band Thor entitled I Am Thor. Reaching back into my mental Rolodex which is full of useful information about bands, sports, comics, and wrestling and not junk like math or science, I found myself thinking of the great metal documentary The Decline Of Western Civilization Part II. “Thor was in that, weren’t they?” I asked myself. “Yeah, they were being introduced by that skeezy old club owner who tried in vain to get the crowd to chant their name. Wait…that was Odin, not Thor.”
My confusion of Norse god-based 80’s metal bands had left me without a clear picture of the band Thor. “Why were they deserving of a documentary?” I asked myself. Then it hit me. Here is an accurate representation of that very moment:
It hit me like a sledgehammer smashing through a concrete block. I have heard of Thor and so have many of you. Does the movie Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare ring a bell? Jon Mikl Thor, the lead singer for Thor, wrote, produced, and served as the main character in that wonderfully cheesy horror movie. That revelation propelled me forward into 2015’s I Am Thor.
Documentaries are only as interesting as their subject matter, and Jon Mikl Thor has led a pretty interesting life. The film delves into his days as a bodybuilder, variety show entertainer, male stripper, actor, and of course, metal singer. The documentary focuses mainly on Jon Mikl Thor, but does include interviews from band members, journalists, fans, and his ex-wife. Personally, I would have liked to have heard from other bands that had played with Thor during their heyday. It would have given a little more weight to the band’s history. No mention of their song with Seth Putnam, though.
I Am Thor manages to paint Jon Mikl Thor in a mostly sympathetic light. He speaks on his health problems, both physical and mental. The film uses a few clips of home videos which convey a sense of realism that can sometimes be found lacking in other documentaries. I say mostly, though, because there are some head-scratching moments. We see Thor playing the odd show with random musicians found online. We also watch as Thor plays with a punkish side band that includes a coat-tail-riding fanboy called “Thor & The Assboys.” It is at times difficult to endure Thor’s struggles, the diminishing returns of his shock rock antics, and his fading visions of grandeur.
There is a good amount of unintentional comedy and second-hand embarrassment throughout the film. Convention appearances, small crowds, and costume problems are just the start. Like a true underdog story, we are given glimpses of the band’s success as they travel through Europe playing festivals and making in-store appearances. By the end, the audience wants Thor to succeed. They want this man who believes in his vision so much that he has pursued it for over thirty years to succeed.
I Am Thor draws many parallels to another famous metal documentary, Anvil: The Story Of Anvil. Both follow a similar trajectory of rising fame, reaching the cusp of popularity, a crashing descent of missed opportunities, and a final glimmer of hope. Both unfortunately only briefly touch on why the bands did not succeed.
While it doesn’t quite reach the heartstring-pulling levels of Anvil, I Am Thor does contain enough emotion to make the audience care. I suspect that many of the people that watch this movie do not know who Thor is, but will come away wanting to learn more. It’s an entertaining and at times heartbreaking watch that provides a small peak behind the curtain of a storied and interesting band.
I Am Thor is on Netflix and available for purchase/rental on Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, Youtube and the official website.