I Am Thor review

I Am Thor is playing at the 2015 New Zealand International Film Festival
I Am Thor is playing at the 2015 New Zealand International Film Festival

If you liked the Anvil documentary but thought it wasn't weird enough, I Am Thor will send you to Valhalla.

It tracks the career of Jon Mikl Thor, a bodybuilder, naked waiter, actor and musician who never quite made it big, but really should have.

A personification the early '80s hair metal scene in its infancy, Thor's band looked like a cross between Manowar and KISS, only the frontman had amazing Mr USA-winning muscles. Despite releasing a few well-received records and impressing crowds in the US and UK, Thor never quite blew up and by 1987 had quit the music business.

A decade later, with a doughy old man body rather than his earlier Norse god physique, Thor resurrected his music career with a new modus operandi: to never, ever quit again. No matter what.

And by Odin's beard, what a showman! A firm believer in entertaining his audiences as much as possible, Thor looks as though he's never performed live without the use of a collection of awesome costumes and props, or strongman tricks like bending steel, smashing bricks and blowing up hot water bottles until they burst.

After every show, fans and newcomers alike say things like he's the best performer they've ever seen. Yet still, he never gets close to hitting the big time, and it looks like he never will.

Thor has a cheerful optimism that means he ignores how pathetic his reality often is, sometimes to the chagrin of those around him. When one of his disgruntled band line-ups abandons him after weeks on the road with seemingly no pay, Thor puts it down to "exhaustion".

This troubled relationship with the truth may explain some of the eyebrow-raising reasons on which Thor blames the failure of his '80s career. It probably also explains why no manager ever sticks around for very long and ultimately why he never achieved the success he should have - particularly in the decade of excess when his sort of ridiculousness was genuinely celebrated by millions.

But you don't need success to rock and Thor rocks mightily hard, as does this movie.

Director Ryan Wise edits a lot of the footage for comedy, but it's never mocking or mean-spirited. It's an affectionate look at a hapless, endearing and inspiring character's story that happens to be pretty damn hilarious, too.

Four stars.

I Am Thor is playing at the 2015 New Zealand Film Festival.

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     I Am Thor:: Director: Ryan Wise:: Starring: Jon Mikl Thor, Mike Favata, Steve Price, Keith Zazzi, Frank Meyer, Bruce Duff, Rusty Hamilton, Nik Turner, Frank Soda, Michael Pilmer:: Rating: Exempt:: Running Time: 84 minutes