Published May 07, 2015Fastening a belt made of skulls, donning a heavy chest plate and wielding a silver hammer might seem like a sexy gimmick when you're in the best shape of your life, but it's more of a necessary chore when you're into your 50s and 60s. The documentary I Am Thor tells the unlikely and incredible story of a blond, hard-bodied rocker who narrowly missed out on hair metal fame in the '80s but remains determined to forge ahead in spite of health concerns and dwindling audiences.
Jon Mikl Thor used to dress up as Superman as a kid in Vancouver and recalls feeling the blood trickling down his head after he urged a kid to hurl a projectile at him in an effort to test his superpowers. Fuelled by the heavy tunes perpetually blasting through his headphones, Thor followed his brother into the world of competitive bodybuilding before ultimately deciding to merge the music and the muscles together in flamboyant performances that celebrate the power of the Norse god.
But due to a bizarre struggle between his management and record label that led to him briefly being kidnapped, Thor's music career never really took off, and a subsequent nervous breakdown precipitated an early retirement from show business. However, after a decade of trying to live a quiet life away from the spotlight with his wife, Thor risked the end of his marriage to return to the music scene that he so desperately craved.
Thor's comeback bid could hardly be called triumphant though, as he assembles a rotating cast of men and women to play in his backing band while taking losses on tours with only a small but enthusiastic turnout. As a result of having been burned too many times, Thor stubbornly insists on haphazardly organizing everything himself. There's a funny running joke involving a fictitious manager Thor's invented simply to maintain professional appearances.
Yet in a string of Scandinavian outdoor festival dates towards the end of the film that finds Thor reuniting with former (and highly amusing) members of the band, the film improbably becomes inspirational when they realize just how many fans they've actually accumulated over the years.
Despite the unavoidable decline in his physique, it's hard not to admire Thor's diligent work ethic and friendly demeanour, while also appreciating the theatrical kitsch of live shows that include such staples as having bricks broken on his stomach and blowing up a hot water bottle like a balloon. He's risked his body and mind to devote his life to entertaining audiences of any size. What's more rock and roll than that?
(Blue Lame 61 Productions)