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SLAMDANCE 2015: I AM THOR (review)

Review by Todd Sokolove
Produced by  Alan Higbee, Ryan Wise, Frank Meyer
Directed by Ryan Wise
Starring Jon Mikl Thor,  Steve Price, Mike Favata

Lost in heavy metal history somewhere between KISS and QUIET RIOT lies Jon Mikl Thor.  But that’s depending on who you ask.

Die-hard metal-heads, and fans of the 1987 horror comedy Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare lovingly know the undisputed god of “muscle rock.”    For many, THOR’s 1977 debut “Keep the Dogs Away” is essential listening for anyone who appreciates the more popular discography that Alice Cooper, Iron Maiden or even Ozzy himself put out.

For every one else, get ready to be entertained big-time by the new documentary I AM THOR, debuting this week at Slamdance.

This sometimes stranger-than-fiction tale is grittier than the 2008 ANVIL, another Canadian rooted rock report, and in a weird life-imitates-art-imitates-life way, it ventures into the heavy metal equivalent of Darren Aronofsky’s THE WRESTLER.    

Though the film primarily covers the over ten year long (and continuing) “comeback” of the aging rock star, I AM THOR sets up Jon’s backstory with vintage delight.  Through interviews and vintage photos and footage, we get a glimpse of where his drive to entertain audiences came from.

A merge of body-building, rock music, comic book characters and onstage feats of strength (hot water bottles anybody?), gave way to a handful of music acts before ultimately producing THOR.

Though the band toured throughout the 70s and 80s, the band never really had what could be called success in the industry. But then, if they had, the full story wouldn’t be so interesting.

The documentary follows the ups and downs of fame-seeker Jon Mikl Thor pretty much over the course of five decades.  One of those decades he tours, another he drops out of the music scene, yet again to return to it.

“Rock and roll is a painful profession.  It’s like a drug.  I’m past the point of quitting…” states Jon, next questioning where it all ends.  He sacrifices his marriage, his health, his finances, and his pride, in a quest not unlike BIRDMAN‘s Riggan Thomson.  With each try at immortality, Jon is always lusting for the assurance of an awesome crowd/constantly at battle with his Thunder God alter-ego.

Luckily, this isn’t an account of failure.  The rocker’s try-and-try-again life story cumulates in three successful, redeeming overseas gigs that boost his confidence.  Although, the airline to Sweden does lose his luggage containing his mighty hammer, steel beams, and studded cod-piece, nothing can get in his way of putting on an awesome show.

There are more incidents straight out of THIS IS SPINAL TAP.  Highlights include an introduction to self-proclaimed THOR fan-club president “Thundergeek,” footage from a heavy-metal wedding (complete with laser show) proceeded by Jon in full costume, and, naturally, great boasting that Stan Lee himself declared Jon more Thor than Thor himself.

Like his life, I AM THOR is part rock ‘n’ roll nightmare, part rock ‘n’ roll redemption.

Even if you’ve never heard of the guy, you’ll leave wanting him to sign your ass for a bitchin’ tattoo.

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