The first and most important thing you should know about Paramount Pictures’ Thor is that it’s not a laughably corny comic book adaptation. Though you might find it hokey to hear a bunch of muscled heroes talk like British royalty while walking around the American Southwest in LARP garb director Kenneth Branagh has condensed vast Marvel mythology to make an accessible straightforward fantasy epic. Like most films of its ilk I’ve got some issues with its internal logic aesthetic and dialogue but the flaws didn’t keep me from having fun with this extra dimensional adventure.
Taking notes from fellow Avenger Iron Man the story begins with an enthralling event that takes place in a remote desert but quickly jumps back in time to tell the prologue which introduces the audience to the shining kingdom of Asgard and its various champions. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) son of Odin is heir to the throne but is an arrogant overeager and ill-tempered rogue whose aggressive antics threaten a shaky truce between his people and the frost giants of Jotunheim one of the universe’s many realms. Odin (played with aristocratic boldness by Anthony Hopkins) enraged by his son’s blatant disregard of his orders to forgo an assault on their enemies after they attempt to reclaim a powerful artifact banishes the boy to a life among the mortals of Earth leaving Asgard defenseless against the treachery of Loki his mischievous “other son” who’s always felt inferior to Thor. Powerless and confused the disgraced Prince finds unlikely allies in a trio of scientists (Natalie Portman Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings) who help him reclaim his former glory and defend our world from total destruction.
Individually the make-up visual effects CGI production design and art direction are all wondrous to behold but when fused together to create larger-than-life set pieces and action sequences the collaborative result is often unharmonious. I’m not knocking the 3D presentation; unlike 2010’s genre counterpart Clash of the Titans the filmmakers had plenty of time to perfect the third dimension and there are only a few moments that make the decision to convert look like it was a bad one. It’s the unavoidable overload of visual trickery that’s to blame for the frost giants’ icy weaponized constructs and other hybrids of the production looking noticeably artificial. Though there’s some imagery to nitpick the same can’t be said of Thor’s thunderous sound design which is amped with enough wattage to power The Avengers’ headquarters for a century.
Chock full of nods to the comics the screenplay is both a strength and weakness for the film. The story is well sequenced giving the audience enough time between action scenes to grasp the characters motivations and the plot but there are tangential narrative threads that disrupt the focus of the film. Chief amongst them is the frost giants’ fore mentioned relic which is given lots of attention in the first act but has little effect on the outcome. In addition I felt that S.H.I.E.L.D. was nearly irrelevant this time around; other than introducing Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye the secret security faction just gets in the way of the movie’s momentum.
While most of the comedy crashes and burns there are a few laughs to be found in the film. Most come from star Hemsworth’s charismatic portrayal of the God of Thunder. He plays up the stranger-in-a-strange-land aspect of the story with his cavalier but charming attitude and by breaking all rules of diner etiquette in a particularly funny scene with the scientists whose respective roles as love interest (Portman) friendly father figure (Skarsgaard) and POV character (Dennings) are ripped right out of a screenwriters handbook.
Though he handles the humorous moments without a problem Hemsworth struggles with some of the more dramatic scenes in the movie; the result of over-acting and too much time spent on the Australian soap opera Home and Away. Luckily he’s surrounded by a stellar supporting cast that fills the void. Most impressive is Tom Hiddleston who gives a truly humanistic performance as the jealous Loki. His arc steeped in Shakespearean tragedy (like Thor’s) drums up genuine sympathy that one rarely has for a comic book movie villain.
My grievances with the technical aspects of the production aside Branagh has succeeded in further exploring the Marvel Universe with a film that works both as a standalone superhero flick and as the next chapter in the story of The Avengers. Thor is very much a comic book film and doesn’t hide from the reputation that its predecessors have given the sub-genre or the tropes that define it. Balanced pretty evenly between “serious” and “silly ” its scope is large enough to please fans well versed in the source material but its tone is light enough to make it a mainstream hit.
Today marked a sunny day for The Dark Knight.
Also for a guy who grows younger as he gets older and a kid who beats all odds to win Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.
The Producers Guild of America has announced its nominations for best movies, documentaries and TV shows. Nods in this movie category often foreshadow what’s to come by way of Oscar later on.
The 20th Annual PGA Awards will take place Jan. 24 at the Hollywood Paladium.
The complete list of nominees is as follows. First, for theatrical movies:
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Kathleen Kennedy & Frank Marshall
The Dark Knight
And for documenaries:
Man on Wire
Standard Operating Procedure
Julie Bilson Ahlberg
Trouble the Water
And for animation:
Kung Fu Panda
And for episodic TV/comedy:
Curb Your Enthusiasm
Lori Jo Nemhauser
And for episodic TV/drama:
David E. Kelley
Mark A. Baker
Todd A. Kessler
Robert Lloyd Lewis
Edward Kitsis & Adam Horowitz
And for "nonfiction" TV:
Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D List
Lisa M. Tucker
This American Life
And for "live and competition" TV:
Bertram van Munster
Hayma “Screech” Washington
The Colbert Report
Stephen T. Colbert, DFA
Real Time with Bill Maher
And for "long-form" TV"
Bernard and Doris
A Raisin in the Sun
Finally, honorary awards and recipients:
Brian Grazer and Ron Howard
David O. Selznick Achievement Award in Theatrical Motion Pictures
Norman Lear Achievement Award in Television
MySpace founders Chris DeWolfe and Tom Anderson
The Stanley Kramer Award
Dan Jinks and Bruce Cohen
MORE NEWS: It's Dolly and Charlie Romijn-O'Connell!
NBC affiliates in conservative-minded locales agree: The network's new animated sitcom about a Jerry Garcia-lookalike God, the devil and a Detroit autoworker is un-Godly.
"God, the Devil and Bob" Four more stations have announced that they'll refuse to air "God, the Devil and Bob" in its scheduled 8:30 p.m. EST/PST time slot Thursday. That brings the total number of naysaying affiliates to six, including all three NBC stations in Idaho (KPVI-TV in Pocatello, KTVB in Boise, KTFT in Twin Falls), one in Louisiana (KTAL in Shreveport), one in Mississippi (WTVA in Tupelo) and one in Utah (KSL in Salt Lake City).
The affiliates also will ban the offending midseason replacement when it moves to Tuesdays at 8:30 p.m. EST/PST starting next week. Instead, the local programmers have come up with some interesting and not-so-interesting curios.
The Boise affiliate, for instance, will replace Thursday's premiere episode with "The Best of John Miller," a compilation of stories by the lifestyle reporter for the local news station. Other replacement shows include "Wheel of Fortune" in Pocatello, "Mad About You" in Salt Lake City and "Judge Mills Lane" in Shreveport, La.
For the record, only the Salt Lake City affiliate has banned "God, the Devil and Bob" outright. The other five stations will air the toon late at night, when kiddies are less likely to be subjected to the blasphemy. In Shreveport and Boise, the series will run at midnight Saturday (after that hedonic "Saturday Night Live"). And even in Salt Lake City, the town won't be "God"-less. There, NBC has sold the show to rival KUWB-TV, a WB affiliate.
What's the beef with the show, anyway? "'God, the Devil and Bob' is an animated sitcom in which the main character, Bob, deals with the moral dilemma of good vs. evil in each episode," an NBC statement says. "As such, it follows in the long tradition of entertainment vehicles that comedically depict this universal struggle."
Or, put another way, it's "Faust" meets "King of the Hill." The main character, Bob Alman (voiced by "3rd Rock From the Sun" alien French Stewart), is an auto assembly-line employee hand-picked by the devil (Alan Cumming) -- as part of a bet with God (James Garner) -- to see if mankind is worth salvation. God looks a lot like the Grateful Dead's late fast-food-eating guitarist, Jerry Garcia, which might be at the root of some objections to the show.
The flap began last week when the Salt Lake affiliate, KSL-TV (which is run by a company that's owned by the Mormon Church), was the first to pre-empt "God." The station's vice president, Al Henderson, told Daily Variety that the show got bumped because it "was not very funny," and "we found some of the humor tasteless." Henderson insisted that the cancellation wasn't due to religious reasons, but said, "We don't apologize for setting a standard in what we believe in."
Other stations quietly followed suit. An employee at Shreveport affiliate KTAL-TV told Hollywood.com, "It was the programming director's decision, and today is her day off."
NBC spokeswoman Leslie Reed says the network doesn't expect ratings for the new show to be torpedoed by the renegade affiliates.
"These are very small markets. We're not talking about losing a lot of viewers here," Reed says. "And we're up against 'Millionaire' [on ABC], so a few viewers won't really make a difference."
That's the fighting spirit.
Maybe NBC's just weary. Last summer, the network went through much the same trouble when good ol' Salt Lake refused to air "Stressed Eric," an animated British sitcom that died after just two broadcasts.
"Apparently their sense of humor [in Utah] is different than ours," Reed says.
It might be different in other parts of the country, too. Other so-called "Bible Belt" stations were expected to join the "God, the Devil and Bob" blackout before Thursday's premiere.
Matthew Carlson, an executive producer of "God, the Devil and Bob," tells Variety that he expected at least some of the controversy, given the fact that the show stars, well, God. "I do know with some people, anytime you do anything about God, they'll be upset."
Especially when the Creator looks like a hippie.
But, would Jerry Garcia take offense at a God that resembled him? There's been no word yet from the psychedelic rock-icon's estate.