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.
After immigrating to Los Angeles from Mexico Santiago Munez (Kuno Becker) and his family are struggling to make ends meet. While his father has big plans to own a lawn care service Santiago’s big dream is to play soccer. During a game in L.A. Santiago gets his break when he meets Glen Foy (Stephen Dillane) a former footballer and scout for the Newcastle Team in England. Promising Santiago a tryout if he can get to England Glen sticks his neck out over and over again to prove that Santiago is just as good if not better than most members of the team. Finally he gets Santiago a one-month look-see. When it starts out shaky the newest (and most well paid) member of the Newcastle Team Gavin Harris (Alessandro Nivola) takes Santiago under his wing and helps him prove his undeniable talent. It’s not hard to see why Becker is one of the most recognized stars in the Hispanic television market--and judging from his skills in Goal! he could crossover into the U.S. very easily. As Santiago Becker is able to make you feel his pain and struggle particularly through his smoldering eyes. In one powerful scene Santiago pleads with his father to let him take his shot at pro soccer--leaving the audience in a puddle as he pours his emotions out. You might have expected a little more from British thesp Dillane (The Hours) however as the man who discovers Santiago. His lack of energy is evident in almost every scene he is in. On the other hand American Nivola (Laurel Canyon) has the English bad boy act down pat. Wished there was more of him on screen. Director Danny Cannon best known for I Still Know What You Did Last Summer misses the mark with Goal! the first in a trilogy about soccer. For a sports movie there just isn’t enough excitement. Instead the rags-to-riches story drags on and on. Many of the film’s elements seem tacked on and then later forgotten or watered down things that could have helped develop Santiago’s character more. Then by the time we get to the highlight of the movie--the BIG soccer match--you’re left twiddling your thumbs waiting for it to be over instead of standing up and cheering when Santiago makes the winning GOOOOOOOOAL! Pity. Let's just hope the next two movies are better.