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.
What would you do if you saw Terence Stamp bellying up to the bar? Could you resist the urge to approach him and scream, "You will bow down before me, Jor-El! Both you, and then one day, your heirs!" ? The 26th annual Saturn Awards were held Tuesday in Century City, Calif., and, what with all the sci-fi and fantasy movie gods and goddesses in attendance, we had trouble keeping the cap on all the riffs we were tempted to uncork. There was Martin ("Ed Wood") Landau ("Nowadays, no one gives two f***s for Bela."), Robert ("Nightmare on Elm Street") Englund ("I'm your boyfriend now!"), director Bryan ("The Usual Suspects") Singer ("Who is Keyser Soze?"), and so on.
Luckily we refrained from making fools of ourselves, but the same could not be said for the several dozen fanboys (and fangirls) who crowded the Park Hyatt Hotel lobby, trying to sneak autographs as the stars filtered into the ballroom.
Take Mike Willis, 22, of North Hollywood, Calif. While Sean (Wannabe Catwoman) Young was putting her signature on some of his "Blade Runner" memorabilia he nervously tried making small talk, and here's what he came up with: "So, how old are you now?" Young smiled and said, "Old enough to know better."
"I just wanted to jump in a lake," Willis told Sci-Fi Geek later. "I felt like the stereotypical, socially retarded fanboy."
Matt Damon GET YER STINKIN' PAWS OFF ME! Nowadays, everything's gotta be a franchise and a star vehicle, so it's not surprising to hear trade-paper reports that Matt Damon is interested in the starring role in Tim Burton's upcoming "Planet of the Apes" remake. Danny DeVito may also get a part in the film -- playing, we assume, one of the evil gorillas. (Who else is he going to play -- Dr. Zaius?)
Spider-Man SPIDER-WHO? First, an unknown kid was cast as the young Darth Vader in the next "Star Wars" flick, and now word comes from IGN.com that two more fresh young faces, Irish actor Colin Farrell and American teen Jay Rodan, have been screen tested for Columbia's now-in-development "Spider-Man" movie.
Nicolas Cage SUPER EXIT: After years of on-again, off-again production and rumors galore, who knows if Warners will ever make its "Superman Lives" movie, but one thing appears certain: Nicolas Cage won't play the man of steel. Cinescape reported this week that Cage has finally lost interest.
Thank you, there is a God.