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.
Who made off with Sharon Stone's stones?
A 48-year-old ex-housekeeper of the "Basic Instinct" star was due to be arraigned in a Los Angeles court today on charges she purloined more than $300,000 in jewelry and other items from the actress' West L.A. home, authorities said.
Socorro Del Carmen Membrano faces one count of grand theft. She was arrested Tuesday following a police investigation, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office said.
Membrano worked for Stone for three years, prosecutors said. It was not known what was allegedly stolen -- or when.
Stone's camp declined comment.
SEEING RED? The Halle Berry hit-and-run saga unfolds, as Los Angeles deputies now believe the actress ran a red light before striking a 1996 Pontiac Sunfire Feb. 23 and fleeing the scene in West Hollywood.
On the heels of this update comes news that Berry was involved in a similar incident three years ago in which no charges were filed. Berry and the other driver "worked out a settlement on their own," Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputy Rob Kenessey said of the prior incident.
Berry's case has been turned over to prosecutors, who are reviewing 911 tapes. Investigators reportedly have recommended the filing of criminal charges.
CRABBY APPLE: Singer Fiona Apple gave New York fans quite a show Tuesday when she stormed off the stage 40 minutes into her concert.
According to MTV, the 22-year-old, who recently contributed music to boyfriend Paul Thomas Anderson's "Magnolia," was plagued by sound-equipment problems and couldn't hear herself sing. After complaining and apologizing for the poor quality, she began to cry. The cry snowballed into a meltdown, and the singer reportedly yelled, "All you critics out there better not [expletive] tear me apart or I'll [expletive] kill you."
Finally, Apple announced that the band was leaving for five minutes so the monitors could be fixed. But after 20 minutes, a representative appeared and said Apple would not finish the show and asked fans to save their ticket stubs, saying another -- and better -- New York show would be scheduled.
Apple, whose latest album title, "When the Pawn ..." is longer than a Barbra Streisand acceptance speech, appeared on David Letterman's CBS show the night after the incident. We're happy to say the sound was working fine, and she made it through without incident.
MUSIC BEAT: Surprise, surprise -- Santana's multiple-Grammy-winning "Supernatural" stayed at the top of the Billboard charts this week, hitting the nine-times-platinum mark. It's followed by Dr. Dre's "Dr. Dre 2001." Christina Aguilera's self-titled album also received a Grammy boost to No. 3; Kid Rock's "Devil Without a Cause" and Eiffel 65's "Europop" rounded out the Top Five.
The Top Five singles in the country are as follows: 1. "Amazed," Lonestar; 2. "Maria Maria," Santana featuring The Product G&B; "Breathe," Faith Hill; "I Knew I Loved You," Savage Garden; 5. "Get it on Tonite," Montell Jordan.
OBITS: The Oscar-nominated composer for such films as "From Here to Eternity" died Sunday in a San Diego hospital of cardiovascular disease. George Duning was 92. Duning picked up five career Academy Award nominations. He never won. ...
... David Levy, a former network executive who helped birth the TV version of "The Addams Family," died Jan. 25 in Los Angeles following a lengthy illness, it has been learned. He was 87. During his run as an NBC programming exec, Levy was also instrumental in bringing "Dr. Kildare" and "Bonanza" to the Peacock network ...
... Begona Palacios, actress and widow of director Sam Peckinpah, died Wednesday of a liver disorder. She was 58. Palacios was best known in Mexico for action movies such as "The Saint Against the Strangler" in 1963. Peckinpah died in 1984 ...
QUICK TAKES: Is it over for The Cure? It might be. The alt-rock band's 13th studio album, "Bloodflowers," deals with finality, and lead singer Robert Smith -- a k a the Well-Lipsticked One -- says the song "Maybe Someday" is a specific farewell. "I just feel that it would be good to stop while we're still good," Smith told Reuters ...
... Pee Wee King, the singer, bandleader and songwriter who co-wrote "Tennessee Waltz," is in guarded condition after suffering a heart attack, a spokeswoman for Jewish Hospital in Louisville, Ky., told Reuters. King is 86 ...
... Cameron Diaz, who went frumpy in "Being John Malkovich," will return to glam (hopefully) as a presenter for the 72nd Academy Awards, to be held March 26 at the Los Angeles Shrine Auditorium ...
... "Go" director Doug Liman has lost his dog, Jackson, and is offering a combined reward of $1,000 and a part in his next film to whoever finds the Australian shepherd, last seen Feb. 18 in Washington. Liman tells the New York Post: "I keep hearing from actors who are out there looking."
--With additional reporting by Joal Ryan.