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.
Top Story: Barrino Takes Idol Title
The vivacious, gospel-trained Fantasia Barrino became the third American Idol winner Wednesday, claiming the victory for her 2-year-old daughter. "I fought so that my child can have the best," said the 19-year-old single mother from High Point, N.C., who had a 1.3 million-vote edge over rival Diana DeGarmo, The Associated Press reports. When asked backstage about those who might be critical of her single parenthood, Barrino replied: "I feel like a good mom. I'm a strong woman now. ... Don't look down on me. Pray for me because I'm trying." The usually acid-tongued judge and music producer Simon Cowell had only glowing things to say about Barrino, telling America they got it "100 percent right." He also added after the ceremony, "There aren't many other artists in America right now that I'd prefer to have on my label." Runner-up DeGarmo said backstage, "I'm definitely recording an album," adding with a smile, "And Fantasia, you better watch out because I'm coming with one." The top 10 performers from the show's third season, including Barrino, DeGarmo, George Huff, La Toya London, Jasmine Trias, Amy Adams, Jennifer Hudson, Jon Peter Lewis, John Stevens and Camile Velasco, will hit the road for a national summer tour.
Jackson's Lawyers Want Evidence Turned Over
Lawyers for Michael Jackson claim the prosecution in the child molestation case still needs to turn over some 300 items that were seized in sheriff's raids at the pop star's Los Olivos home and other locations last November, the AP reports. In a May 13 motion made public Tuesday, prosecutors indicated they had turned over more than 1,100 pages of documents, including police reports and summaries of witness interviews, 51 audiotapes and two videotapes since January, but added that some items are not available because they are still undergoing forensic examination. Jackson's lawyers are requesting the judge set a deadline for prosecutors to turn over the materials and warned the volume of evidence they want to examine could force a delay in the trial, which the judge has said he wants to begin this year.
MTV Nixes Super Size Me Ads
Music cabler MTV refused to air advertisements for Super Size Me, a documentary that takes a critical look at the health impact of a fast-food-only diet, Reuters reports. According to a statement released by film's distributors, Roadside Attractions and Samuel Goldwyn Films, MTV called the ads "disparaging to fast-food restaurants." But an MTV spokeswoman disputed the claim, saying the network was willing to run the commercial but the distributors turned it down. She did not, however, provide details of the negotiations. Super Size Me has been a hit at box offices by documentary standards, grossing $2.9 million in ticket sales and earning filmmaker Morgan Spurlock the Grand Jury Prize for best documentary director at this year's Sundance Film Festival.
NAACP Honors Haysbert, Smiley
PBS talk-show host Tavis Smiley and actor Dennis Haysbert, best known for his role as the president of the United States on Fox's political drama 24, were among those honored at an annual awards dinner held by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Tuesday night, AP reports. The dinner was in honor of the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in "Brown v. Board of Education," the historic ruling that heralded the official end of segregation in education, housing and work.
Missing Last Samurai Novelist Found
The Last Samurai novelist Helen DeWitt was found in good condition Wednesday by Niagara Falls, N.Y., police--the same day she was reported missing by New York City's police department. DeWitt had been missing since Tuesday morning when she was last seen near her Staten Island home, prompting police to ask for help in finding her. Later on Wednesday, New York City police said the 46-year-old author was found in good condition by the Niagara Falls Police Department and taken to a hospital for evaluation, the AP reports. No other details were immediately available. Her critically acclaimed debut novel The Last Samurai (unrelated to Tom Cruise's latest movie of the same name) tells the story of a single mother and her 4-year-old son, who obsessively watches the classic Japanese film Seven Samurai.
Judge Dismisses Attempt to Evict Bianca Jagger
Judge Anthony Fiorella Wednesday dismissed a New York landlord's attempt to evict Bianca Jagger, who is suing her landlord, Katz Park Avenue Corp., over mold she says was making her four-room Park Avenue pad uninhabitable, Reuters reports. Jagger, the former wife of Rolling Stones lead singer Mick Jagger, was served with an eviction notice earlier this month while pursuing the $20 million lawsuit. She claims she has been living out of suitcases at friends' homes for almost three years because of a mold infestation in the apartment. The judge dismissed the eviction proceeding and also indicated it would be inappropriate for the landlord to refile an eviction proceeding against her, at least until Jagger's lease expires next February.
Sarah Jessica Parker To Star in Gap Ads
Sarah Jessica Parker, who played columnist Carrie Bradshaw on the hit HBO comedy Sex and the City, will appear in a marketing campaign for Gap set to debut in August, the AP reports. The choice isn't a surprising one, considering women nationwide imitated the TV fashionista's eclectic sense of style and over-the-top sexy ensembles. "Gap has always been about individual style, and no one represents this philosophy better than Sarah Jessica Parker," Gary Muto, president of Gap, said in a statement Wednesday. "She looks as amazing in jeans as she does in couture." The company said this is the first time it will be working with a celebrity on a broader scale than a one-time appearance in a print or TV ad campaign.
Role Call: Cattrall Turns Down Sex Movie, Paltrow in Dietrich Film
Kim Cattrall , meanwhile, said no thanks to a feature film based on the hit HBO comedy Sex and the City, prompting the cabler to drop the project. According to Variety, some of the sticking points in the negotiations were that Cattrall wanted script approval, which her co-stars Sarah Jessica Parker, Cynthia Nixon and Kristin Davis were denied. The trade newspaper also reported Cattrall wanted the same fee as Parker--the show's central character--and was rejected ... Gwyneth Paltrow will produce and star in a feature film based on the biography Marlene Dietrich, written by the German screen siren's daughter, Maria Riva. There is no start date yet for the project, whic