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: Lanes, Ya-Ya Sisterhood Get Nods for PRISM Awards
Changing Lanes and Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood were among the films nominated on Tuesday for PRISM awards, which honor the accurate depiction of drug, alcohol and tobacco use and addiction, Reuters reports. Other film nominees included Narc, The Salton Sea and Skins. Samuel L. Jackson (Changing Lanes), Ashley Judd (Divine Secrets), Jason Patric (Narc), and Val Kilmer (The Salton Sea) were also some of the actors nominated for their performances. Under the television category, Jeremy Irons and Neve Campbell were both nominated for their work in the Showtime movie Last Call about the final days of writer F. Scott Fitzgerald, while Bernie Mac got a nod for his show The Bernie Mac Show.
Osbourne Gets a Clean Bill of Health
Sharon Osbourne, the matriarch of television's first family of dysfunction, appears to be free of the colon cancer she's been battling since last year. "Ozzy says Sharon has completed her treatment and has no signs of cancer," a spokesman for the rocker told Reuters on Wednesday.
Singer Braxton Has Baby No. 2
Toni Braxton and her husband, Keri Lewis, welcomed their second child, a son, Diezel Ky Braxton Lewis on Sunday, The Associated Press reports. The couple also has a 1-year-old son, Denim.
Actor Conrad Arrested
Robert Conrad, star of the 1960s TV show Wild, Wild West, was arrested on suspicion of driving while under the influence when his car collided with another Monday night in Northern Calif., injuring himself and the other driver. According to Reuters, the actor was rushed to a hospital in Modesto, Calif., where he was listed in stable condition.
Actor Jason Mewes Ordered Into Rehab
Jason Mewes, known as stoner Jay in the Kevin Smith films Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back and Clerks, has been ordered by a judge to complete a drug rehabilitation program or face jail time, AP reports. Mewes, 28, who failed to report for a court hearing stemming from a 1999 heroin conviction, had a warrant issued for his arrest in December 2001. According to AP, the actor surrendered Tuesday and pleaded guilty to probation violation charges, failing to report to his probation officer, take drug tests or undergo counseling.
Wanna Be a Superhero?
Here's your chance. The WB network has ordered six episodes of a new reality TV show Who Wants To Be a Superhero?, a fantasy-oriented contest from comic book icon Stan Lee. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the show revolves around real people who come up with ideas for original superheroes and perform in character before a panel of celebrity judges who have played onscreen superheroes. Semifinalists will undergo a "superhero makeover" overseen by Spider-Man creator Lee and compete in various stunts and challenges that mimic comic book derring-do. The winner will then be eligible to have his or her idea developed and expanded by Lee's team, possibly for a comic book spinoff.
Wanna Work with Donald Trump?
Here's your chance. NBC is developing a new reality series with Survivor producer Mark Burnett called The Apprentice. AP reports the show will gather 20 people who will compete in a fun, entertaining and still cutthroat way for a job with Donald Trump and his company and will feature the business tycoon firing contestants each week. The winner will receive a six-figure salary.
Rivera Taken Out of Iraq
Following on the heels of NBC's firing of reporter Peter Arnett, Fox News Channel has reassigned field correspondent Geraldo Rivera from Iraq to Kuwait after U.S. military officials complained the reporter disclosed unauthorized information about military movements. AP reports that when Rivera, who had been traveling with the 101st Airbourne unit in Iraq, did his report Monday, he was squatting in the desert and outlining the details in the dirt. Rivera, on the other hand, told KSTP-TV in "I feel like I have been scolded," and said he hoped to stay in Kuwait for a week and then arrange to rejoin the 101st Airborne as an embedded reporter. Fat chance.
Role Call: Queen Latifah's Beauty Shop
Hot off her Oscar nomination, Queen Latifah has signed on to star in Beauty Shop, a female version to the hit film Barbershop. Variety quotes sources as saying the rapper-turned-actress will receive a paycheck of at least $10 million for the film. She'll also have a cameo in the sequel to Barbershop, setting up a spinoff movie with her as the owner of a beauty shop next door to the original barbershop locale.