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.
Just say it.
According to a poll conducted by the Center for Voice Disorders at Wake Forest University, some people's voices are better than others.
Between March and August 2001, nearly 3,000 people voted for America's best and worst voices, and the results are manifested in two top 10 lists: one for best and the other for worst.
Among the best is pretty woman Julia Roberts, who proves it's possible that looks and voice go hand in hand; she ranked No. 3. One of the worst included boxer Mike Tyson whose No. 10 spot reveals a powerful punch doesn't mean a knockout voice.
The study, released by James Koufman, M.D., director of the center, set out to understand how the human voice affects us and to understand the impact of voice disorders.
Although Koufman claims only about 3 percent of Americans have a voice disorder, he says it's often more disabling than hearing loss.
The best list:
1. James Earl Jones
2. Sean Connery
3. Julia Roberts
4. Katie Couric
5. Barbra Streisand
6. Sam Donaldson
7. Mel Gibson
8. Diane Sawyer
9. Meg Ryan
10. Anthony Hopkins
The worst list:
1. Fran Drescher
2. Roseanne Barr
3. Gilbert Godfried
4. Bobcat Goldthwait
5. Joan Rivers
6. Howard Stern
7. Rosie O'Donnell
8. Howard Cosell
9. Dick Vitale
10. Mike Tyson
Mariah Carey has booked a guest appearance on Fox's Ally McBeal on Jan. 7. In the episode, Carey will play a key figure in a lawsuit brought by (Jami Gertz's) Kimmy Bishop after she is given a refund by a matchmaking service and deemed unmatchable. Carey also will be featured warbling "Lead the Way" from her new album, "Glitter."
The movie memorabilia-themed restaurant Planet Hollywood filed for bankruptcy on Friday due to a drop in tourist business after Sept. 11. Planet's chief executive Robert Earl tells Reuters the Orlando-Florida based restaurant chain owes $133 million in debt against $121 in assets. Planet Hollywood, once valued at $3.5 billion on the day of its 1996 opening day, is struggling to find customers to fill its restaurants.
An Italian court has cleared Tenor Luciano Pavarotti of tax evasion charges, throwing out a state claim for up to $18 million, BBC News reports. Prosecutors argued that Pavarotti claimed to be a resident of the Italian town Modena, not Monaco, as claimed in his tax return between 1989 and 1995. In his defense, his lawyers said the tenor only visited Italy a few days each year to see friends and for the holidays. Otherwise, he lived "179 days a year" in the United States.
How's "Survivor" surviving? Not so well, apparently. The CBS reality show Survivor: Africa came in second to NBC's Friends last Thursday for the second week in a row. According to Nielsen ratings, Survivor has dipped its lowest levels since its June 2000 debut, having declined by 18 percent in total viewers (19.59 million vs. 23.84 million) and by 24 percent in adults (7.9 rating, 20 share vs. 10.4/23) from its premiere a week ago. . Friends was down 18 percent week-to-week in adults 18-24 to a season-low 12.2/32, but that's still 4 percent ahead of its fourth episode last season.
Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, will stop making TV programs about royalty following controversy over his production company's filming of Prince William, BBC News reports. Adrent Productions has been criticized for not adhering to an agreement for all media not to intrude into William's life at St. Andrews University in Edinburgh, where he has just begin his first term.
Nicole Kidman and Anthony Hopkins will star in The Human Stain, based on a Philip Roth novel set against the backdrop of the 1998 Clinton impeachment scandal, Reuters reports. Robert Benton is set to direct the film, which is expected to begin shooting in March.
The Runner, an ambitious reality show developed by Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, has been put on hold until next season due to concerns over the national mood, Reuters reports. The series, previously set to premiere on Jan. 7, is a cat-and-mouse game in which pre-selected "agents" pursue "runners" cross-country According to ABC, security issues and concern about the show's arose after the Sept. 11 attacks. No word yet on what ABC will do with the 9 p.m. Monday slot come January.
Producers Harry Thomason, his wife Linda Bloodworth-Thomason and filmmaker Adam Friedman are set to begin filming a theatrical documentary based on the Joe Conason and Gene Lyons book The Hunting of the President: The Ten-Year Campaign to Destroy Bill and Hillary Clinton. According to the Hollywood Reporter, Hunting will document the efforts to discredit the couple from the time of Bill Clinton's governorship in Arkansas through his 1998 presidential impeachment trial. Production is scheduled to start during the next few weeks.
With the balloting for the Screen Actors Guild presidential and more than 40 offices up for election ending in Oct. 31, candidates can now send email messages to the 30,000 or so union members who have email adresses, Reuters reported. For 8 cents per message, the emails supposedly contain harsh criticism on the presidential race between Melissa Gilbert and Valerie Harper, who are seeking to replace the current SAG president William Daniels, who will not be running for a second two-year term.
Bad-ass Kid Rock is looking for a few fans to appear in his new video "Forever," the first off his Nov. 20 release Cocky. According to an Atlantic Records spokesperson, the Wayne Isham-directed video will be shot on Oct. 26 and 27 in Detroit, Mich. Details will be announced soon through local radio stations and Kid Rock's official Web site.