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.
Charges against Ben Affleck were dropped Tuesday after officials in New Hanover County, North Carolina, said they found no evidence to support a woman's claims that the Pearl Harbor star threatened to kill her.
Tara Ray, who claims to have had a romantic relationship with the star since February 2002, alleges that Affleck followed her as she drove home from Raleigh, North Carolina, on September 25. She appeared at a special court hearing over the weekend and swore a warrant accusing Affleck of communicating threats to her.
According to the warrant, the actor called her and said he was coming to "blow your (expletive) head off." Magistrate Ralph Ellen II signed the warrant, stating there was probable cause to believe the incident occurred.
But a spokesman for 31-year-old Affleck, whose on-off marriage to Jennifer Lopez has been the subject of intense media scrutiny, said the allegation is completely false and adds that Affleck had been in Savannah, Georgia, with Lopez for the past three weeks.
District Attorney John Carriker told The Associated Press yesterday that an investigation revealed no credible evidence that Affleck had been to Kure Beach, N.C., or called the woman. He noted that repeated attempts by Kure Beach police to contact accuser Tara Ray were unsuccessful and he dismissed the warrant.
Carriker used the opportunity to condemn a system in which Ray could obtain an arrest warrant without proof the alleged incident ever occurred or without input from Kure Beach police.
"This is a very good example of why people shouldn't be able to take out a warrant without any kind of police investigation," Carriker said.
Officials do not plan to file charges against Ray.
Fox viewers have spoken with a resounding "Rooo-ben, Rooo-ben!"
Ruben Studdard, the 24-year-old Birmingham, Ala., native with the deep, silky voice, was crowned the new American Idol Wednesday night at Los Angeles' Universal Amphitheater, eking by rival Clay Aiken by a very slim margin.
Studdard and Aiken rose from the ashes of some 70,000 auditions nationwide at the beginning of the season. The field was then narrowed to 12 finalists--of which Aiken was actually a wild card, not an audience vote--until there were two. The nearly 24 million telephone votes cast Tuesday evening reflected the final contestants' popularity, which has been split almost evenly throughout most the season. Studdard bested Aiken by only 130,000 votes.
Studdard's win was announced in the last 10 minutes of the show's two-hour, drawn-out finale, which featured performances, recaps and promos. After the announcement was made, an emotional Studdard performed his song, "Flying Without Wings," while the crowd chanted his name.
While Studdard's victory assures him a recording contract deal with J Records, Aiken's popularity also resulted in a recording contract and agent representation. According to The Associated Press, both singers are headed into the recording studio to record singles for simultaneous release in two weeks. Studdard plans to sing a duet with Tamyra Gray, a finalist from last season, and Aiken will also likely team up. They each have albums aimed for a December bow as well.
Kelly Clarkson, who won the first American Idol series, saw her debut album Thankful shoot to the top of the Billboard charts in April.
"I'm just happy to be at the end of the show," Studdard told reporters backstage after the show. "It was really long.
"I am just elated," he added. "I've dreamed of being in this place my whole life and I'm finally here. I'm finally living out my dream."
Runner-up Aiken took his defeat in stride. "I didn't get cut tonight," the 24-year-old student form Raleigh, N.C., said. "I just didn't win. So I don't have to go home earlier than anyone else."
British judge Simon Cowell noted both Studdard and Aiken are destined for fame. "It was image over talent," he said. "Talent won."
American Idol 2 was a bigger hit than last year's show, drawing audiences of around 20 million viewers per episode. According to show organizers, a total of about 250 million votes were received over the past four months--double that of last year.
An estimated 33.7 million people watched the final American Idol competition Wednesday night, with viewership climbing to just under 40 million for last half hour when the winner was announced, the AP reports.
The Academy Awards telecast in March--traditionally the most-watched entertainment event of the year-- drew 33.1 million people by comparison, according to Nielsen Media Research.