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: Wedding Bells Ring for Rosie
Comedian Rosie O'Donnell and her lesbian partner, Kelli Carpenter, were wed Thursday in San Francisco, a day before the California state attorney general is slated to file a lawsuit that may end the controversial weddings, Reuters reports. O'Donnell and Carpenter said they were motivated to tie the knot after President Bush proposed a Constitutional amendment Tuesday banning same-sex weddings and cited the recent flood of gay marriages in San Francisco in his remarks. "We were both inspired to come here after the sitting president said the vile and vicious and hateful comments he did," O'Donnell said after kissing her bride.
Gibson Feels Judged on his Passion
Director Mel Gibson told Jay Leno Thursday on NBC's The Tonight Show that he feels his film The Passion of the Christ has been unfairly prejudged over the past year, The Associated Press reports. "For a year, it's been nothing but nasty editorials and name-calling," Gibson said, but he added he is adopting a loving attitude, "even for those who persecute you." The director also alleged that a copy of the script was obtained "nefariously" before the film was completed, leading to "all these accusations of anti-Semitism," which he has vehemently denied--and he never considered changing his script because of the protests. "I don't know any director, any artist who would bow to this kind of pressure. It's un-American," Gibson said. The film grossed a whopping $23.6 million on its opening day Wednesday, prompting Leno joked in his opening monologue, that since the film was doing so well, "there's now talk of turning it into a book."
Shock Jock Stern Voices Opinion on Ban
Radio personality Howard Stern had more than a few words to say Thursday morning regarding being yanked off a half-dozen stations for his controversial radio show. "They are so afraid of me and what this show represents," AP reports Stern told his legion of devoted listeners. The heightened anxiety created by the Janet Jackson/Justin Timberlake stint during the Super Bowl halftime show has put pressure on broadcasters to clean up their acts, and Clear Channel Communications took Stern's show off the air Wednesday in a dozen markets, including San Diego, Calif. and Pittsburgh, Penn., until Stern met its programming guidelines. "Janet Jackson is now forgotten, and I'm on the front page of every newspaper," Stern complained Thursday morning.
A Friends Reunion?
It's a split vote between Friends cast members on whether they would return for a reunion show. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, AP reports Courteney Cox Arquette, Jennifer Aniston and Lisa Kudrow didn't think it would be a good idea. "I think that would cheapen it," Aniston told the magazine. "Do you remember The Brady Bunch reunion show? You remember the Happy Days reunion show? Were they ever good? Cheap, cheap, cheap, cheap." The three male actors on the hit sitcom, however, were more amenable to the idea. Matthew Perry suggested, "Talk to me in 20 years. If I'm on really hard times, maybe I'll be pitching one," while David Schwimmer said, "…If it meant I get to revisit the relationships and work with those writers and actors again, then that would be a good thing."
AFI Fetes MPAA's Jack Valenti
The American Film Institute honored the Motion Picture Association of America's president Jack Valenti with the Charles Heston Award Thursday for his contributions to the industry, AP reports. The ceremony was held in Los Angeles.
Clay Aiken Donates Clothes to Museum
Last year's American Idol runner-up Clay Aiken saw his clothes--a white Italian-made shirt, black pinstriped pants and the shoes he wore on the show--on display at a museum in Raleigh, N.C., AP reports. "Today's popular culture often becomes tomorrow's history; we are pleased to have objects connected to Clay Aiken's early success," Elizabeth F. Buford, director of the history museum and the Division of State History Museums, told AP.
Rowling Invited to Billionaire Club
J.K. Rowling, the wealthy author of the Harry Potter books, has joined Forbes magazine's list of the world's billionaires, Reuters reports. Rowling, once an unemployed single mother, saw her wealth rise to $1 billion after the publication of the latest Harry Potter novel, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and the success of the movie franchise, the magazine said Thursday. The founders of the Internet search engine Google.com, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, also made the list.
Lane, Broderick Say Goodbye to Producers--Again
After making a splashy comeback Dec. 30, original stars Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick are leaving their hit Broadway musical The Producers April 4, AP reports. The (real) producers of the show declined comment Thursday, although John Barlow, a spokesman for the show, told AP casting is proceeding and said that the new performers will be announced when they're signed. Since Lane and Broderick's return, the show has been doing well and last week took in more than $1.3 million, the highest gross on Broadway, AP reports.
Role Call: Theron Goes Aeon Flux
Charlize Theron, currently reaping numerous awards for her startling performance in Monster, is in negotiations with Paramount Pictures to play the futuristic assassin in a feature film based on the MTV animated series, Aeon Flux. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the MTV series revolved around a killer known for her extreme style, cool attitude, tight clothes and propensity for dying. The feature is targeting a June start with Karyn Kusama (Girlfight) in the director's chair.
Top Story: Idol Whittles Down to Clay and Ruben
And then there were two. Viewers voted Kimberly Locke off Fox's American Idol competition Wednesday night, which narrows the field down to crowd favorites Clay Aiken and Ruben Studdard. A spokesman for the show told The Associated Press that Aiken and Studdard had been friends with Locke throughout the competition and added they were in tears after she was voted out. Aiken, of Raleigh, N.C., and Studdard, a Birmingham, Ala., native, will go head-to-head on the show's May 21 finale, with the winner getting a recording contract. Last year's American Idol winner, Kelly Clarkson, saw her album debut at No. 1 on Billboard last month.
Presenters Set for MTV Awards
Presenters for the 12th annual MTV Movie Awards were announced yesterday, with Brittany Murphy, Sean "P. Diddy" Combs, Mark Wahlberg and Kate Hudson headlining the ceremony. Rapper 50 Cent, the Russian girl duo t.A.t.U and pop singer Pink are set to perform. The awards ceremony, hosted by Justin Timberlake and Seann William Scott, will be taped May 31 at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles and will air on MTV at 9 p.m. EDT June 5.
CBS Unveils Fall Slate
CBS will introduce seven new series this fall, including Jerry Bruckheimer's Cold Case, a drama about a Philadelphia detective assigned to track unsolved crimes. Former Sopranos star Joe Pantoliano will star in The Handler as an FBI agent training undercover agents in Los Angeles, while Charlie Sheen will star as a bachelor with a Malibu beach house in Two and a Half Men. Others on the slate include Navy CIS, about special agents fighting crimes within the military; an all-star version of Survivor with Richard Hatch, Rudy Boesch, Tina Wesson, Ethan Zohn and Jerri Manthey; the small-town drama The Brotherhood of Poland, N.H.; and the comedyThe Stones.
Arnold Schwarzenegger: Video Game Star
Arnold Schwarzenegger, star of this summer's Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, will also star in an Atari video game due out this fall based on the movie, the AP reports. The 55-year-old action star said other companies are approaching him with ideas, including a pitch to make a game based on the 1977 weightlifting documentary Pumping Iron. "Two companies came to me with that idea to make it interactive, to have pose-offs," Schwarzenegger said Monday at an Atari party. "It can be something very educational but at the same time inspirational for kids to work out rather than become a couch potato," he added.
Spears and Skechers Settle Lawsuits
Lawyers for Britney Spears and the Skechers footwear company have settled competing lawsuits over a deal for the singer to market a line of roller skates and accessories, the AP reports. In December, Spears filed a $1.5 million lawsuit against Skechers, claiming the company did not pay her adequately for marketing a line of skates, failed to find outside businesses to make accessories for her line and used her presence in ads to increase sales of its own skate products. Skechers responded with a $10 million lawsuit, accusing Spears of fraud and breach of contract, claiming Spears refused to cooperate with designers and marketers in rolling out her products. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed.
Claudia Schiffer in Car Accident
Supermodel Claudia Schiffer and her three-month old son Caspar escaped injury following a car accident in London. Schiffer was traveling with her husband, film producer Matthew Vaughn, and their son Wednesday when their Range Rover collided with a white van. Schiffer's assistant was driving the car when they hit another vehicle. Newspaper photos showed a calm-looking Schiffer cradling Caspar after the accident near fashionable Kensington High Street in West London, Reuters reports.
Role Call: Snoop Dogg, Method Man in Soul Plane, Farrell's Anchor Man
Rapper-actors Snoop Dogg and Method Man are set to star in Soul Plane, MGM's urban version of the 1980 comedy Airplane! for director Jessy Terrero. Snoop Dogg will play the plane's pilot, and Method Man will portray the airline owner's best friend Muggsy, who is put in charge of the plane's business class ... Christina Applegate will star alongside Will Ferrell in the DreamWorks comedy Anchor Man: The Legend of Ron Burgundy for director Adam McKay. In the 1970s-set pic, Ferrell will play a local news anchorman ready for a national network job who falls in love with a cutthroat feminist reporter played by Applegate.