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.
Tom Green just can't stop being annoying. While on a cross-country tour of skate parks, the Associated Press reported the comedian made a pit stop at a Des Moines, Iowa dance club--and promptly irritated the crowd to the point of getting himself booed off the stage.
Things started off pleasantly enough, with Green inciting the patrons to chant, "I like to drink beer" and "In Iowa, we like to drink beer, " but then took it one step too far, interrupting the music and yelling into the microphone. Guess it's just in his nature.
Arnold Schwarzenegger wants to help shape the youth of America. The AP reports that at an annual meeting of the California Society of Newspaper Editors and Associated Press News Executives Council Friday, the imposing actor promoted a 2002 state ballot initiative that would give more than $400 million towards extracurricular activities and tutoring for kids in kindergarten through ninth grade.
Rapper Master P's stalker will finally stand trial. Antwan Kevin Baker has been accused of stalking and making criminal threats against Percy Miller, known as Master P, for the last three years and was arrested April 17. Little risky stalking a rapper, don't you think? Those guys can be pretty tough.
Supermodel Gisele Bundchen is not dating "it's-not-my-baby" Steve Bing and she and Leonardo DiCaprio are not on the skids, as previously rumored. According to PageSix.com, Bundchen, at a Victoria's Secret shoot last week, kept pushing her breasts together saying, "Thees ees for Leo…Thees ees for my boyfriend," while posing in lingerie. No doubt Leo's happy to hear it.
The season finale of NBC's Friends, where Rachel (Jennifer Aniston) gave birth to daughter Emma and accepted an unintentional marriage proposal from Joey (Matt LeBlanc), drew the show's second biggest audience ever, at about 34.9 million viewers.
Actor, writer, director and now musician Billy Bob Thornton is rocking with the best of them, including Elvis Costello. On Friday Thornton began his two-week, nine-city tour in Los Angeles, showing off his rockabilly musical roots, and announced he will join Costello on dates in Minnesota, Michigan and Ohio.
Opera tenor Luciano Pavarotti postponed a performance in Britain to rehearse for a Three Tenor concert (joining Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras) at the World Cup tournament in Japan.
Songwriter Sharon Sheeley, best known for her song "Poor Little Fool" that was immortalized by pop icon Ricky Nelson in 1958, died Saturday in Los Angeles of complications following an aneurysm. She was 62.