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: Britney Spears Bitter About Men
Pop princess Britney Spears says she became bitter with men after her very public breakup with ex Justin Timberlake. In an interview with Newsweek magazine in its Nov. 3 issue, Spears says she swore off dating for a while after the experience. "There was a time when I was like, 'OK, I'm over men. They're mean,'" she says. "For like six months, not a single thing happened. Not like they weren't drawn to me, but there wasn't a single real attraction. I'm like, 'What's happening? I know I'm not a lesbian.'" Spears says she is still not involved with anyone and denies reports that she hooked up with 21-year-old Columbus Short, a married backup dancer. Spears also talks about her suggestive layouts for Rolling Stone, British Elle and Esquire magazines. "I did feel kind of weird after those photos," Spears says. "I was in a moment. I had, like, eight Red Bulls and said, 'OK, let's do it.' I learned my lesson and you won't see me like that for a while. I'm kinda over it myself. Not that it's dirty or tacky, but it is really revealing and I wouldn't want my kid, at 21, to be dressing like that."
Price Is Right Announcer Dies
Veteran television announcer Rod Roddy died Monday at Century City Hospital of colon and breast cancer at age 66, The Associated Press reports. For 17 years, Roddy's voice was familiar to fans of the television game show The Price Is Right for the legendary phrase: "Come on down!" Host Bob Barker said Monday that Roddy, who taped his last show two months ago, stayed with the CBS show as long as his health permitted. "The courage he showed during those difficult times was an inspiration to us all," Barker said. "He was quite a character. He was important to the success of the show." A private funeral service will be held in Texas, with a memorial service planned sometime later in Los Angeles.
California Fires Destroy Part of Aviator Set
The Southern California wildfires, which have destroyed at least 1,134 homes, killed 15 people, forced thousands to evacuate and disrupted auto and air traffic, also partially destroyed a set for Warner Bros.' Howard Hughes biopic The Aviator in the Simi Valley area over the weekend. According to Variety, the blaze at Big Sky Ranch forced the production to switch to interior shooting in Long Beach, Calif. Mike Dilorenzo of Santa Clarita Studios said his facility is operating at full capacity with CSI and Carnivale shooting, but added that the studio was on full alert with fires hoses hooked up and ready to go.
David Bowie and Iman To Appear in Hilfiger Ads
Rock icon David Bowie and his wife, supermodel Iman, will appear in their first ad campaign together. According to Billboard.com, the couple will be the new faces for designer Tommy Hilfiger's new H Hilfiger line, to be launched in spring 2004. The collection, described as "sophisticated, sexy and refined," will be part of Hilfiger's high-end line. The ad campaign, shot this month in Amsterdam by renowned photographer Ellen Von Unwerth, will debut in American magazines in April 2004.
Rosie O'Donnell, G+J Court Date Delayed
The court battle between Rosie O'Donnell and her ex-publishing partner, Gruner + Jahr USA Publishing, was put on temporary hold on yesterday as a scheduling conflict caused the judge to delay Tuesday's start date. G+J charges that everything unraveled at the now defunct Rosie magazine when O'Donnell shut down her daytime TV show in 2002 and went from being known as "fun-loving" to becoming a self-proclaimed "uber-bitch." O'Donnell, however, claims the publisher seized control of the magazine, fired editors who were loyal to her and tried to smear her reputation. Manhattan Supreme Court officials told Reuters the breach-of-contract case over the messy demise of the entertainer's namesake magazine will likely open later this week.
Fox Pulls Plug on Luis
After only four airings, Fox has decided to pull the plug on its freshman series Luis. The show starred feature character actor Luis Guzman as a doughnut shop owner in Spanish Harlem, but it opened to poor reviews and ratings, averaging 3.6 million viewers in its four airings. According to The Hollywood Reporter, production on the series, which aired Friday at 8:30 p.m., was shut down Monday. Ten episodes of the comedy were produced overall. For the next two Fridays, Fox will air original episodes of Wanda at Large at 8 and 8:30 p.m. The network had previously scheduled movies to run on the last two Fridays of the November sweep.
ABC News: Oswald Acted Alone
ABC said Monday that an in-depth investigation of the Kennedy assassination conducted by ABC News indisputably confirms that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. The network said ABC News worked with an expert who created a computer-generated reconstruction of the shooting based on maps, blueprints, physical measurements, more than 500 photographs, films and autopsy reports. Through interviews and other documentation, ABC News also concludes that Jack Ruby, who later killed Oswald, acted simply out of his love for Kennedy, the AP reports. The two-hour special on the event is scheduled to air Nov. 20, two days before the 40th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy's assassination.
Tim Robbins To Host Cash Tribute
Actor Tim Robbins will host the Nov. 10 musical tribute to country legend Johnny Cash, who died Sept. 12 at age 71 of complications from diabetes. According to the AP, The Bull Durham star did an audio interview with Cash for promotion of the singer's 2000 album, American III: Solitary Man. Cash also wrote and performed "In Your Mind" for the soundtrack to Dead Man Walking, a 1995 film Robbins directed. Tickets for the tribute concert, which will take place at the Ryman Auditorium, were free and distributed by lottery. John Mellencamp, Dwight Yoakam, George Jones, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Sheryl Crow, Hank Williams Jr., Jack Clement, Steve Earle, Larry Gatlin and Cash's daughter, Rosanne, are scheduled to perform.