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: Sheen Praises Canada for Staying Out of War
Actor and activist Martin Sheen, who portrays the fictional Democratic President Josiah Bartlet on NBC's political drama The West Wing, said Saturday he was proud of Canada for not entering the Iraq war. Sheen made the statement in Windsor, Ontario, where he was receiving the Christian Culture Gold Medal from Assumption University, which will offer a new scholarship in his name. "Every time I cross this border I feel like I've left the land of lunatics," Sheen said. "You are not armed and dangerous. You do not shoot each other ... I always feel a bit more human when I come here." Sheen, however, made sure to head back to the land of the armed and dangerous for Sunday's annual Primetime Emmy Awards, where The West Wing was named best drama series for the fourth year in a row.
Rocker Melissa Etheridge Weds Girlfriend
Grammy-winning singer Melissa Etheridge exchanged vows with her girlfriend, former Popular star Tammy Lynn Michaels, on Saturday, The Associated Press reports. Etheridge, 41, and Michaels, 28, exchanged custom-made platinum and diamond wedding bands during the ceremony. Although a statement by the singer's publicist described the couple as married, homosexual couples cannot legally marry in California. The two met two years ago and live in Southern California with Etheridge's daughter and son, which she had through artificial insemination using a sperm donation from rocker David Crosby.
Jada and Will's Housekeeping Woes
Will and Jada Pinkett Smith's former housekeeper is suing the couple for allegedly failing to pay her about 1,640 hours of overtime pay and firing her after she complained to them, the AP reports. In her lawsuit, filed Sept. 11 in Ventura, Calif., Superior Court, Marilu Cooley says she worked for the Smiths and lived on their estate for 4 1/2 years and often worked more than 40 hours a week. She said she received overtime pay during her first two years of employment, but claims the Smiths stopped paying her overtime in March 1999, and promised to pay her a $25,000 annual bonus instead. Cooley said she never received the bonus and was fired in October 2001 after she complained about it. She is seeking at least $175,000 in damages.
P. Diddy To Consolidate Businesses Near Times Square
Sean "P. Diddy" Combs is close to leasing a 52,000-square-foot space near Times Square in New York City in order to house all of his businesses under one roof, Reuters reports. Combs would occupy five floors in the building, located at 1710 Broadway at the corner of 54th Street--directly across the street from the David Letterman building. The space would house Comb's Sean John clothing line, Bad Boy Records and its related film and TV companies, his charity arm Daddy's House Social Programs, Janice Combs Music Publishing, Janice Combs Management and the corporate offices of his restaurant, Justin's.
Altman, Hanson Tapped for DGA Honors
The DGA has tapped filmmakers Robert Altman and Curtis Hanson, commercial director Joe Pytka, Senator Olympia Snowe and AFL-CIO president John Sweeney as honorees for its fourth annual DGA Honors Variety reports. The event, set for Nov. 16 at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York, celebrates individuals, institutions and organizations that have made distinguished contributions to the nation's culture in support of filmmaking and TV. Altman's directing credits include M*A*S*H, Short Cuts, Gosford Park and The Player. Hanson's L.A. Confidential, which he co-wrote, directed and produced, won an Oscar for adapted screenplay.
Hines Honored in Harlem
Stars from the worlds of theater, film and dance paid tribute Sunday night to the late tap-dancing actor Gregory Hines at a festive memorial celebration at Harlem's Apollo Theater. The Tony Award winner, who starred on Broadway, in movies and on television, died of cancer in August at the age of 57. Actresses Debbie Allen, Isabella Rossellini, Phylicia Rashad, ballet dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov, Rep. Charles Rangel, D-Harlem, friends and family were all there to honor Hines, the AP reports.
Role Call: Watts Grasps King Kong, Roberts Gets Closer
Australian actress Naomi Watts is the frontrunner to star in filmmaker Peter Jackson's King Kong remake for Universal Pictures. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Watts would play Ann Darrow, an American actress who makes a living performing in Broadway song-and-dance shows in Depression-era New York. Jackson, who is putting the finishing touches on The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, is expected to start writing the King Kong script in November, with shooting expected to begin next summer ... Julia Roberts is in talks to join the cast of Mike Nichols' big screen adaptation of Patrick Marber's play Closer, Variety reports. Roberts would replace Cate Blanchett, who dropped out of the pic last week after she announced she is expecting her second child. Roberts would join Jude Law, Natalie Portman and Clive Owen, who are already on board to appear in the film.