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.
Monsoon Wedding, a film about an Indian bride who has second thoughts about an arranged marriage, won the coveted Golden Lion award for Best Picture at the 58th Venice Film Festival on Saturday. Directed by Mira Nair (Oscar-nominated Salaam Bombay! and Mississippi Masala), it represents the first time a woman has won the top prize at the world's oldest film festival.
Other winners included Iranian director Babak Payami win for best director for his film, Raye Makhfi (The Secret Ballot), a story about a voting box which suddenly falls out of the sky on election day. Best actress and actor went to the Italian actors Luigi lo Cascio and Sandra Ceccarelli for their work in the Italian film Luce dei miei Occhi (Light of my Eyes).
Even though his records are selling, rapper Juvenile will most likely lose his house in Mandeville, Louisiana. The Bank of New York foreclosed on its loan on the house when Juvenile, whose real name is Terius Grey, failed to make any of the monthly $2,329 mortgage payments due since April. The $315,000 property will be seized and put up for auction.
Three former bodyguards of talk show host Rosie O'Donnell have filed suit against her, saying she recorded their conversation in her Miami home without their knowledge. Steven Rubino, Chris Delia and Ted Van Rijn claim they were fired when they confronted O'Donnell about her monitoring their office in her home. O'Donnell insists she did not know about the monitoring device and claims no wrongdoing.
Just as the "King of Pop" Michael Jackson is staging a massive comeback, two former financial advisors are filing a $25 million lawsuit against the singer. Derek Rundell and Gary "Court" Coursey are demanding payment for services rendered as well as are asking for an "accounting of the Defendant's books and records relating to any and all new ventures, financings and investments," according to a report by the Associated Press. Jackson denies owing them any money and his reps believe the two are just trying to make money off the singer's fame.
Former Baywatch babe Pamela Anderson will once again don the tight-fitting red bathing suit, this time to host a Baywatch marathon on TNN, Monday, Sept. 24. The show will run from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. TNN will show repeats of the show starting Tuesday, Sept. 25 from 6-7 p.m.
Independent film producer Laura Ziskin will produce the 74th Academy Awards telecast next March, it was announced. Ziskin, whose producing credits include As Good As It Gets and Pretty Woman, will take over from Gil Cates, who has produced the show for the last decade.
The Wall Street Journal reported that actor Keanu Reeves has signed away a sizable back-end deal and valuable profit-sharing points for his two Matrix sequels to the franchise's special-effects and costume-design team. "He felt that they were the ones who made the movie and that they should participate," an unnamed movie executive told the Journal. Reeves has deferred payment before, sharing his salary to work with Al Pacino in The Devil's Advocate and Gene Hackman in The Replacements.