Robert Zemeckis is a blockbuster director at heart. Action has never been an issue for the man behind Back to the Future. When he puts aside the high concept adventures for emotional human stories — think Forrest Gump or Cast Away — he still goes big. His latest Flight continues the trend revolving the story of one man's fight with alcoholism around a terrifying plane crash. Zemeckis expertly crafts his roaring centerpiece and while he finds an agile performer in Denzel Washington the hour-and-a-half of Flight after the shocking moment can't sustain the power. The "big" works. The intimate drowns.
Washington stars as Whip Whitaker a reckless airline pilot who balances his days flying jumbo jets with picking up women snorting lines of cocaine and drinking himself to sleep. Although drunk for the flight that will change his life forever that's not the reason the plane goes down — in fact it may be the reason he thinks up his savvy landing solution in the first place. Writer John Gatins follows Whitaker into the aftermath madness: an investigation of what really happened during the flight Whitaker's battle to cap his addictions and budding relationships that if nurtured could save his life.
Zemeckis tops his own plane crash in Cast Away with the heart-pounding tailspin sequence (if you've ever been scared of flying before Flight will push into phobia territory). In the few scenes after the literal destruction Washington is able to convey an equal amount of power in the moments of mental destruction. Whitaker is obviously crushed by the events the bottle silently calling for him in every down moment. Flight strives for that level of introspection throughout eventually pairing Washington with equally distraught junkie Nicole (Kelly Reilly). Their relationship is barely fleshed out with the script time and time again resorting to obvious over-the-top depictions of substance abuse (a la Nic Cage's Leaving Las Vegas) and the bickering that follows. Washington's Whitaker hits is lowest point early sitting there until the climax of the film.
Sharing screentime with the intimate tale is the surprisingly comical attempt by the pilot's airline union buddy (Bruce Greenwood) and the company lawyer (Don Cheadle) to get Whitaker into shape. Prepping him for inquisitions looking into evidence from the wreckage and calling upon Whitaker's dealer Harling (John Goodman) to jump start their "hero" when the time is right the two men do everything they can to keep any blame being placed upon Whitaker by the National Transportation Safety Board investigators. The thread doesn't feel relevant to Whitaker's plight and in turn feels like unnecessary baggage that pads the runtime.
Everything in Fight shoots for the skies — and on purpose. The music is constantly swelling the photography glossy and unnatural and rarely do we breach Washington's wild exterior for a sense of what Whitaker's really grappling with. For Zemeckis Flight is still a spectacle film with Washington's ability to emote as the magical special effect. Instead of using it sparingly he once again goes big. Too big.
Tony Martin, a smooth-voiced baritone who found success in Hollywood on the nightclub stage and on the radio during his 80 year career, passed away of natural causes Friday night at his home in West Los Angeles, the New York Times reports. He was 98.
Martin was born Alvin Morris in San Francisco on December 25, 1913 to Hattie and Edward Clarence Morris, well-off Jewish immigrants from Poland. While his parents wanted him to be a lawyer, Martin followed his dreams to Hollywood in the 1930s. His classic looks and great voice quickly earned him roles in musicals, starting with a small role in the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers' film Follow the Fleet in 1936.
Once his Hollywood career got rolling, there was no stopping Martin. He went on to star in films such as Sing, Baby, Sing (1936), Zeigfeld Girl (1941) — in which he serenaded Judy Garland, Hedy Lamarr, and Lana Turner in a Busby Berkeley number — and Casbah (1948).
While Martin's face filled the silver screen his voice took over the radio air waves. His soulful take on popular ballads such as "I'm With You" (1936) and the Oscar-nominated "For Every Man There's a Woman" (1948), earned him his reputation as a charming crooner. Martin became a regular on the radio show The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show and then hosted his own 15-minute variety program, The Tony Martin Show, on NBC from 1954 to 1956.
In his personal life, Martin proved equally charismatic. He wooed Hollywood starlets including Ava Gardner, Rita Hayworth, Lana Turner, and Alice Faye (to whom Martin was married from 1937-1940). In 1948, Martin wed actress/dancer Cyd Charisse. Their marriage lasted 60 years, until she passed away at age 83 in 2008.
Martin, who is survived by his stepson and two grandchildren, will be remembered as a man who truly defined Old Hollywood class.
Follow Abbey Stone on Twitter @abbeystone
[Photo Credit: Amanda Edwards/Getty Images]
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Oscars Shmoscars. The Annie Awards are where the real glory is.
In all seriousness, animation is an unappreciated medium, so the 2011 Annie Awards is a phenomenon that really deserves our attention. The nominations are in for this year's awards ceremony, celebrating the art, production, writing, directing and acting in animated projects.
As you check out the nominees below, begin to realize that you're not nearly as happy as you could be. Then, watch all of the movies listed. Problem solved.
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
A Cat in Paris – Folimage
Arrugas (Wrinkles) – Perro Verde Films, S.L.
Arthur Christmas – Sony Pictures Animation, Aardman Animations
Cars 2 – Pixar Animation Studios
Chico & Rita – Chico & Rita Distribution Limited
Kung Fu Panda 2 – DreamWorks Animation
Puss In Boots – DreamWorks Animation
Rango – Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon Movies present A Blind Wink/GK Films Production
Rio – Blue Sky Studios
Tintin – Amblin Entertainment, Wingnut Films and Kennedy/Marshall
BEST ANIMATED SPECIAL PRODUCTION
Adventure Time: Thank You – Cartoon Network Studios
Batman: Year One – Warner Bros. Animation
Ice Age: A Mammoth Christmas – Blue Sky Studios
Kung Fu Panda – Secrets of the Masters – DreamWorks Animation
Prey 2 –Blur Studio
Star Tours – Industrial Light & Magic
BEST ANIMATED SHORT SUBJECT
Adam and Dog – Lodge Films
I Tawt I Taw A Puddy Tat – Warner Bros. Animation
La Luna – Pixar Animation Studios
(Notes on) Biology – Ornana Films
Paths of Hate – Platige Image
Sunday – National Film Board of Canada
The Ballad of Nessie –Walt Disney Animation Studios
The Girl and the Fox – Base14
Wild Life – National Film Board of Canada and Studio GDS
BEST ANIMATED TELEVISION COMMERCIAL
Audi “Hummingbird” – The Mill
Geico “Foghorn” – Renegade Animation
McDonald’s “Apple Tree” – Duck Studios/Kompost
McDonald’s “Suzi Van Zoom” – Duck Studios/Kompost
Norton “Stuff”– Psyop
O2 “Niggles & Narks” – The Mill
Statoil “Good Night” – Studio AKA
“The Pirate” – Meindbender
Twinings “Sea” – Psyop
BEST GENERAL AUDIENCE ANIMATED TV PRODUCTION
Archer – FX Productions
Green Lantern: The Animated Series – Warner Bros. Animation
Hoops & YoYo Ruin Christmas - Hallmark
MAD – Warner Bros. Animation
Mary Shelley’s Frankenhole Season 2 – Starburns Industries, Inc.
Prep & Landing: Naughty vs. Nice – Walt Disney Animation Studios
Star Wars: The Clone Wars – Lucasfilm Animation, Ltd.
The Simpsons – Gracie Films
BEST ANIMATED TELEVISION PRODUCTION - PRESCHOOL
Chuggington – Ludorum Pictures
Disney's Jake and the Never Land Pirates – Disney Television Animation
Disney's Mickey Mouse Clubhouse – Disney Television Animation
The WotWots Season 2 – Pukeko Pictures
BEST ANIMATED TELEVISION PRODUCTION - CHILDREN
Fanboy and Chum Chum – Nickelodeon and Frederator
Kung Fu Panda – DreamWorks Animation
Penguins of Madagascar – DreamWorks Animation
The Amazing World of Gumball – Cartoon Network in Association with Dandelion Studios, Boulder Media & Studio Soi
BEST ANIMATED VIDEO GAME
Bumpy Road – Simogo
Catherine – Atlus
Gears of War 3 – Epic Games
Gesundheit – Konami Digital Entertainment
Ghost Trick: “Phantom Detective” – Capcom
Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet – Shadow Planet Productions, Gagne/Fuelcell
Ratchet and Clark: All 4 One – Insomniac
Rayman Origins – Ubisoft Montpellier
Unchartered 3: Drake’s Deception – Naughty Dog
ANIMATED EFFECTS IN AN ANIMATED PRODUCTION
Can Yuksel “Puss In Boots” DreamWorks Animation
Chase Cooper “Rango” Industrial Light & Magic
Dan Lund “Winnie The Pooh” Walt Disney Animation Studios
Dave Tidgewell “Kung Fu Panda 2” DreamWorks Animation
Eric Froemling “Cars 2” Pixar Animation Studios
Jason Mayer “Kung Fu Panda 2” DreamWorks Animation
Joel Aron “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” Lucasfilm Animation, Ltd.
Jon Reisch “Cars 2” Pixar Animation Studios
Kevin Romond “Tintin” Amblin Entertainment, Wingnut Films and Kennedy/Marshall
Willi Geiger “Rango” Industrial Light & Magic
ANIMATED EFFECTS IN A LIVE ACTION PRODUCTION
Branko Grujcic “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” Industrial Light & Magic
Florent Andarra “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” Industrial Light & Magic
Gary Wu “Cowboys & Aliens” Industrial Light & Magic
Lee Uren “Cowboys & Aliens” Industrial Light & Magic
CHARACTER ANIMATION IN A TELEVISION PRODUCTION
Chad Sellers “Prep & Landing: Naughty vs. Nice” Walt Disney Animation Studios
Michael Franceschi “Kung Fu Panda” Nickelodeon
Rebecca Wilson Bresee “Prep & Landing: Naughty vs. Nice” Walt Disney Animation Studios
Sihanouk Mariona “Mary Shelley’s Frankenhole Season 2” Starburns Industries, Inc.
Tony Smeed “Prep & Landing: Naughty vs. Nice” Walt Disney Animation Studios
CHARACTER ANIMATION IN A FEATURE PRODUCTION
Andreas Deja “Winnie The Pooh” Walt Disney Animation Studios
Dan Wagner “Kung Fu Panda 2” DreamWorks Animation
Jeff Gabor “Rio” Blue Sky Studios
Mark Henn “Winnie The Pooh” Walt Disney Animation Studios
Olivier Staphylas “Puss In Boots” DreamWorks Animation
Patrik Puhala “Rio” Blue Sky Studios
Pierre Perifel “Kung Fu Panda 2” DreamWorks Animation
CHARACTER ANIMATION IN A LIVE ACTION PRODUCTION
Andy Arnett “HOP” Rhythm & Hues, Illumination Entertainment
David Lowry “Paul” Double Negative Visual Effects for Universal
Productions/Relativity Media/Working Title Films/Big Talk Productions
Eric Reynolds “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” 20th Century Fox
Mike Hull “Paul” Double Negative Visual Effects for Universal
Productions/Relativity Media/Working Title Films/Big Talk Productions
CHARACTER DESIGN IN A TELEVISION PRODUCTION
Bill Schwab “Prep & Landing” Walt Disney Animation Studios
Carl Raggio “Disney Kick Buttowski” Disney Television Animation
Chad Hurd “Archer” FX Productions
Chris Battle “Dan Vs.” Starz Film Roman
Eric Robles “Fanboy and Chum Chum” Nickelodeon & Frederator
Gordon Hammond “TUFF Puppy” Nickelodeon
Mike Dougherty “TUFF Puppy” Nickelodeon
Robert Ryan Cory “Secret Mountain Fort Awesome” Cartoon Network Studios
CHARACTER DESIGN IN A FEATURE PRODUCTION
Jay Shuster “Cars 2” Pixar Animation Studios
Mark “Crash” McCreery “Rango” Paramount Pictures and
Nickelodeon Movies present A Blind Wink/GK Films Productions
Patrick Mate “Puss In Boots” DreamWorks Animation
Peter de Seve “Arthur Christmas” Sony Pictures Animation, Aardman Animations
Sergio Pablos “Rio” Blue Sky Studios
DIRECTING IN A TELEVISION PRODUCTION
Brian Sheesley “Dan Vs.” Starz Film Roman
Chris Savino & Clay Morrow “ Disney Kick Buttowski” Disney Television Animation
Dan Riba “Ben 10 Ultimate Alien” Cartoon Network Studios
Duke Johnson “Community” 23 D Films, Inc.
Gabe Swarr “Kung Fu Panda” Nickelodeon
Ken Bruce “TUFF Puppy” Nickelodeon
Kevin Deters & Stevie Wermers-Skelton “Prep & Landing: Naughty vs. Nice” Walt Disney Animation Studios
Matthew Nastuk “The Simpsons” Gracie Films
Mic Graves & Ben Bocquelet “The Amazing World of Gumball”
Cartoon Network Europe in association with Dandelion Studios, Boulder Media & Studio Soi
Peter Hausner “Ninjago: Masters of Spinjitzu” Wil Film
Steve Loter, Christo Stamboliev, Shaun Cashman, David Knott “Penguins of Madagascar” Nickelodeon and Technicolor
Tony Craig “Hoops & YoYo Ruin Christmas” Hallmark
DIRECTING IN A FEATURE PRODUCTION
Carlos Saldahna “Rio” Blue Sky Studios
Chris Miller “Puss In Boots” DreamWorks Animation
Don Hall & Stephen Anderson “Winnie The Pooh” Walt Disney Animation Studios
Gore Verbinski “Rango” Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon Movies present a Blind Wink/GK Films Productions
Jennifer Yuh Nelson “Kung Fu Panda 2” DreamWorks Animation
Kelly Asbury “Gnomeo & Juliet” Touchstone Pictures
MUSIC IN A TELEVISION PRODUCTION
Adam Berry, Bob Schooley, Mark McCorkle “Penguins of Madagascar” Nickelodeon and Technicolor
Ben Locket “The Amazing World of Gumball” Cartoon Network Europe in association with Dandelion Studios, Boulder Media & Studio Soi
Frederik Wiedmann “Green Lantern The Animated Series” Warner Bros. Animation
Grace Potter, Michael Giacchino “Prep & Landing: Naughty vs. Nice” Walt Disney Animation Studios
Joel McNeely, Brendan Milburn and Valerie Vigoda “Pixie Hollow Games” DisneyToon Studios
Kevin Kliesch “Thundercats” Warner Bros. Animation and Cartoon Network
Shawn Patterson, Zeb Wells “Robot Chicken” ShadowMachine and Stoopid Monkey in association with Adult Swim
MUSIC IN A FEATURE PRODUCTION
Henry Jackman “Puss In Boots” DreamWorks Animation
John Williams “Tintin” Amblin Entertainment, Wingnut Films and Kennedy/Marshall
Mikael Mutti, Siedah Garrett, Carlinhos Brown, Sergio Mendes, John Powell, “Rio” Blue Sky Studios
Zooey Deschannel, Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Henry Jackman, Robert Lopez “Winnie The Pooh” Walt Disney Animation Studios
PRODUCTION DESIGN IN A TELEVISION PRODUCTION
Mark Bodner, Chris Tsirgiotis, Sue Mondt and Daniel Elson “Secret Mountain Fort Awesome” Cartoon Network Studios
Peter Martin “Hoops & YoYo Ruin Christmas” Hallmark
PRODUCTION DESIGN IN A FEATURE PRODUCTION
Harley Jessup “Cars 2” Pixar Animation Studios
Paul Felix “Winnie The Pooh” Walt Disney Animation Studios
Raymond Zilbach “Kung Fu Panda 2” DreamWorks Animation
Tom Cardone, Kyle MacNaughton & Peter Chan “Rio” Blue Sky Studios
STORYBOARDING IN A TELEVISION PRODUCTION
Barry W. Johnson “Prep & Landing: Naughty vs. Nice” Walt Disney Animation Studios
Benton Connor “Regular Show” Cartoon Network Studios
Brian Kesinger “Prep & Landing: Naughty vs. Nice” Walt Disney Animation Studios
Dave Thomas “TUFF Puppy” Nickelodeon
Fred Gonzalez “TUFF Puppy” Nickelodeon
Joe Mateo “Prep & Landing: Naughty vs. Nice” Walt Disney Animation Studios
Justin Nichols “Fanboy & Chum Chum” Nickelodeon & Frederator
Katie Rice “Fanboy & Chum Chum” Nickelodeon & Frederator
Rebecca Sugar “Adventure Time” Cartoon Network Studios
STORYBOARDING IN A FEATURE PRODUCTION
Bob Logan “Puss In Boots” DreamWorks Animation
David Gosman “Rango” Paramount Pictures & Nickelodeon Movies present A Blind Wink/GK Films Production
Gary Graham “Kung Fu Panda 2” DreamWorks Animation
Jeremy Spears “Winnie The Pooh” Walt Disney Animation Studios
Josh Hayes “Rango” Paramount Pictures & Nickelodeon Movies present A Blind Wink/GK Films Production
Kris Pearn “Arthur Christmas” Sony Pictures Animation, Aardman Animations
Nelson Yokota “Gnomeo and Juliet” Touchstone Pictures
Philip Craven “Kung Fu Panda 2” DreamWorks Animation
Scott Morse “Cars 2” Pixar Animation Studios
VOICE ACTING IN A TELEVISION PRODUCTION
Carlos Alazraqui as Denzel Crocker “Fairly OddParents” Nickelodeon
Dan Harmon as Jekyll “Mary Shelley’s Frankenhole Season 2” Starburns Industries, Inc.
Daran Norris as Cosmo “Fairly OddParents” Nickelodeon
Dee Bradley Baker as Obi-Wan “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” Lucasfilm Animation, Ltd.
Diedrich Bader as Batman “Batman: The Brave and the Bold” Warner Bros. Animation
H. Jon Benjamin as Sterling Archer “Archer” FX Productions
Jeff Bennett as Kowalski “Penguins of Madagascar” Nickelodeon and Technicolor
Jeff B. Davis as Victor Frankenstein “Mary Shelley’s Frankenhole Season 2” Starburns Industries, Inc.
Jessica Walter as Malory Archer “Archer” FX Productions
Judy Greer as Cheryl Tunt “Archer” FX Productions
Logan Grove as Gumball “The Amazing World of Gumball” Cartoon Network Europe in association with Dandelion Studios, Boulder Media & Studio Soi
Nika Futterman as Asajj Ventress “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” Lucasfilm Animation, Ltd.
Scott Adsit as the Creature “Mary Shelley’s Frankenhole Season 2” Starburns Industries, Inc.
Tara Strong as Timmy Turner “Fairly OddParents – Operation Dingleberg” Nickelodeon
VOICE ACTING IN A FEATURE PRODUCTION
Ashley Jensen as Bryony “Arthur Christmas” Sony Pictures Animation, Aardman Animations
Bill Nighy as Grandsanta “Arthur Christmas” Sony Pictures Animation, Aardman Animations
Gary Oldman as Shen “Kung Fu Panda 2” DreamWorks Animation
James Hong as Mr. Ping “Kung Fu Panda 2” DreamWorks Animation
Jemaine Clement as Nigel “Rio” Blue Sky Studios
Jim Cummings as Featherstone “Gnomeo and Juliet” Touchstone Pictures
Zach Galifianakis as Humpty Alexander Dumpty “Puss In Boots” DreamWorks Animation
WRITING IN A TELEVISION PRODUCTION
Blake Lemons, William Reiss, C.H. Greenblatt, Derek Evanick, Diana Lafyatis, Neil Graf “Disney Fish Hooks – Fish School Musical”
Disney Television AnimationCarolyn Omine “The Simpsons -Treehouse of Horror XXII” – Gracie Films
Dani MIchaeli, Sean Charmatz, Nate Cash, Luke Brookshier, Paul
Tibbitt “SpongeBob SquarePants - Patrick’s Staycation” Nickelodeon
Josh Weinstein “Futurama - All The President’s Heads” The Curiosity Company in association with 20th Century Fox Television
Kevin Sullivan, Will Schifrin, Ray DeLaurentis “TUFF Puppy Thunder Dog” Nickelodeon
Matt Maiellaro, Dave Willis “Agua Unit Patrol Squad 1 – The Creditor” Williams Street Studios, Adult Swim
Ray DeLaurentis, Will Schifrin “Fairly OddParents “Invasion of the Dads” Nickelodeon
Steve Wermers-Skelton, Kevin Deters “Prep & Landing: Naughty vs. Nice” Walt Disney Animation Studios
WRITING IN A FEATURE PRODUCTION
Andy Riley, Kevin Cecil, Mark Burton, Kathy Greenburg, Emily Cook, Rob Sprackling, John R. Smith, Kelly Asbury, Steve Hamilton “Gnomeo & Juliet” Touchstone Pictures
Brian Kesinger, Kendelle Hoyer, Don Dougherty, Clio Chang, Don Hall, Stephen Anderson “Winnie The Pooh” Walt Disney Animation Studios
John Logan, Gore Verbinski and James Byrkit “Rango” Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon Movies present A Blind Wink/GK Films Productions
Sarah Smith, Peter Baynham “Arthur Christmas” Sony Pictures Animation, Aardman AnimationsSteve Moffat, Edgar Wright, Joe Cronish “Tintin” Amblin
Entertainment, Wingnut Films and Kennedy/Marshall
EDITING IN TELEVISION PRODUCTION
Garret Elkins “Mary Shelley’s Frankenhole Season 2” Starburn Industries, Inc.
Hugo Morales “Kung Fu Panda” Nickelodeon Jason W.A. Tucker “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” Lucasfilm Animation, Ltd.
Paul D. Calder “Futurama” The Curiosity Company in association with 20th Century Fox Television
Ted Machold, Jeff Adams, Doug Tiano, Bob Tomlin “Penguins of Madagascar” Nickelodeon and Technicolor
EDITING IN A FEATURE PRODUCTION
Clare Knight, A.C.E. “Kung Fu Panda 2” DreamWorks Animation
Craig Wood, A.C.E. “Rango” Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon
Movies present A Blind Wink/GK Films Productions
Eric Dapkewicz “Puss In Boots” DreamWorks Animation
Michael Kahn “Tintin” Amblin Entertainment, Wingnut Films and Kennedy/Marshall
Stephen Schaffer, A.C.E. “Cars 2” Pixar Animation Studios
Winsor McCay Award – Walt Peregoy, Borge Ring, Robert Searle
June Foray – Art Leonardi
Special Achievement – Depth Analysis
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.