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: Horn Takes Some Steps
Illusionist Roy Horn, who was mauled last October by a 300-plus lb. white tiger while performing in his famed Las Vegas show with partner Siegfried Fischbacher, was able to walk again with the help of a wheeled walker, a spokeswoman for the duo told The Associated Press. Horn, 59, managed to walk 558 paces last week with the assistance of the device, his spokeswoman said, adding that he has "strong willpower" and is undergoing intensive physical therapy. But Horn isn't rushing up onstage any time soon. Horn has a long recovery ahead of him after his left side was paralyzed by a stroke suffered after the attack, and the duo's long-running show has been closed.
Jackson's Phone Records, Video Seized
Over 100 pages of phone records, videos and a DVD of a party at Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch near Santa Barbara, Calif., were seized by investigators in his child molestation case, according to court documents released Monday. AP reports Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge Rodney Melville agreed last month to release the records, but ordered details to be omitted; the resulting documents do not include such information as where the warrants were served and descriptions of the items taken.
Neil Simon Gets Kidney Transplant
Playwright Neil Simon, 76, received a kidney transplant Tuesday after suffering from kidney problems for several years, AP reports. His friend and longtime press representative, Bill Evans, donated a kidney for the operation, Simon's wife Elaine told the New York Times. Simon told the Times shortly before the operation that he and Evans had been friends for 25 years. "It's wonderful of him to do this," Simon said.
Dr. Suess Gets Star
Theodor Geisel, the late beloved children's author best known as "Dr. Seuss,'' will be honored with a posthumous star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Mar. 11. The tribute is part of several celebrations being held this month in honor of the author's 100th birthday, which was yesterday. The Pulitzer Prize-winning Geisel, a longtime San Diego County resident, wrote 44 books for children including such classics as How the Grinch Stole Christmas and The Cat in the Hat.
Reynolds Opens Hollywood Museum
To display her extensive collection of movie memorabilia, Hollywood icon Debbie Reynolds will open the Hollywood Motion Picture Museum in the resort community of Pigeon Forge, Tenn., in the Great Smoky Mountains, AP reports. Valued at more than $50 million, the collection contains about 3,500 costumes and tens of thousands of props, movie posters, still photos, lobby cards and other items, the 71-year-old actress told AP. Pigeon Forge attracts more than 11 million visitors a year as a gateway to the country's most visited national park and is also home to singer Dolly Parton's Dollywood amusement park, Tennessee's top tourist attraction.
Role Call: Nikki Reed Goes to "Dogtown," John Singleton Tackles Black Superhero
Nikki Reed, fresh off of winning the Independent Spirit Awards' best debut performance prize for her performance in the taut Thirteen, is set to reteam with her Thirteen director, Catherine Hardwicke, on the skateboarding drama Lords of Dogtown. The movie will be a fictionalized version of Stacy Peralta's documentary Dogtown and Z-Boys…Boyz in the Hood director John Singleton is in negotiations to bring Marvel Comics' black superhero comic Luke Cage to life. Comic is about a former gang member who is framed for a crime he didn't commit. In prison, he volunteers for a medical experiment that goes awry, giving him super strength and bulletproof skin. Using his newfound powers, Luke Cage escapes and becomes a hero for hire.