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.
The star, who voiced several characters in British TV puppet show Thunderbirds, passed away at a hospital on Australia's Gold Coast on Monday (07Sep09) after suffering a brain haemorrhage.
Barrett began his acting career when he quit his homeland and moved to England in 1957, landing his first major role in British TV series Emergency - Ward 10 and then longrunning BBC show The Troubleshooters.
He went on to voice characters in two of Gerry Anderson's marionette shows - Thunderbirds and Stingray.
Barrett subsequently found fame in his native Australia starring in a string of TV shows including Burn the Butterflies, Golden Soak and Something in the Air. He was awarded the Australian Film Institute Longford Life Achievement Award in 2005.
First-time director Sarah Watt won the top honors at Saturday night's Australian Film Institute (AFI) Awards, taking home both the Best Direction and Best Film prizes for Look Both Ways.
Watt also picked up the Best Original Screenplay award for the low-budget movie, her first feature-length production, at the Melbourne ceremony.
Elsewhere, the Best Lead Actor and Best Lead Actress honors went to Little Fish co-stars Hugo Weaving and Cate Blanchett, respectively.
Russell Crowe, who hosted the event, picked up the International Award for Best Actor for his performance in Cinderella Man, while Emily Browning took home the International Award for Best Actress for Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events.
Rockers Nick Cave and Warren Ellis won Best Original Music Score for The Proposition.
The winners at the 2005 AFI Awards included:
Best Film--Look Both Ways
Best Lead Actor--Hugo Weaving for Little Fish
Best Lead Actress--Cate Blanchett for Little Fish
Best Direction--Sarah Watt for Look Both Ways
Best Original Screenplay--Sarah Watt for Look Both Ways
Best Adapted Screenplay--Robert Connolly, Elliot Perlman for Three Dollars
Best Supporting Actress--Noni Hazlehurst for Little Fish
Best Supporting Actor--Anthony Hayes for Look Both Ways
Best Editing--Alexandre De Franceschi, John Scott for Little Fish
Best Original Music Score--Nick Cave, Warren Ellis for The Proposition
Best Production Design--Chris Kennedy for The Proposition
Best Costume Design--Margot Wilson for The Proposition
Best Sound--Sam Petty, Peter Grace, Robert Sullivan, Yulia Akerholt for Little Fish
Best Cinematography--Benoit Delhomme for The Proposition
International Award for Best Actor--Russell Crowe for Cinderella Man
International Award for Best Actress--Emily Browning for Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events
International Award for Excellence in Filmmaking--Roger Savage for House of Flying Daggers
Byron Kennedy Award--Chris Kennedy
Longford Life Achievement Award--Ray Barrett
Readers' Choice Award--Cate Blanchett
Young Actor Award--Sophie Luck for Blue Water High
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