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 Associated Press reports the producers of Barbershop have apologized for the film's off-color remarks about Civil Rights legends Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. Jesse Jackson is pleased producers Bob Teitel and George Tillman have apologized but still wants the jokes cut from the DVD and video editions. "The apology is a step in the right direction," Jackson told the AP, but added that he will "keep appealing to them" to correct the matter. In the film, Cedric the Entertainer's cantankerous character jokes that King was promiscuous and that Parks only got recognized for refusing to give a white person her seat because she was connected to the NAACP. The other characters in the film, however, admonish him for his disrespectful comments.
'N Sync's Lance Bass, who was kicked off the Russian space launch in October because his sponsors couldn't come up with the cash, reported for astronaut training in Moscow over the weekend regardless. Yuri Nikiforov, general director of Atlas Airspace, told AP "He will not go in October for sure, but he just doesn't want to interrupt the (training) program." Never say never, Lance.
Days after he was found "dazed and drooling" on a Malibu highway and arrested on suspicion of drunk driving, Nick Nolte voluntarily checked himself into a substance abuse center, his publicist, Paul Bloch, confirmed on Monday. The 61-year-old actor entered the Silver Hill Hospital in New Canaan, Conn., on Sept. 14 to "receive advice and counseling that he feels he needs at this time," Bloch told Reuters. That, and hopefully a haircut.
Paramount Pictures is looking to make an updated version of their 1958 classic King Creole. The film starred a young Elvis Presley as a street punk who takes a job as a dishwasher in a New Orleans nightclub and becomes a surprise overnight success when he gets to perform one night.
And in more Paramount news, the studio's new comedy School of Rock will reunite the Orange County team of actor Jack Black, writer Mike White and producer Scott Rudin. The film, directed by Richard Linklater (Dazed and Confused), is about a musician (Black) who moonlights as a substitute teacher and infects the private school where he teaches with his unorthodox, rock `n` roll ways.
The 54th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards telecast won the Nielsen ratings Sunday night, giving NBC a boost. Coming in with an average of 19.8 million viewers, the show's numbers were a significant increase from last year's much-rescheduled Emmys but not quite as good as the 2000 telecast.
We are talking BIG news. AOL Time Warner and the Walt Disney Co. are in talks to merge CNN with ABC News to create "a stand-alone news powerhouse," the Los Angeles Times reported on Tuesday. The newspaper quoted sources as saying the discussions had been off and on for 18 months, receiving a lukewarm reception from AOL Time Warner initially, but now the merger is gaining momentum. CNN has been trying to find a network news partner for the last two years in an effort to cut costs, the Times said.