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 last to know Steven Spielberg had signed on to produce and direct the film version of "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" was apparently the director himself.
A spokesman from Spielberg's office says the filmmaker hasn't officially climbed aboard and is still considering the project.
"Potter" is just one of the projects Spielberg is considering along with Stanley Kubrick conceived "A.I." (for artificial intelligence) and a bio about Charles Lindbergh. He's also set to make the Tom Cruise starrer "Minority Report" and a movie version of the acclaimed book "Memoirs of a Geisha."
SUPER-ACTION TEAMUP: Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone hope to use their combined muscle at the box office to star in one massive project, The Hollywood Reporter says.
They're currently searching for a feature, which would mark the first time the two action icons have appeared onscreen together. Besides their combined weight, the film would be heavy in expenditures -- Stallone reportedly earned $20 million for the upcoming "Into Thin Air," while Schwarzenegger cashed in $25 million for last fall's "End of Days."
HE'S BAAACK: The next "Friday the 13th" will take place in the year 2455. And, yes, ol' hockey-mask-face himself will still be around.
"Jason X" (as its title indicates, it'll be the 10th installment in the series) is being set up at New Line Cinema, with up-and-comer James Isaac at the helm. The movie is scheduled to begin shooting in March in Toronto, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
The story, scripted by Todd Farmer, involves a field trip in the future to visit the long-abandoned planet Earth. A teacher and his students discover a cryogenically frozen young lady and a hockey-masked thug. Before anyone can say "space kebob," the thawed out psychopath has returned to his killer ways, wreaking havoc on the citizens of outer space.
PARTY OF TWO: Teen idol Jennifer Love Hewitt will receive motherly advice from veteran actress Sigourney Weaver in MGM's upcoming comic noir "Breakers."
Daily Variety reports that the two have closed their deals and that Kevin Kline has been offered the role of Weaver's love interest.
The shoot is scheduled to begin in Florida and Los Angeles in April, with "Romy and Michele's High School Reunion" director David Mirkin helming a script by Paul Guay and Stephen Mazur. The story's about a mother daughter con team and their male victims.
SIGNED AND SEALED: After surveying all the major talent agents in town, Harrison Ford has signed up with United Talent Agency. Longtime agent Patricia McQueeney will act as the actor's point person with the agency, which beat out estimable competitors including Creative Artists Agency and William Morris.