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 two-hour Fox series finale of The X-Files will star David Duchovny as Agent Mulder on May 19, the Associated Press reports. Duchovny, who starred in eight of the show's nine seasons, will also direct one of the last episodes scheduled to air April 28. The X-Files airs at 9 p.m. EST on Sundays.
Sean Connery will star in Fox's upcoming comic-based film League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, according to The Hollywood Reporter. He will play Quatermain, a British explorer.
Josh Hartnett (Black Hawk Down) has been named ShoWest 2002's Male Star of Tomorrow, Reuters reports. The 23-year-old actor will be honored March 7 at a Las Vegas awards gala. Other honorees include Will Smith (Male Star of the Year), Jennifer Lopez (Female Star of the Year), Ron Howard (Director of the Year), Steven Spielberg (Lifetime Achievement) and Nicole Kidman (Distinguished Decade of Achievement).
Oscar nominee and pop singer Sting has signed a deal to write his first book of narrative nonfiction, the AP reports. The Bantam Dell Publishing Group expects to publish the hardcover book by 2004.
Top morning news anchor Katie Couric isn't shy about the reality of her job. People reports Couric told New York Daily News that she's unhappy with her new Today show boss, Jonathan Wald, and that "the hours are brutal."
CBS' Survivor: Africa has two more $100,000 second-place winners, the AP reports. Producers found they made a mistake in declaring the winners of an immunity challenge when Lex van den Berghe and Tom Buchanan correctly identified female players that did not have any body piercings. They join original second-placer Kim Johnson.
Kristanna Loken will be the female lead in upcoming Arnold Schwarzenegger film T3: Rise of the Machines, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Production will begin April 15 in Los Angeles. Loken currently plays a recurring character on ABC's Philly.
Kylie Minogue and Dido were the musical champs Wednesday with two awards each at the Brit Awards. Sky News reports Minogue won for Best International Female and Best International album, and Dido won for Best Female Performer and Best Album. Destiny's Child picked up the award for Best International Group.
Hollywood producer Jerry Bruckheimer (Top Gun, Pearl Harbor) and the White House have teamed up for a new TV reality show called Profiles from the Front Line, which is scheduled to air sometime this summer, Reuters reports. The program will focus on men and women in uniform on actual battlefields and is being produced with "unparalleled support" from the U.S. Defense Department.
Bob Dylan, OutKast and violinist Joshua Bell will be among the artists already scheduled to perform at the 44th Grammy Awards telecast Feb. 27 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, the AP reports. They will join U2, Alicia Keys, Nelly, India.Arie, Patti LaBelle and others previously announced. The show will air at 8 p.m. EST/PST on CBS.
People reports Dawson's Creek co-stars James Van Der Beek and Kerr Smith have popped the question to their girlfriends, Party of Five actress Heather McComb and MTV's Undressed personality Ali Hillis, respectively. No wedding dates have been set.
Kiss fans can now take their love for Kiss to the grave.
The blood-spitting rock mogul of Kiss, Gene Simmons, has added yet another product to the glam rock band's ever-growing merchandising universe: the "Kiss Kasket." The coffin features the faces of the four founding members of the band, the Kiss logo and the words "Kiss Forever."
"If you want to take that final trip with Kiss, you can," Simmons said when he unveiled the coffin last week at the Licensing Trade Show, the New York Times reported.
If the idea of death was too morbid, fans could use the casket as a cooler, Simmons added.
"We figured, why not use it while you're alive?" he told Reuters. "For a guy that's home watching the game in the living room, he could just reach over and grab a cold one."
A Kiss coffin might not be best used as a cooler, said Ken Steling, president of The Casket Store in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Most caskets are made of steel or wood for durability.
"The one concept about a casket is that you are supposed to keep it dry," he said. "[Caskets] have a lined interior, and the water will decay it and make it rot."
As a farewell gesture to affluent fans, Kiss and Signatures Network entered into an agreement with White Light, which will manufacture the caskets.
"Kiss represents the rebelliousness, outrageousness, authenticity and non-stop partying which are synonymous with 'Rock and Roll,'" Signatures Network president and CEO Dell Furano said in a press release.
Only 2,500 caskets are available, which fans can purchase for $5,000 apiece on the band's Web site, www.kissonline.com, and at selected funeral homes across the country.
"This is the ultimate Kiss collectible," Simmons said in a kissonline press release. "I love living, but this makes the alternative look pretty damn good."
Even though it seems like an original idea, Kiss fans have expressed mixed reactions to the new collectible item.
"I love it. I'm buying one. I figure I got to spend 5K anyway for one so I might as well get it as soon as I can and enjoy it while I'm alive. I wanted to be buried in a KISS T-shirt anyway. This is even better," Frank White said on the band's official message board.
Some fans, however, have expressed some indignation as to the Kiss merchandising empire, which it claims is now valued at north of $500 million. According to kissonline.com, Simmons pitched the product last week on Howard Stern's radio show saying, "Most caskets go for $3,000 but ours will sell for $4,500." This prompted Stern to chastise Simmons for not giving fans the read deal even in death.
"What next? Pre-burial arrangements? A KISS-funeral package, and decide if you want to be buried with Gene, Paul, Ace or Peter makeup?" fan Leslie wrote on the message board.
Steling said he believes that most of the fans who would buy this would be on their teens or early 30s and their odds in dying are "relatively slim."
"Most of the public wants the same thing that their parents and grandparents were buried in," Steling said. "The service does not rely on the person that is going to go in [the casket], but for the family that's left. It's a process of closure."
The caskets sold by Steling vary from $1,500 to $2,000. He has made customized caskets, but they did not cost as much to make as what the Kiss coffin will require a fan to pay.
Sterling said that his job is to give families whatever items they require to help them cope with the loss of a loved one, and if there were ever a need to acquire a Kiss casket, he would provide the family with one.
But if one is going to fetch $5000 on a Kiss casket, bear this in mind: "For $5,000 you can get a solid bronze casket, which will last much longer," Sterling said. "I will even apply a Kiss photo on the lid."