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: Sophomore Tribeca Film Fest a Hit
The second annual Tribeca Film Festival, which ran from May 3-11, more than doubled last year's traffic, Variety reports. The festival benefited from adding four extra days compared to last year's five-day-long inaugural festival, and attracted an estimated 350,000 attendees to lower Manhattan. Final tallies suggest over 72,000 attended film screenings and panel discussions, and more than 85 percent of available tickets were sold or distributed. Jane Rosenthal, who co-founded the Tribeca Film Festival with Robert De Niro, told Variety the festival benefited from a longer duration, more screenings and more events. Some 15,000 people went to the MTV/VH1-sponsored rock and comedy concert in Battery Park while about 6,500 attended the screenings of When Harry Met Sally..., Diner and Grease on Pier 25 in Hudson River Park.
Saturns Honor Spielberg, Jackson
Filmmaker Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson 's The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers each received multiple honors Sunday at the 29th annual Saturn Awards, given out by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films. Spielberg won the best single TV program presentation award for Taken and best director for Minority Report, which was also named best science fiction film.The Two Towers was named best fantasy film and also took home the best supporting actor for cyberthesp Andy Serkis (Gollum).
Australians Fuming Over Kidman's Nicotine Habit
Nicole Kidman's televised cigarette puffing at the Cannes Film Festival this week has anti-smokers in Australia fired up. Kidman, who is in the French town to promote her new film Dogville, was scolded by director Lars von Trier in front of the world's press when she lit up a cigarette. "Oh, Nicole, don't do that--you promised," von Trier said, to no avail--the Australian star puffed away. According to Reuters, the group Action on Smoking and Health said Kidman, one of Australia's greatest success stories and a role model for young women, has a duty to not promote the habit.
Fans Hold Candlelight Vigil for Vandross
Aretha Franklin organized a candlelight vigil for R&B singer Luther Vandross at the Little Rock Baptist Church in Detroit Monday night, The Associated Press reports. Franklin sang "Amazing Grace" for a crowd of 5,000 people and said she needed prayer for Vandross, who suffered a stroke five weeks ago. He is recovering in the intensive care unit of the Weill Cornell Medical Center of New York-Presbyterian Hospital. Vandross, 52, has written and produced songs for Franklin and designed several dresses for the singer to wear during her upcoming tour.
Former Schoolmate Sues Eminem
A former schoolmate of Eminem's who sued the rapper in 2001 is scheduled to have his case go to trial this month, the AP reports. DeAngelo Bailey sued Eminem for $1 million, claiming the rapper's song "Brain Damaged," which named Bailey as an abusive bully, damaged his reputation and his own ability to launch a music career. On Monday, Bailey's attorney asked to be removed from the case because of a breakdown in communications with his client. Macomb County Circuit, Michigan Judge Deborah Servitto granted the request and said the trial was still set for May 30.
Comics Gear Up for Laughs
Veteran comic Bill Cosby, Live With Regis and Kelly co-host Kelly Ripa, Brad Garrett of Everybody Loves Raymond and Saturday Night Live's Tina Fey are just some of the stars set for Montreal's annual Just for Laughs comedy festival, which runs July 10-20, Variety reports. Cosby will headline two shows July 19 at Place des Arts, while Garrett, Ripa and Fey will host the fest's prestige shows.
Role Call: Shyamalan Sets Up Camp in The Woods, Peter Boyle Joins Scooby Doo 2
M. Night Shyamalan, who directed The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable and Signs, will helm The Woods for Disney. The pic, set in 1897, tells the story of a close-knit community that has a mythical race of creatures residing in the woods around them. Ashton Kutcher, Joaquin Phoenix and Kirsten Dunst are set to star in the thriller, set for a summer 2004 release ... Everybody Loves Raymond star Peter Boyle is set to play the role of Old Man Wickles in Warner Bros.' Scooby-Doo sequel for director Raja Gosnell. In the TV show's first episode, Wickles was a museum curator who posed as the mysterious Black Knight in order to avoid being revealed as an art thief.