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.