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.
Maybe they should call Carlos Santana "King of the World." Just a few months after his veritable sweep of the Grammy Awards, Santana took three trophies, including the record of the year award for "Corazon Espinado," his duet with Mexican rock band Mana, at the newfangled Latin Grammys on Wednesday night in Los Angeles.
"It feels like the first kiss," Santana said after winning. "It feels very natural and divine and human." The guitar god extraordinaire dedicated his awards to Africa, the women of the world, bilingual education and Nelson Mandela.
It was a star-studded event, as they say. Heavyweights such as Jennifer Lopez, Christina Aguilera and 'N Sync were among those trolling down the red carpet, and Ricky Martin opened the ceremony by performing a tribute to the late Tito Puente. The show was hosted by Lopez, Gloria Estefan, Andy Garcia and Jimmy Smits.
The evening's other winners included crooner Luis Miguel (three awards), Shakira (two awards) and Marc Anthony (song of the year).
Here's a complete list of the winners:
Record of the year: "Corazon Espinado," Santana featuring Mana
Album of the Year: "Amarte Es Un Placer," Luis Miguel
Song of the year: "Dimelo (I Need To Know)," Marc Anthony, Robert Blades, Angie Chirino and Cory Rooney (Marc Anthony)
New artist: Ibrahim Ferrer
Male pop vocal performance: "Tu Mirada," Luis Miguel
Female pop vocal performance: "Ojos Asi," Shakira
Pop performance by a duo or group with vocal: "Se Me Olvido Otra Vez," Mana
Pop instrumental performance: "El Farol," Santana
Pop album: Amarte Es Un Placer, Luis Miguel
Rock performance by a duo or group with vocal: "Corazon Espinado," Santana featuring Mana
Male rock vocal performance: "Al Lado Del Camino," Fito Paez
Female rock vocal performance: "Octavo Dia," Shakira
Rock song: "Al Lado Del Camino," Fito Paez (Fito Paez)
Rock album: Reves/Yo Soy, Cafe Tacuba
Salsa performance: "Celia Cruz and Friends: A Night Of Salsa," Celia Cruz
Merengue performance: "Ni Es Lo Mismo Ni Es Igual," Juan Luis Guerra y 440
Ranchero performance: "Mi Verdad," Alejandro Fernandez
Traditional tropical performance: "Mambo Birdland," Tito Puente
Tropical song: "El Niagara En Bicicleta," Juan Luis Guerra (Juan Luis Guerra y 440)
Banda performance: "Lo Mejor De Mi Vida," Banda El Recodo
Grupero performance: "En La Madrugada Se Fue," Los Temerarios
Tejano performance: "Por Eso Te Amo," Los Palominos
Norteno performance: "Herencia De Familia," Los Tigres Del Norte
Folk album: Misa Criolla, Mercedes Sosa
Tango album: Postales Del Alma, Juan Carlos Baglietto & Lito Vitale
Flamenco album: Paris 87, Camaron Con Tomatito
Latin jazz album (two winners): Spain, Michel Camilo & Tomatito; Tropicana Nights, Paquito D'Rivera
Brazilian contemporary pop album: Crooner, Milton Nascimento
Brazilian rock album: Acustico0--MTV, Os Paralamas Do Sucesso
Samba/pagode album: Zeca Pagodinho Ao Vivo, Zeca Pagodinho
MPB (musica popular brasileira) album: Livro, Caetano Veloso
Sertaneja album: Sergio Reis E Convidados, Sergio Reis
Brazilian roots/regional album: Pixinguinha, Paulo Moura e os Batutas
Brazilian song: "Acelerou," Djavan (Djavan)
Latin children's album: A Mis Ninos De 30 Anos, Miliki
Classical album: La Dolores -- Tomas Breton, Tito Beltran, Placido Domingo, Manuel Lanza, Antoni Ros Marba, Elisabete Matos
Engineered album: Ni Es Lo Mismo Ni Es Igual
Producer of the year: Emilio Estefan Jr.
Music video: "No Me Dejes De Querer," Gloria Estefan
Photos courtesy of Frank Micelotta/ImageDirect and Livecast Inc.