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.
Comedian Paula Poundstone, who entered an alcohol treatment program in June, was freed by a superior court judge's order on Wednesday, Reuters reports. Poundstone pleaded no contest to child endangerment charges in October and was sentenced to a mandatory 180-day stay at the Malibu-based rehab facility Promises. She was also ordered to perform 200 hours of community service, attend a counseling program on child abuse and undergo psychiatric counseling. As part of her plea agreement with prosecutors, Poundstone, who has two adopted children and cared for three foster children, was barred from acting as a foster parent in the future. Superior Court Judge Bernard Kamins told the 41-year-old comedian she had served her time. "Today is really a day for commendation rather than to bite you," he said.
Sean "P. Diddy" Combs and Kim Porter, the mother of the rapper's youngest child, reached an agreement Wednesday on child support for their 3-year-old son, The Associated Press reports. The terms of the settlement were not disclosed in court documents. Combs, who earns several million dollars a year, had been giving Porter a court-ordered $11,000 each month. The settlement will provide for the child until he reaches age 21.
A security guard is suing Marilyn Manson for battery and emotional distress following an incident at a concert at the Historic Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis, the AP reports. David M. Diaz claims that Manson grabbed his head, held it against his hips and proceeded to gyrate said hips at an Oct. 27, 2000 concert. Diaz alleges he was humiliated, degraded, ridiculed and shamed, and is seeking $75,000 for emotional distress and other injuries.
The battle over Grateful Dead frontman Jerry Garcia's four guitars went back to court Wednesday after guitar maker Doug Irwin rejected a proposed legal settlement with the former band members. As part of the settlement, Irwin would have to participate in a news conference to express "complete satisfaction" with the deal, Reuters reports. Irwin said in a statement, "I think they wanted to bribe me into publicly going along with their amoral attempt to rob Jerry's grave."
Former Sotheby's chairman A. Alfred Taubman was found guilty on Wednesday of hatching an international price fixing conspiracy in the 1990s with the former head of rival auction house Christie's, Reuters reports. Taubman, 72, will be sentenced on April 2, 2002, and could three years in prison as well as heavy fines. Between 1993 and 1999, the two house charged sellers in the United States at least $400 million in commissions.
A loading dockworker was sentenced to three years of probation on Wednesday in connection with the theft of 55 Oscar statuettes before the 2000 Academy Awards, the AP reports. Anthony Hart, who worked at Roadway Express in Bell, was one of three men who pleaded no contest to criminal charges in the case. He was also ordered to pay $200 in restitution.
Kate Burton and Larry Pine received this year's Joe A. Callaway awards, Variety reports. The awards are presented by Actors' Equity Foundation for the best performance by a male and female actor in a classic play in the Gotham area. Burton appears in the current Broadway production of Hedda Gabler; Pine appeared in The Seagull in Central Park last summer.
ABC and NBC lead the NAACP's Image Awards on Wednesday with 13 nominations each, the AP reports. Only four months ago, the two networks were criticized for lacking diversity in coverage. Three hundred show-business professionals and NAACP officials, who select five nominees for each of the 41 categories, determine the nominations.
Wilford Brimley cancelled upcoming performances with the community symphony and choir in Great Falls, Mont., because he suffering from pneumonia, AP reports. Brimley, 67, was to have been a singer and a narrator at the holiday concerts scheduled for Saturday and Sunday.
Destiny's Child are parting ways to pursue solo projects for the near the future, the R&B trio announced Wednesday. Bandmember Kelly Rowland said she did not know when they would regroup. Destiny's Child had become a dominant force since the spring of 2000 and had a string of multi-platinum albums and hit singles, Reuters reports.
Neil Young has written and recorded a song about the passengers who fought back against the Sept. 11 hijackers, Reuters reports. Young wrote the song after reading a newspaper article about passenger Todd Beamer and recorded it two weeks ago. Beamer was on flight 93 that crashed into a Pennsylvania field and was heard on an onboard telephone telling fellow passengers "Let's Roll."
The Discovery Channel will air a five-part series about J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings and the upcoming film based on the classic trilogy from Dec. 31 to 19, the day the film opens in theaters. According to the Toronto Star, the shows will document different aspects of Tolkien's creation and examine many hand-drawn maps of the mythical Middle Earth.
The History Channel is producing its first live programming on Friday to mark the 60th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack. The network will cover the memorial service on the USS Arizona in Hawaii starting at 12:30 p.m. ET, AP reports.