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.
Moviegoers aching for a good horror pic propelled Darkness Falls from obscurity to the top of the box office this weekend, knocking last week's victor, Jerry Bruckheimer's Down Under comedy Kangaroo Jack, to second place. While the expansion of Chicago hit a high box office note, the biopic Confessions of a Dangerous Mind proved more of a disappointment.
Darkness Falls, about a small town haunted by a killer Tooth Fairy, took in a not so menacing $12.5 million*. The film profited from being the only new wide release to hit theaters this week. Kangaroo Jack, now in its second week, bounded behind with $11.9 million.
Hot on the heels of its Golden Globe award for best motion picture for a musical or comedy, the crime musical Chicago came in third with $8.4 million. Apparently, everyone really does loves a legend.
Audiences, however, weren't clamoring to see Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. The Chuck Barris biopic landed in eighth place with $6 million.
The Hours, meanwhile, continued its limited run but still managed to round out the Top 10 with $4 million.
The small screen apparently gave theatrical releases a run for their money this week, as moviegoers opted to stay home and watch the Super Bowl instead, causing box office dollars to decline.
THE TOP TEN
Sony Picture's PG-13-rated Darkness Falls opened with an ESTIMATED $12.5 million at 2,837 theaters ($4,406 per theater).
Directed by Jonathan Liebesman, it stars Chaney Kley, Emma Caulfield and Lee Cormie.
The horror flick revolves around a young boy who claims to have awakened from a sound sleep to see the Tooth Fairy trying to kill him. Years later he returns to confront his troubled past and save his hometown from an unrelenting evil that has plagued it for over a century.
Last week's box office champ, Warner Bros.' PG-rated Kangaroo Jack, was bumped to second place in its second week. The comedy took in an ESTIMATED $11.9 million (-28%) at 2,848 theaters (+30 theaters; $4,189 per theater). Its cume is approximately $35.4 million.
Directed by David McNally, it stars Jerry O'Connell, Anthony Anderson and Estella Warren.
In its first week of wide expansion, Miramax's PG-13-rated Chicago climbed three notches to third place with an ESTIMATED $8.4 million (+11%) at 616 theaters (+59 theaters; $13, 721 per theater). The musical comedy had the highest per theater average of any film this week. Its cume is approximately $40.5 million.
Directed by Rob Marshall, it stars Renee Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Richard Gere.
The honeymoon is far from over for 20th Century Fox's Just Married. In its third week of release the PG-13 comedy fell one rung to fourth place with an ESTIMATED $7.4 million (-37%) at 2,706 theaters (-63 theaters; $2,761 per theater). Its cume is approximately $44.3 million.
Directed by Shawn Levy, it stars Ashton Kutcher and Brittany Murphy.
*Box office estimates provided by Exhibitor Relations, Inc.
Sony Pictures' National Security fell three notches in its second week, bagging an ESTIMATED $7.4 million (-49%)--a steep drop from last week. The PG-13-rated comedy played across 2,729 screen (unchanged from last week) with a $2,712 per theater average. Its cume is approximately $26.1 million.
Directed by Dennis Dugan, it stars Martin Lawrence and Steve Zahn.
New Line Cinema's PG-13 fantasy epic The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers slid from fifth to sixth place in its sixth week, with a very real $6.9 million (-33%) at 2,666 theaters (-444 theaters; $2,588 per theater). Its cume is approximately $309.1 million.
Directed by Peter Jackson, it stars Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Orlando Bloom and Viggo Mortensen.
DreamWorks' PG-13 crime biopic Catch Me If You Can fell three places to seventh in its fifth week of release with an ESTIMATED $6.6 million (-38%) at 2,776 theaters (-274 theaters; $2,376 per theater). Its cume is approximately $145.1 million.
Directed by Steven Spielberg, it stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks, Christopher Walken and Martin Sheen.
In its first week of wide expansion, Miramax's R-rated Confessions of a Dangerous Mind netted an ESTIMATED $6 million at 1,769 theaters (+1,764 theaters; $3,393 per theater). Its cume is approximately $6.5 million.
Dirceted by George Clooney, it stars Sam Rockwell, Drew Barrymore, Julia Roberts and Clooney.
New Line Cinema's R-rated dark comedy About Schmidt fell a notch to ninth place in its seventh week of release with an ESTIMATED $5.6 million (-3%) at 1,236 theaters (+290 theaters, $4,470 thaeters). Its cume is approximately $37.8 million.
Directed by Alexander Payne, it stars Jack Nicholson, Hope Davis, Dermot Mulroney and Kathy Bates.
Rounding out the Top 10 was Paramount Picture's The Hours. The PG-13 drama dropped a peg in its fifth week of release with an ESTIMATED $4 million (-14%) at 502 theaters (+100 theaters; $7,968 per theater). Its cume is approximately $13.9 million.
Directed by Stephen Daldry, it stars Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore, Ed Harris and Claire Danes.
This weekend, the top 12 films grossed an ESTIMATED $82.9 million, down 16.67 percent from last weekend, when they took in $99.5 million. The decrease may be a result of moviegoers staying home for the Super Bowl, which came a weekend later last year.
The top 12 were also down 24.74 percent from last year, when they grossed $10.2 million.
Last year, Sony's R-rated Black Hawk Down dominated the box office in its fifth week with $17 million at 3,101 theaters ($5,486 per theater); Buena Vistas' G-rated Snow Dogs was second in its second week of release with $13 million at 2,440 theaters ($5,360 per theater); and Warner Bros.' PG-13 teen drama A Walk to Remember debuted in third with $12.1 million at 2,411 theaters ($5,051 per theater).