A blog about movies and filmmaking.

By Odin’s Beard | THOR

In action, comic books on May 5, 2011 at 11:23 am

Prepare to runneth over with geeky words and not a lot of praise for the God of Thunder’s new movie. While it does it’s best to earnestly create multiple worlds, there just isn’t enough of any one of them to bring the Marvel Comics character to full-fledged life. But, it’s still fun.

Welcome to Summer!

Kenneth Branagh has gathered a competent cast to bring these characters to the big screen and gives us some action and humor worthy of the gods. The real humor (heck, most of the best parts) comes to the fore-front when Thor (Chris Hemsworth) has been cast out of the heavenly realm, down to the mortal world of present-day New Mexico – in a town that oddly resembles the little dust-bowl shown in SUPERMAN 2. Here our hero is stripped of his powers and has to learn humility before he can again possess the mighty Mjolnir (that’s the hammer he swings around to hit things or helps him fly). In this time, Thor is hit by a car numerous times, gets tased, tries to obtain a noble steed, drinks a lot, and gets to make googly eyes at Natalie Portman. It’s all hilarious and works very well. Helped along by the supporting cast of Skellan Skarsgard, Kat Dennings and Clark Gregg, as Agent Colson from SHIELD – you’ve seen him in the previous couple IRON MAN movies.

Speaking of which, this is where some of my issues with the movie comes in. Pretty much everyone knows that this movie – along with the soon-to-be released CAPTAIN AMERICA – is a build-up to next year’s THE AVENGERS. Which in the comics is a superhero group comprised of Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, and some other guys – like, Black Widow (as seen in IRON MAN 2) and…well, I don’t want to spoil all the fun. Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited to see this team-up happen and the larger-than-life story it’s bound to tell. But, it’s the wedging in of these cross-over bits that makes the movie seem much more like a marketing campaign for another movie. The thing that made IRON MAN so great is that SHIELD was in there – and excellently worked in as a subplot and a welcomed, surprising coda after the credits – but starting with IRON MAN 2, the movies have become more about SHIELD and leading to bringing all these characters together than telling us a full, complete story without those interferences. (Caveat to the cute scene where the Asgardian Destroyer has come to Earth and the SHIELD agents ask whether it’s one of Starks’.)

The other, and much more major, issue with the movie is just that there’s not enough here. Which is saying a lot considering we travel from Asgard to the frosty realm of Jotunheim, and then down to Earth, from the small town to the desert and SHIELD base. That’s a lot of places to go with nary anything accomplished in any of them. In Asgard, which is where the most Shakespearean of plots takes place, the exciting and revealing moments all include building up the character of Loki (Tom Hiddleston), who is Thor’s brother and has the unfortunate moniker of “God of Mischief”. Suffice to say he’s not as heroic as the other guys. Despite him being the villain, he does go through the most realistic and heart-wrenching character arc.

Unlike Thor – who, though being larger than life and enjoying every minute of life as a God (and soon to be king of them all) – whose biggest arc comes from him realizing he has to think before he acts and put other’s first. Then he almost dies (spoilers?) and gets his powers back. I don’t know if it’s a joke of the filmmakers, or just weak story-telling to have a big, giant deux ex machina occur at the climax of the movie. (Because the story is about Gods…Get it?) Otherwise, and despite the much shallower development, Thor is a fun character to watch on-screen. He just doesn’t really have the pathos required of other comic characters like Wolverine, Spider-Man or Batman. (Yeah, I had to bring DC Comics into it!) Not that he has to, but he’s pretty much all smiles from beginning to end. And why the hell was he only wearing his trademark helmet for like 30 seconds, at the beginning of the movie?

The supporting cast in the heavenly realm is filled with a number of great performers as well; well known (Anthony Hopkins, Rene Russo, Idris Elba) and not-so-much (Jaimie Alexander, Ray Stevenson). Unfortunately none are given much to do and are only slightly more realized than the analogous pantheon in last year’s CLASH OF THE TITANS. (At least this movie gave all their stars at least one line…Poor, poor, Danny Huston.) And the stand-out role of the supporting cast (other than Dennings) is Colm Feore, who plays the king of the Frost Giants. I recognized him immediately and he gets to play a shade of benevolent evil, possibly only topped by Tim Curry’s Darkness in Ridley Scott’s LEGEND. Considering Feore’s career, that’s really saying something too.

The set and costume design for Asgard is impressive but marred by digital effects that make it all look like the hardened plastic of halloween costumes. What should look like battle-worn metals have an impossible gloss to them. And Asgard itself looks like the digital landscape of Coruscant in the STAR WARS movies. (That’s not a compliment.) Also the 3-d is only the slightest bit interesting during the final credits, when we’re swooping through the galaxy.

Overall, the movie is light and entertaining. Filled with fun performances by talented actors, the movie is almost a romantic comedy more than it is an action-comic book blockbuster. Though the action that is in the movie is cool – and it’s pretty awesome in a couple moments seeing an actual THOR on the big-screen with Mjolnir leaving destruction in his wake. It’s just not that exciting or brings anything new to the genre.

There’s complaints that characters like Superman are unrelatable because they’re nearly God-like in their powers. Well, in that case we had (at least) 2 excellent movies that proved otherwise. Thor, I can understand that gap a little more. He’s not a super-human raised on Earth with human morals. He’s a brash, warrior prince with the power of thunder and lightning. So, that would’ve made this movie a hardsell at any rate. Being that they succeeded at all is a tribute to the talent involved, and here’s hope that if there is to be a sequel, they get to tell an actual Thor story that doesn’t need to revolve around working in cross-over elements.

See it for the fun performances. And definitely only see it in 2-D.

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