Sunday, May 15, 2011

Thor? Why, I'm Furiouth!

OK, now that I've seen the movie, my kids can breathe a sigh of relief because I'll stop doing that dumb joke. (Probably.)

Thor is the latest in the Marvel-Takes-Over-The-Movies rampage that started in earnest with Sam Raimi's Spider-Man and has led down such inglorious blind alleys as Daredevil and Hellcow. (OK, they haven't done Hellcow...yet.)

I was always a DC guy, I think I've mentioned, and Thor was one of the reasons why. As a big fan of Greek and Norse mythology, the idea of a Thor superhero struck me as stupid. Whereas, I dunno, Metamorpho seemed perfectly non-stupid? (I find the whole Marvel/DC dichotomy interesting, because obviously both companies made good and bad comic books, and certainly I didn't have any peer pressure, yet I never liked Spider-Man, The Hulk, The Fantastic Four, etc.)

Anyway, here we have the tale of the Norse god as a sort of sci-fi/superhero mash-up. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) lives in Asgard with his father Odin (Anthony Hopkins), mother Frigga (Renee Russo) and his possibly evil brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) where they hold off the definitely evil Frost Giants with their United Colors of Benneton Super Best Friends.

Through a variety of wacky adventures (or an evil plot, mayhap?) Thor ends up powerless, hammerless and banished to earth, where he falls into the lap of plucky cosmologist Jane (Natalie Portman). Thor's got to get back to Asgard to save everybody from all the badness. But of course, there's some ass that needs kickin' down on earth, too.

Kenneth Branagh directs and does a fine job with some occasionally thin material. It's done in sincerity and without the wink-and-a-nod of a critic's darling but also without taking itself too seriously. (My favorite Branagh-directed movie would be another one of his less artsy films, the thriller Dead Again.)

The movie takes place at both ends in the Flash Gordon-esque world of Asgard, and in the middle on Earth in New Mexico. The Asgard stuff is—well, I liked it? But it's not exactly Lord of the Rings. And while I'm not a fan of the trilogy, it looked epic, whereas Asgard sometimes came off as cheesy.

The movie really picks up when it comes to earth. Chris Hemsworth does an oustanding job, even though it may seem like not a difficult task. You know, "Stand there. Look gorgeous. Take off your shirt. Smile." But I think we've all seen it done badly, and there is some subtlety here.

We have to like him, for example. But we also have to see that he's a bit too cocksure—arrogant, even. Too self-involved and not overly concerned about what happens to others. Imperious. And he has to do all that without us disliking him and while being a complete White Knight, a la Superman.

It doesn't hurt that he looks the part. Am I right, ladies? He towers over Portman, and most of the cast, which reminds me a little of my experience at The Graves premiere. That is, he looks huge, but he's also about the same height as The Boy, who is only slightly taller than I. Heh.

Point is, he looks and acts the part. Reminded me (favorably) of the young Chris Reeves.

Tim Hiddleston is the other really strong part of this.  Ace of Spades has a mega-review up here where he talks about many of the same things I do, only in much greater detail. (He praises it, only faulting it for not trying to be a great movie.) Ace doesn't seem to be impressed by the comparisons of Loki to Shakespeare's finest villain, Iago, but I have to admit, it occurred to me, too.

There's a lot of complexity and subtlety in that character, and Hiddleston did a fine job with it.

I'm not (ever) as impressed with Portman as everyone else seems to be. She's fine here. Her whole job is to fall pretty much instantly in love with Thor, and she does a serviceable job. Her role is—I'm not sure, exactly whether she's a cosmologist or an astrophysicist, but she provides the bridge between the science-fiction and fantasy elements of the story in some of the finest comic book logic since Doc Ock started his fusion experiment by making autonomously intelligent tentacles for his back in Spiderman 2.

I love that sort of thing.

But Portman comes off fine, though Kat Dennings (40 Year Old Virgin) steals scenes from under her and comes off sexier—and I'm not really a fan of Dennings looks, either. OK, if you twist my arm, I'd have to say Jaimie Alexander as Sif comes off the hottest. Ass-kicking Viking women! And 5'9" she can tower over the tiny Portman and Dennings, so it looks a little more plausible than it—well, then it normally does when actresses go around kicking ass in action films.

What else? Music: Good. Setting? Nice: New Mexico makes a nice change from the big city shenanigans. It felt more intimate. Climactic Plot Point: I liked it, but a lot of people have said there wasn't enough on the line. I felt it fit in perfectly with a white knight story. Tie-ins with other Marvel Properties? Meh. I have a bad feeling about all that.

Overall, I'd recommend it if you can hang with the comic book thang. The Boy and The Flower both liked strongly, but were not terribly enthused. No requests for "Thor" underwear have been made, e.g.

1 comment:

  1. I can't wait to see it. The Jack Kirby/Stan Lee version was my favortie book. The subsidairy characters like Hemidal, Falstaff and all the rest were great. I even tried my hand at writing fan fiction about those characters when I was about eleven years old.

    So it has a big nostaglia content for me.


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