Friday, May 6, 2011

THOR Movie Review

It’s TIME!! Marvel Comics fans join in with geeks of all shapes, sizes and a plethora of genders to celebrate the newest Marvel movie, in continuity with the central marvel movie universe (unlike those heathen Spider-Man, Fantastic Four and X-movies). First up for the blockbuster movie season is Thor, the tale of a God-like being manipulated by his scheming brother Loki and driven by his ego to nearly start a war between the Frost Giants and his people, the Asgardians. For his selfish behavior, the Allfather Odin strips him of his power and casts him out of Asgard, sending him face first into Earth. This is an Earth where The Hulk rampages across college campuses and Iron Man throws down with giant robots on city streets, so the agency known as S.H.I.E.L.D. has had some experience with oddities like a man and his hammer spit out from the heavens and crashing into the desert. They quickly chase away the local rednecks and start researching the mysterious hammer that can not be moved by any human device. Meanwhile, Thor runs ( in hit with a car) into a scientist (Natalie Portman) and her crew who cart the dethroned prince to the hospital, thinking he’s a totally buff, delusional homeless guy, and then take off for more research hijinks. The two will soon be reunited when she realizes where he has come from. Meanwhile, the Frost Giants are fuming, Thor’s warrior posse are plotting his return, Odin is brooding and somewhere in the shadows, Loki is rubbing his hands together like a mischievous trickster god version of Mr. Burns from the Simpsons. Is there a plot in here somewhere??!! Not a very involved one.

Thor must learn to put others before himself in order to be worthy of lifting his great hammer again and take his proper place in Asgard, but Loki is scheming to take the throne for himself, if only to serve his bigger agenda. That’s really the gist of it. The problem with Thor is one we see with all movies that seek to tell a tale on an epic scale with eye candy as far as the eye can see and men performing great feats of heroism and somewhere amid all the drama, the film makers forget that in order to cheer on the hero, we need a point of opposition. In comics, Loki has his day planned out 15 moves in advance and has been setting it up 2 years before it actually happens. In the course of this day, he will screw with the lives of several people who never even thought Loki knew they existed and in the end, he may be thwarted by the forces of good, but you have to admit to his evil genius. Thor (the movie) paints a more sympathetic picture. Loki is still playing nearly everyone he comes across, but his agenda is not entirely malicious. Once you realize Destroyer, the other perceived big bad of the film is a tool of Asgard, and the Frost Giants are just pawns in Loki’s game, never given the chance to storm the gates of Asgard as we thought they might in the big finale, we are left with very little to rally against.

Another problem I had with the film was the heavy nature of most moments. This is just a point of personal taste, so I won’t mind when most of you read this and go “STFU.” To be clear, Thor is fantastically crafted from start to finish. Even the 3D is beautiful when paired with visuals of rampaging monsters, the mythical Bifrost bridge and something as simple as Thor charging into battle. The tone of all this content is laid out with the airs of a Shakespearean tragedy. There is some witty banter and humorous visuals when Thor is on Earth, mostly between Chris Hemsworth and Kat Dennings, but the girl can’t carry the comedic weight of an entire movie on her own. We look for some light hearted fun in Asgard, but these folks are a morose bunch, caught up in the mass of their dialogue and scowling profusely through it all. This would have been the perfect counterpoint for The Warriors Three, who in comic form WOULD have provided more than a couple of laughs. Volstagg (in comics) is a mountain of a man who is always feeding his face, though this doesn’t make him any less a hero and formidable opponent in battle. Fandral is the swashbuckling pretty boy, ever courageous and light hearted. Hogun the Grim may scowl as if someone insulted his momma, but even he does not hide his loyalty for his friends and is even shown letting out a quip or two when the situation allows for it. What we get in place of this are three throw away characters with diminished roles in the film, resigned to stand in between the landscape and the main characters for the duration of the film. Volstagg even stands around rubbing a non-existent belly from time to time, as if his character wished he could have his girth back. I’m looking for a bit more fun in my comic book movies. All this drama made the experience feel a bit long and needlessly serious. Iron Man and Hulk balanced these things beautifully. I guess I was looking for more of the same.

All sour grapes aside, Thor is excellently acted and expertly directed. It is refreshing to feel some chemistry between two actors who are supposed to be developing feelings of love for one another! I expected nothing less from a stellar cast like this, so I’m happy to report they do not disappoint. More importantly than sparks of love in Thor is the relationship between father and son, and when Anthony Hopkins is playing your father, I can only imagine your game rises to heights you never thought possible. Vanity, anger, desperation, sorrow…all flash across the faces of the sons of Odin as they fight to express themselves to a man they clearly worship. Hell, there is more emotion in a scene between Hemsworth and his un-liftable hammer than you’ll see in most of the cinematic drivel we are fed day to day. You feel every second of it, which might be the double edged sword of this film. Too much pity, not enough triumph.

Thor is a lavish project with a very clear design in mind. The mythical, medieval trappings are discarded and replaced with a sort of space D&D feel. Elements like these are bound to split movie goers right down the middle. You’re either going to buy into it immediately…or not. I’m certain nothing I say is going to stop Thor from pulling in massive numbers this weekend, so don’t even think for a second I’m looking to cause hesitation. It’s THOR!! You, being on my geeky little site to read this, must be at least 20% geek. You were going to see this movie even before you started reading. Just go in with a clean pallet. This is not Iron Man, or The Incredible Hulk. This is something different. At the end of the day, take solace in one essential thing. This is absolutely not Catwoman.

P.S. I know this goes without saying for the pros, but for the Newbs...STAY TIL AFTER THE CREDITS!!!


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