Saturday, May 7, 2011

Review: Thor

Thor is the second to last movie in the buildup to Marvel's massive Avengers film in 2012, and is thus one of the most highly anticipated movies of the summer, and an opportunity for me to showcase one of the things that sets me apart from my peers in the geek side of cinema. One of the complaints or compliments you'll often hear directed at comic book movies is based on how much the heroes and villains costumes look like their comic book counterparts, and I could not possibly give less of a shit. The heroes costumes in the X-Men films looked nothing like their comic book characters, but that didn't stop X-Men and X2 from being great films. On the other hand, Ghost Rider looked like he could have walked right off the page, and that movie was a massive pile of shit. So with that out of the way, how is Thor?

The story is concerned with the titular god of thunder from Norse mythology. Yes it turns out in true Chariot of the Gods style, the Norse gods did and continue to exist and are actually visitors from another...dimension I think. Anywho, Thor is the heir to Odin's throne but is actually an pompous braggart and after a particularly arrogant stunt puts Asgard on the brink of war with the frost giants (look it up), Odin banishes his son to Earth and takes away all his powers to teach him a lesson in humility.

The actors are usually fairly important, no matter what kind of film you're making and here they rise to the occasion admirably. Chris Hemsworth kicks ass as Thor himself, while still managing to find the humor and absurdity in a Norse god suddenly flung into modern America, Natalie Portman turns in a nice performance, Anthony Hopkins is as awesome as Odin as you might expect him to be, and the supporting cast all turn in solid performances.

The lifeblood of a movie like this is always gonna be the action scenes (well except for Iron Man but shut up) and these are as awesome and you might expect a movie about a Norse God beating up monsters with a hammer might be. The visual style is distinct, as is the excellent costume design.

The script isn't as sharp as it could be, but it works, using enough clever dialogue and characterization to keep us interested. It's all very true to the comics (as far as I know; casual fan at best) and more interestingly, to the legends the comics were based on. Don't get too excited though, it's nothing on Neil Gaiman's fidelity to mythology. What, did you actually expect them to do the bit where Odin hung from a tree impaled on a spear in a PG-13 movie? In the end, classically trained actor and director Kenneth Branaugh is perfect for the directing job on this movie. Primarily known for his adaptations of Shakespear plays, if anyone could figure out a way to keep Gods howling dialogue about Frost Giants and magic hammers from sounding silly, it'd be him.

Oh and those of you who are more than casual fans are gonna find a lot to like in this, as Thor continues the Marvel film's tradition of dropping hints and references to comic continuity and upcoming films, though I must say they've gotten a little more subtle about it than Iron Man 2 was (pop quiz: At what point in Iron Man 2 did they ever explain who Samuel Jackson's character was or why he was hanging around? Answer: Never). Oh and I don't know if it needs saying but just in case: Yeah, stay through the credits.

It's not quite perfect, or rather, as good as it could be. Aside from the aforementioned script issues, it's a little rushed at times, moving too quick for characterization to sink in. While the visual style is distinct, the CGI looks unfinished in some places and the shot composition in most of the human size vs. human size fights could stand to be a little bit better. Finally, while it's a little more outsider friendly than Iron Man 2 or The Incredible Hulk a couple of teases and about half the stinger, are gonna go right over the mainstream audiences heads.

But those niggling problems don't stop it from being good and they certainly don't stop it from being a good time at the movies. It finally turns around the trend that all the movies I saw on their opening weekend this year (Sucker Punch, Battle: LA) are garbage. It's easily the most kid friendly of the Avengers lead in movies so far, so if you have kids go ahead and bring them, have a good time. I did. See you next time.

Elessar is a 21 year old Alaskan born cinephile and as he was leaving the theater, it started raining. And he's just gonna let that speak for itself.

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