Monday, May 9, 2011

Movie Monday: Thor

For this week's Movie Monday we'll be talking about the brand-new film Thor!

I didn't plan on doing a review of a new film, but my ancient, diesel-powered computer finally up and died on me earlier in the week, leaving me unable to pull stills from the film I had planned to watch instead.

Then it dawned me that I was seeing Thor twice in three days (taking two different nephews), so I thought it'd be fun to write a real time, two-part review: my impressions upon seeing the film for the first time, then coming back to finish off the post having seen it again.
I'm not going to get into the specifics of the film's plot, not wanting to spoil it for anyone who might be reading this and wants to see it. So I'll just hit the high points:

Odin (Anthony Hopkins), having achieved a fragile peace with the Frost Giants (a race of warriors who, if allowed, would swallow up the universe, including Earth), is now prepared to name is heir: his oldest son, Thor (Chris Hemsworth).

But when Thor, along with his brother Loki and fellow warriors Sif, Volstagg, Fandral, and Hogun, go to the Frost Giants world to extract some revenge, Odin casts his son to Earth to teach him some humility. Unfortunately, it is right at this moment that the Frost Giants (along with an Asgardian secretly on their side) are preparing to attack Asgard once again!

Thor lands on Earth, sans powers, and is met by the comely and indefatigable scientist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) who is taken by this stranger. Also arrived on Earth is Thor's hammer Mjolnir, which can only be moved by one who is worthy.

The U.S. Government is also interested in Thor's hammer, and try to find a way to move this source of immense power. They haven't seen anything yet, though: the Frost Giants send a being known as The Destroyer to Earth, and only Thor can stop him!

I found Thor a lot of fun--director Kenneth Branagh (an inspired choice to direct a movie such as this) keeps the film moving at a crisp pace, but also knows when to slow down and let the characters breathe. He eschews the machine gun pace of a lot of big budget CGI spectacles, that just throw things at the viewer so fast they hope you won't notice you don't really care about anyone on screen.

Chris Hemsworth does a good job as Thor, though unfortunately there's only a few moments where he gets to kick butt, Thunder God-style. He doesn't project a whole lot of depth, but neither did Thor in the comics, either.

Natalie Portman is lively as Jane Foster, having to lay a lot of pipe but managing to keep it from getting too dull. There's one or two scene where she lasciviously looks at Thor, which just a touch of sexual heat that you don't see much in big comic book movies: sure, there's attraction, but Portman gives Hemsworth an occasional "I wanna do this guy" look that was gave their scenes just a little extra edge.

The effects, as to be expected, are top-notch, but as I said Branagh keeps things from getting out of hand. I still find most CGI worlds to be grey and muddy, and not at all realistic, but they looked pretty good here. The battle with the Frost Giants is well staged and a pleasure to watch. There's also a couple of in-geek gags that only die-hard comic fans will get (like the billboard seen on the side of a building in a couple of shots), but they don't self-consciously call attention to themselves.

The ending is surprisingly quiet and low-key, instead of the usual bom-bom-bom-BOM! final moments you would expect--even Thor and Jane's first kiss is not what you think, making for a nice wrap up to the film.

Overall, I thought Thor was one of Marvel's best adaptations--maybe even as good as IronMan. This film doesn't have the flinty anchor that was Robert Downey Jr.'s performance as Tony Stark, but I think the film itself might be just as good!
Okay--it's twenty-four hours later, and I have just seen Thor for the second time. I was entertained all over again, not really bored in the least; always a good sign for a film's longevity.

One thing I noticed this time around is how similar these Marvel films are to one another; no matter who the filmmakers are. As directors, Jon Favreau (IronMan), Louis Letterier (Hulk), and Kenneth Branagh are very, very different, yet the resulting films have a similar feel. Of course, that's on purpose, since Marvel is so determined to have all these movies inhabit the same universe.

Any comics fan from the 60s-90s would tell you that, as comic book companies, DC and Marvel were very different: Marvel had a distinctive house style, while DC did not. So its interesting to see that reflected in the movies that spring from those two companies: all of Marvel's films (even the Spider-Man ones, which aren't officially part of the eventual Avengers crossover) are of a piece, while DC's output--Superman Returns, The Dark Knight, Jonah Hex, Catwoman (*shudder*)--could not be more different. Like the comics themselves, the DC films have no "house style."

That's not meant as a criticism, in either direction, just an observation. Though I will say I wish Thor had a little more of Branagh's personal touch--something I guess is nearly impossible when you're part of a multi-multi-million-dollar enterprise.

All in all, I enjoyed Thor very much: it treats the characters with respect and delivers laughs and action with a relatively light touch. I would definitely be up for another solo Thor film if this one (and The Avengers) is a big hit. Aye, verily!

1 comment:

Caffeinated Joe (Wings) said...

Never been a Thor fan, so I will probably be seeing this via Netflix, but good to know it will be a fun watch, at least!

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