11 May 2011



Starring Chris Hemsworth, Anthony Hopkins, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Stellan Skarsgard, Kat Dennings, Idris Elba, Ray Stevenson
Written by Ashley Edward Miller, Zack Stentz, Don Payne, J. Michael Stracynski (story), Mark Protosevich (story)
Directed by Kenneth Branagh
Release: 06 May 2011
Marvel Studios, 114 mins., Rated PG-13

Plot: God of Thunder Thor is a bit of a cocky ass, and is thus exiled to Earth by Daddy Odin to teach him a lesson in humility and generally being less ass-y.

The Man Who Would Be King

To be a King, one must be wise, one must not be rash and run hammer-first into battle without thinking of repercussions or the greater picture. In the realm of Asgard, Thor, Son of Odin, is unable to think clearly, allowing his cocky and stubborn nature take the better of him. Next to some stunning visuals thanks to director Kenneth Branagh, Thor is a remarkable film in that it dedicates itself solely to character and character development. I do have a small qualm about this area that I will mention in due course, but to summarize, the script is a beauty: a full two hours dedicated to watching the evolution of a arrogant child transform into a mighty and understanding hero. The end doesn't present us with a fully formed hero, a man who has all the answers and is ready to be King - he's frank to Odin, that he still has much to learn, but he's heading in the right direction. It's the script that is the real prize here, but I would be remiss without saying that everyone involved in the production didn't give their A games. More on that later.

I absolutely loved watching Thor's transformation, but my only gripe is this: I would have liked his development of character to stem from something larger than attraction to Portman's Jane. I want to see Thor experience the world(s) differently, to see the error of his ways and the consequences of his actions (although we do get a glimpse of this as Loki plays with Thor's feelings as Thor is in custody of S.H.I.E.L.D). Instead, it seems to boil down to Jane, seeing her pretty face when he comes to Earth, and overall being one of a handful of humans he interacts with (positively). Take The Day the Earth Stood Still remake - Klatu chooses to spare humanity because of our capacity to love, basically. Alright, get that; to an alien, that's probably something big. But with Thor, it's something a little more specific: a full change of character. That man is a total hot head, and aside from his interactions with the Portman Gang, his time on earth doesn't really lend itself to any great change.

That said, I do acknowledge the important scene where Loki misinforms Thor about the going ons back at Asgard. It's here that Thor feels completely drained - his father is (supposedly) dead, he's been permanently exiled, and his hammer is not within his reach, as if mocking him. He hits a pretty low point here, and it definitely is (obviously) instrumental in his growth, but - and I may be unreasonable here - I would like more. And I know that's difficult to accomplish in a two hour movie that requires special effects, action scenes, comedy, family drama, and giving nods to a larger universe outside this standalone story.

Speaking about the Man Who Would Be King, I present to you Loki. If you're on the fence about seeing Thor, see it for Loki. I love this damn manipulative brother. Cleverly written and acted, it's a beautiful character to watch.

Muscles Don't Make the Actor

Luckily, that ain't the case here. Sure, Chris Hemsworth - who I know nothing of other than playing Daddy Kirk in the J.J. Abrams prequel/sequel 2009 Star Trek - has both the muscles and acting chops to sell the character of Thor to audiences. This is a really impressive performance. In the beginning, Hemsworth rocks the arrogant Prince who welcomes a fight over thought; as he's exiled to Earth, he brings the comedy as Thor acclimates to this new environment; and by the end, the character's growth and selfless resolve is nicely played. Hemsworth rocked. Equally excelling in the rocking department, Tom Hiddleston. There cannot possibly be a lack of great things to say about this man. I love the movie, and I love Thor, but Loki is the true reason to see this flick, and he steals every scene, no doubt about it.

Hemsworth and Hiddleston are surrounded by a stellar cast of characters. Natalie Portman plays Jane, the woman who is influential in Thor's transformation; Stellan Skarsgard provides the laughs as his role is rather subdued, same with the wonderful Kat Dennings; the awesome Anthony Hopkins rules as King Odin, and I most definitely would not want to piss that man off; Idris Elba is Heimdall, the bloke in charge of the portal to the various realms, and is both funny and mighty - a man of few words, he makes 'em count. Absolutely nothing to complain about here.

Thor seems Shakespeare-y, hire a Shakespeare-y guy!

When the suits at Marvel were thinking about who to hire for the job of director, I'm curious if they chose Branagh over the similarities of this property and the director/writer's lovefest with the Bard. It does seem to be a match made in heaven. Family drama and betrayals has never been more engrossing...

Love for the actors aside, there are two shinning instruments that make this movie excel: director Kenneth Branagh and all five screenwriters. The screenwriters faced an impossible task and they beat it (more on that below), and Branagh directed a movie that has its own specific style that completely works for the film. Think the old Adam West Batman TV series, whenever the villains were on the camera was usually tilted in some manner - well, in addition to fancy camera movements, Branagh's vision favors the titled camera style, and it works quite well. The visual style of a movie is something I take a rather grand interest in - hence my love for all things Christopher Nolan [look at Dark Knight and tell me that's not a visually gorgeous movie] - and Thor does not disappoint. Next to being a fun film, just admiring the framing and all the elements onscreen alone is worth a watch...and rewatch.

Prelude to The Avengers

Since 2008's Iron Man, Marvel has been quite giddy - and fans likewise - to include cameos, mentions, visual ques, or post-credit scenes that play a part in the larger world of The Avengers. Basically, planting the seeds for the mega-budgeted film written and directed by the God of Filmmakers, Joss Whedon. Nick Fury and Captain America's shield have already been seen in Iron Man and a deleted opening scene in The Incredible Hulk, and Thor gives us our first view of Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), a unnamed mention of Bruce Banner, and a hint at The Avenger's plot in the post-credit sequence. Thankfully, none of these tie-ins remotely zap you out of the film, which is rather cool. Everything stays integral to the plot, and all the scenes with Agent Carulson and S.H.I.E.L.D was both hilarious and awesome.

Hammer Me This

Thor is a great production, a real triumph over at Marvel Studios that everyone involved should be quite happy with their product. The story of Thor is a good one, but also a difficult one to visualize: how does one meld the world of Asgard, with so many fantastical elements, into our world, very practical and messy? Turns out the solution is to have extremely talented writers craft a clever story and screenplay and hire a director in love with the material and just so happens to have some experience in family dramas. Go figure. Thor is one of those rare instances where everything works together seamlessly, and the movie becomes one hell of a fun ride from beginning to end. The editing is precise and to the point, lending itself to rewatches that aren't at all tiresome; Chris embodies the God of Thunder, both in physicality and personality; the action scenes are well choreographed and loads of fun; Thor's friends and teammates were hilarious and full of kickass; and of course, Branagh's spectacular visual style all make this film work. And last but not least, Tom Hiddleston as Loki. I don't think I've been more impressed from a performance since Heath Ledger's Joker in The Dark Knight. I know, big words, but after the three times I've seen this movie, there is not one imperfect note in Hiddleston's performance, not one moment where Hiddleston didn't completely rule as Loki. No, Loki doesn't rival The Joker, but is in the same league of awesomeness, I daresay.

By this point, there are at least 10,000 reviews of Thor circulating the net, but if my viewpoint holds any water, the next two movies in the Marvel line-up have a lot to live up to now.

Rating: 9/10 = Lightning strikes with a spectacular film that perfectly mixes myth and reality boasting a visual style and great cast that makes it the best of Marvel's films.

1 comment:

Fletch said...

I think a lot of Thor's growth stemmed from what you touched about regarding the misinformation - basically, that his being powerless on Earth forced humility upon him. Perhaps not the best spark for emotional growth, but eh, it worked enough. I never really felt like he and Portman connected much. Either the chemistry was off or they just didn't share enough screen time, but she could have been anybody. You could argue he bonded more with Skarsgaard.

I dig your enthusiasm on this, even if I can't go all the way with you on it. It's solid - no real cracks, but I wouldn't say that it's terribly memorable, either.