Sunday, May 15, 2011

Thor Review


I’m going to be straight here. I never liked Thor. Out of the entire Marvel Comics cast of characters like Spiderman, Captain America, Iron Man, the X-Men, Hulk; Thor lacked the non-gayness of the rest. Yeah, I kind of thought Thor was a bit faffy, sue me. However, I never doubted his importance to the Marvel Universe. As one of the first and most important of the Avengers, I can certainly understand why people like him. I find the mythology of Thor outweighs the execution. Until today.

Thor revolves around, guess what: Thor! He’s a brash, arrogant, selfish, and vain young man who is a bit of a warmonger. This would-be king of Asgard is banished from his realm after his faults cause irreparable damage to the balance of peace in the 9 realms. Thor now must find new meaning in his life on the boring and mundane world of Earth.

Let me start off with the positives of Thor. Thor is a great character, no doubt better than his comic book counterpart. He has some significant faults, but these faults are balanced by his charm and good intentions. Yes he may be a warmonger, but he is looking to protect his people. He may be a brute, but he’s a charismatic brute. Chris Hemmsworth performance as Thor is spot on. Balancing action, drama and intense emotion looks simple for him. Not to mention the dude just looks like Thor. In my mind, this guy is the only person capable enough to play Marvel’s resident God of Thunder.

Tom Hiddleston steals the show as Loki in my opinion. The filmmakers wisely chose to avoid classic villain stereotypes, which would have been all too tempting to do with Loki, for a more nuanced and complex character. His desperation for acceptance drives him to cause a little chaos in the lives of those he both resents and loves. In a way, his schemes are more derived to just be a little shit than a mastermind. It turns out though, his idea of a practical joke are damaging to Thor’s life and fortuitous for his. Natalie Portman plays Dr. Jane Foster; a rather unconvincing astrophysicist who’s completely unexplained theory interweaves her fate with Thor’s. Portman does a great job playing the nerdy, cute-but-awkward scientist. The problem is that her character doesn’t have a genuine importance to the narrative. I also don’t buy her as an astrophysicist. Student? Sure. Scientist? Not really. Perhaps it’s her youth, or perhaps it’s the characters childlike inquisitive nature (a quality that really worked, I might add), but she just feels too young to be queen scientist. Also, her “theory” that brings her to find Thor is either never explained, or is explained way too late for anyone to give a shit. Or maybe is so early that by the time it was relevant, I had already forgotten. Either way it was handled poorly, because I sure don’t remember it.

The supporting cast is stellar as well. Colm Feore is an impressively dark and evil villain, the leader of the Frost Giants. He’s so menacing and often speaks in such a quiet, rumbling voice that sends chills down your spine (oddly appropriate considering he is a Frost Giant). Idris Elba plays Heimdall the watcher of Asgard and guardian of the Bifrost Bridge. He does an awesome job with his subtle looks and glares that show his doubt in the political landscape shifts of Asgard. The warriors three are pretty cool guys, despite their lack of screen time. I like that their all larger than life archetypes, providing a good contrast to the very realistic family and political drama of Asgard. My only problem is that these guys could have been taken a step further on that scale. The lovely Jaime Alexander portrays the strong and sassy Sif, a determined protector of Asgard, with a healthily implied soft spot for Thor. And then of course Anthony Hopkins is Anthony Hopkins. What else is there to say? Other than his performance in one scene in particular almost made me cry.

Asgard is also quite awesome. It’s this beautiful idyllic city made of gold. A land truly fit for a god. Somehow, this realm manages to feel both sci-fi and swords and sorcery fantasy. That’s no small feat. The downside of Asgard is despite its beauty and grandness, once we actually get into Asgard, the world is kind of small. Only two locations are ever featured, the royal palace and Heimdall’s bridge. Obviously that’s more of a nit-pick than anything else, but would have been so hard for Thor’s allies to meet at a tavern instead of the same palace room that shows up every other shot?

Earth is the buzz kill of the film (art imitates life!). Thor arrives in Butt-Fucking-Egypt, New Mexico, population: 6 or less. The town is more empty and lifeless than a town in a low budget RPG. This is presumably to emphasize the isolation of Thor, but he adjusts so well to Earth so fast, it’s hard to belief he feels so isolated. The personal journey of Thor and his romance with Jane is put on hyperdrive. The movie could have greatly benefited from an extra twenty minutes of character development sprinkled throughout, but then again, a lot of the Earth stuff just leaves you clamoring for more Asgard. Fortunately, Asgard is frequently revisited while Thor is on Earth, once again balancing the film’s structure.

Outside of the obvious incredible performances, the best part of this movie is its balance. It keeps action, drama, romance, and humor on an even keel. Each character has good and bad qualities, creating complex and deep dynamics between them. We have quite a few more action films to be released this year, like Green Lantern and Captain America. As of right now, Thor is the one to beat. Good luck you guys, because Thor is a great film with a great villain. If Red Skull can top Loki, I’ll be very impressed.

Thor is an enjoyable and fun ride that has the right amount of depth and complexity, balanced by great action and witty humor. Marvel continues their great pedigree of immensely entertaining and intelligently crafted movies based on their great characters. It should be interesting to see what comes from Avengers with so many excellent main characters sharing screen time with one another, but between the two Iron Man films, Hulk and now Thor, I have no reason to think that Marvel can’t pull it off with flying colors.

Thor gets a 9/10.


Pros:

Stellar Acting

Great Sense of Balance

Awesome Action

Genuine Humor

At least one amazingly cool and unexpected cameo

Dramatic, Deep, and Emotional Character Journey

Great Villain!

Movie made me like Thor.

Cons:

So much going on that story loses focuses

Thor’s inner journey feels a bit rushed. Acclimatizes to Earth a little too easily.

What was Jane’s theory?

Humans lack narrative relevance.

Earth=boring. Back to Asgard please!

Darcy is really annoying.

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