Film Review: Thor
As it stands right now in Hollywood, if you want to make a superhero flick, you can go one of two ways. You can either use the source material as a springboard for a complex, powerful, character driven story that breaks new ground, as per the wonderful Dark Knight, or you can slam a few too many tequilas and go for the fun, enjoyable-as-hell popcorn awesomeness of Iron Man.
But there are pitfalls.
Mess up the first option, and you end up with the pretentious yawn-fest of Ang Lee’s Hulk. Mess up the second, and you get a bland splatter of charmless noise and fury that signifies nothing. I’m looking at you, Fantastic Four.
With Thor, Director Kenneth Branagh, (yes, THAT Kenneth Branagh) arrives at the Iron Man/Dark Knight cross-roads, makes his choice, spins the wheel Stark-ward and hits the gas hard.
Thor is without question aiming for the popcorn-fun side of the coin. Question is, does it hit?
Let’s get right to the trendy tech question first: Should you pay extra for the 3D version or not? Well, I chose to don the glasses, and can report that some of the 3D panning shots across Asgard and the other realms of existence are genuinely very impressive indeed. However, one of the problems with current 3D tech is that you actually lose a not insignificant amount of brightness and colour definition in the image, and some of the gloomier scenes set in the Frost Giant Realm of Jotunheim really do suffer for it, often being just that little too dark to make out clearly what’s going on.
Additionally, 3D still struggles to convey fast movements clearly, and in a movie with a lot of fighting, that becomes an issue. It’s nothing like as bad as The Bourne Epilepsy, but number of the battles could certainly have used a little more visual clarity. To what degree these issues are resolved by the brighter, more vivid image of the 2D print I can’t say, as I’ve not seen it. But I’d certainly have traded the one or two genuinely cool 3D shots for someone cranking the brightness dial a bit and un-blurring the fight sequences. So, make of that what you will.
Now, what about the actual film?
3D or otherwise, it’s actually quite a lot of fun, which surprised me, as I expected it to suck quite a bit.
Thor is one of the Asgard, an extra dimensional race of beings who are, for all intents and purposes, Gods. He’s the firstborn son of Odin (an effortlessly stand-out performance from Antony Hopkins) and the next in line for the Royal Throne. He’s also a selfish, arrogant, warmongering thug, and before long, his escapades cause an inter-dimensional war between the Asgaurd and the Frost Giants. As a result, Odin banishes his son to Earth, to live as a mortal until his experiences as a normal man teach him not to be quite such a jerk.
Basically, Daddy pulls a reverse-Christ on Junior’s spoiled, frat-boy backside.
And here’s where things could have come unstuck.
See, up until this point, the film has been mostly about cool visuals and supernatural smack-downs between Gods and Frost Giants. Those things work really well in the first act. The actual story, dialogue and characters have been mostly ”meh.”
Not terrible. Just “meh”.
But when the action moves to Earth, the cool visuals and fights go away, and at this point I braced myself for a dull middle act full of “meh” where nothing cool or interesting happened. Thankfully, at this point, the script-writers appear to have upped their game a tad. Or maybe sent these scenes off to the scriptwriters for Iron Man.
Either way, the character moments and dialogue in the Earth-bound middle act improve quite a bit. The script gets more mileage than I expected out of a de-powered Thor strutting around a sleepy American town, acting like a roaring Norse God, and getting tasered for his trouble. And there’s a fantastically funny sequence dealing with the reaction of the local townspeople when they stumble upon Thor’s lost hammer. So I actually ended up quite enjoying the second act, and when the third act full of explosions and divine Norse smitery showed up, it was the icing on the cake rather than a welcome relief from yawn-ville.
Problems? Yeah, there are a few. As has been mentioned, the story isn’t amazing, but it’s perfectly serviceable for a fun superhero flick. The characters aren’t that gripping or memorable, but they don’t put you off the film in any way and a couple of them do make you grin. All in all, the movie comes out pretty well. If Iron Man is the A+ of popcorn superhero movies, then Thor is a solid B.
There is one thing that annoyed me though.
Natalie Portman’s character never really does anything to warrant the attention Thor gives her.
I mean, here’s this superhero God who hangs out with cool immortal warrior babes all day. Portman’s mortal scientist really needed to have stood out as something special in order to get his attention. Maybe show great courage saving his life, or be a whirl-wind of charisma and intelligence. In short, she’d need to do something to make the audience understand why Thor ends up so smitten with her. But the film fumbles this quite badly. Portman’s character never really does anything except stand there, occasionally look amazed by the special effects, and giggle when Thor walks around flexing his abs of awesome.
Well, okay, that’s not strictly true. She does hit him with her car a couple of times.
Wait a second.
Maybe THATS’s the key to an effective chatup line. Hang on, be right back…
…no. Turns out it doesn’t work. By the way, does anyone know how to clean a supermodel out of a radiator grill?
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