It’s great when a piece of entertainment lives up to fantastic concept art like the one above.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Thor has had some great runs in the comics but he’s arguably better known as one of the “Big Three” in the Avengers alongside Captain America and Iron Man. With the Avengers movie officially in full throttle since the post credits sequence in Iron Man, the question posed by a potential Thor movie wasn’t an “if” or even a “when,” but a question of “how?”
It’s undoubtedly one of the Marvel properties that poses the most challenges in being adapted to the big screen due to the vast mythology behind it and its refusal to adhere to the mostly street level nature of the Marvel Universe. How to reconcile the story of a guy that builds an armor to fight crime with an epic tale of a struggle between gods? And how to do it without upsetting a largely Christian audience? Out of all the movies that have been announced from Marvel Studios, it was Thor that I was most curious about because of these very questions.
So how did they tackle these issues?
The first chunk of the film is set mostly in Asgard and it’s front-loaded with exposition. In many ways, it was smart to throw all that information head first and get it out of the way as soon as possible but, at the same time, the character aspect of the film is forced to take a backseat and it’s difficult to care for what’s going on during those initial 30 minutes or so. I’m also curious as to how someone that’s not familiar with the comics (or even Norse mythology in general) will digest all this information as well as some of the more wilder concepts in the film but I digress. The decision to define the Norse gods as basically space aliens has been frowned upon by hardcore fans but it was an elegant solution to avoid potential negativity from the right wing (though with some neopagan groups already being vocal against the film’s portrayal of Norse gods, I suppose it was a no-win situation either way) and, to be honest, it’s an alternate interpretation of the mythos that could work even in the comics. Science fiction is more palatable and mainstream than fantasy, after all.
The movie begins in earnest once Thor is banished from Asgard to Earth and the film turns into a successful, if trite, tale of an arrogant man that learns humility in the face of dire circumstance. The plot, though punctuated by some exciting action sequences, is more PG than most superhero movies but the character moments, both high and low, are great and go a long way towards making you truly feel invested in these characters and their world. The comedy succeeds in a similar level with predominantly “fish out of water” humor that is fresh and spot-on.
Thor himself, as he’s portrayed in the film, is a little more green and reckless than I would’ve preferred but it’s for the sake of the character arc and, thankfully, Chris Hemsworth’s charismatic performance easily sells you on the part. I thought Robert Downey Jr. would steal the show in the Avengers but (and this wasn’t apparent in the trailers) Hemsworth might just give him a run for his money. His Thor is great in every level much like the rest of the characters in the film who are wonderfully cast and written. Brief banter between the Warriors Three’s gives them personality and quickly defines them individually and even Kat Dennings, who is chiefly comedy relief, gets to shine in places. The cast is marred only by Natalie Portman not because of her acting but because of the extreme flatness in which her character was written. It seems like all she was asked to do in the film was smile and make puppy eyes and her Jane Foster contributes little to nothing in the way of the actual plot. It’s a noticeable blemish in a film that’s otherwise rock solid.
The climax of the film, and this goes back to that awesome concept art, has Loki and Thor duking it out in the Rainbow Bridge and it is a suitably epic battle. It’s a personal fight between two brothers but the larger stakes within it are set high and it works equally well in both levels. Thor makes a big sacrifice during this end sequence and this leads to a rather bittersweet ending that was incredibly refreshing in a world where superhero movies conclude almost too neatly.
In many ways, Thor is rather vanilla in terms of plot but there is great action in it and more character moments than any other superhero movie I can think of (wait until you see Odin on Sleipnir or Sif’s ass-kickery). This is easily one of the better movies to come out of Marvel Studios and the sheer difficulty in making such a larger than life character work in film makes this all the more impressive. Kenneth Branagh has done good and this movie is absolutely worth your money.
PS: The sound effects are really, really good too.Posted on May 15, 2011 in Comics, Movies, Reviews |