Friday, May 6, 2011
My Super Important Review of: Thor
Alright all of my craze has lead up to this moment. As I ran out of the Arclight, I sped passed a bunch of satisfied customers and screamed "I MUST GET HOME TO WRITE MY THOR REVIEW!" and I got massive applause by everyone. I have a feeling there's a lot of sweaty guys in stained Marvel t-shirts a-clickity-clacking at their keyboards right now to tell you what I'm about to tell you.
Very good in fact. Exceeded my expectations, which I have to be honest were fair to middling. Thor was never a favorite of mine or even a character I ever gave a fair shake to. Only when plans for his movie were made did I ever buy a Thor comic. I found a lot of the premise interesting, but the execution was lacking. "They certainly have their work cut out for them", I thought. Thor exists between two worlds. Asgard and Earth (or Midgard, if you are a norse). Juggling the tone between a bright and colorful fantasy epic and a real world America is no easy feat. The trailers and commercials worried me a bit with it's attempts at humor. Is Kenneth Branagh, famous Shakespearean so and so, not taking this seriously? The line "Oh God, this is Earth isn't it?" made me pray to Odin that it would be cut out of the movie (he answered my prayers. It isn't).
Branagh had never made a big sci-fi epic before (although he did play Dr. Arliss Loveless in WILD WILD WEST and looked like Francis Ford Coppola Dracula while doing it, so don't get him wrongo), but he's an actor's director. He can add an element to what is usually the weakest part of these of movies and the rest could take care of itself. His involvement definitely raised my brow. I think after the success of IRON MAN and THE DARK KNIGHT, a lot of classy directors started to realize that these things can be done well and be entertaining. Only a few years earlier, Marvel scrambled to find a director for their Fantastic Four films and the best they could do was the guy who directed BARBERSHOP. You can never tell who is going to be the next Richard Donner or Tim Burton or Bryan Singer, so picking a director that's well known and good at what he does was incredibly difficult. Early scrips for THOR had the entire movie taking place in Asgard. No Earth. Which probably would have alienated it's audience who don't know who Thor is to begin with. He must go to Earth. He must have an Earthly hot love interest. These kind of studio notes could doom a project, but they made it work.
SPOILER TERRITORY (but since a lot of you don't plan to see it anyway, read and be convinced)
The movie starts out with an editing decision that had to be IRON MAN influenced. We see Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), Darcy (the amazing Kat Dennings) and the exact same character Stellan Sarsgaard played in GOOD WILL HUNTING, who are off in the middle of the desert chasing moon beams when they witness a bifrost deliver Thor to Earth. We then flashback to the real beginning. In IRON MAN, we see Tony Stark get kidnapped by the Ten Rings and it's exciting and shocking and then we go back to see how he got to Afghanistan. Here, we see that Thor was sent to Earth and then we go back to see why he was sent there. It's not a strong way to start the movie and there's really no reason why it shouldn't be linear. We are told a story by the King of the Gods, Odin (Anthony Hopkins) about how the frost giants tried to take over Earth once, but the Gods stopped it and now they are enemies with the frost people and even went to their planet to fuck shit up and take the Cosmic Cube from them (an object of much desire in the Marvel U). More presently, his son, Thor is about to be named King of Asgard because Odin is getting very old. During his coronation, an attempt to steal the cube is made and it riles up Thor enough to wage war on the frost dudes again. This beginning is very shaky and it gave me some worry. Things are supposed to be established during these opening 20 minutes and already there's a jumbled edit and a lot of complicated jabber going on with some scene chewing to boot. But once Thor takes his buddies to Frostland via an awesome people cannon run by IDRIS FUCKING ELBA, the movie really starts to take shape. The teleportation to the frost planet is very pretty and exciting and then a really cool battle happens on the planet. For his violent and headstrong ways, Odin banishes Thor to Earth and strips him of his powers. He also sends his hammer with him in case he decides to stop being an asshole.
We meet up with the humans again, and they take Thor into their custody. Now here's where that humor I was talking about was to be displayed front and center, but within the context of the scenes and the situation and without dwelling too much on camp, the humor works! After a bit of stuffy fluff on Asgard, some light ribbing really hits the spot. Kat Dennings is adorable and funny. NatPo also brings it and the chemistry when it comes to interacting with her co-star. And that Chris Hemsworth who got the part off of an amazing ten minute turn in 2009's STAR TREK really gets comfortable with the role here and does swimmingly. He becomes charming after all that yelling and fighting, which is not an easy transition to make but he does it. It's not easy to play a giant beautiful blonde model who is a God and also has the weight of responsibility on his shoulders. They do that post production eye color change to him, like Brandon Routh with SUPERMAN RETURNS but it kind of works. Makes him seem otherworldly. The townspeople try to lift Thor's hammer, but only someone WORTHY can pick it up. This leads to some of the funnest parts of the movie. SHIELD shows up and takes all of Jane's research. Thor promises to return it all once he gets his hammer back. He goes to retrieve it and the movie really starts to cook. He enters the SHIELD compound by ragdolling some motherfuckers and an amazing Hawkeye cameo happens which was totally done in post production but is blended in very well. Thor can't lift his hammer because he's still an asshole and it's very dramatic and done appropriately. Drama! Weight! Conflict!
Back on Asgard, Thor's brother Loki takes over as King and his dastardly plan is starting to come to light. Thor's buddies decide to go to Earth to tell him all the shit his bro is starting. Thor and Jane have some pretty awesome cuddle time when Thor starts to lighten up and tell her about his world in relation to hers. She's eating all this up because it's science shit and this guy is an Abercrombie and Fitch ad. It'd be like Anne Hathaway explaining Batman lore to me which she TOTALLY COULD NOW these days! His friends show up, but Loki sends the Destroyer with them to live up to his namesake by leveling New Mexico. Some really impressive action happens and Thor sacrifices himself to save the town. In doing so, he is deemed worthy of the hammer again and he gets his powers back. After hammering in an IOU for a future assbeating into the Destroyer's face, Thor and pals go back to Asgard to stop Loki. Thor promises to come back for Jane, as he has found an anchor to this realm of Earth. Thor and Loki battle, for he is opening up a portal that will destroy the frost world, for which Loki is actually one of. Turns out he's an adopted frost dude and now he wants to destroy his real home planet. In hopes to appease his father? In hopes to destroy his checkered past? It's never really clear with Loki, God of Mischief what his true agenda is. Right for the character I guess, but they could have fine tuned him a bit. Loki dispatches himself when his father and brother try to save him and Thor destroys the bridge to the other realms in an attempt to save the frost world. In doing so, he also destroys his only way back to Jane. He is a celebrated hero in his world, but his heart is left on Earth with Jane. She is feverishly surveying the heavens in hopes of finding him. And that's how it ends. How fucking beautiful is that? I am honestly pretty knocked out over how much they made me care about the love story. I was already won over and then they hit me with the new Foo Fighters song, WALK. If that isn't a cherry on top, I don't know what is. And it fits so perfectly.
THOR is a whole lot of fun and excitement and impressive action and performances. Characters you end up loving and relationships that stay with you. The action is no game changing Wachowski shit, this being Branagh's first time with this sort of thing, but I think there is enough effort and the other parts of the movie are strong enough that it all works out as a whole. There were a lot of dutch angles in this and at first I didn't know what to think of them. My final decision lands on "pretty cool". THOR is like nothing I've ever seen yet still establishes strong super hero thematic elements into the mix without seeming old hat. The tragic thing is the deck is stacked a little bit against THOR. There is a severe lack of interest in this character because nobody knows much about him. This movie needs people to give it a shot. Take a leap of faith. I trust that word of mouth is going to be on this movie's side. There were lots of females in the audience tonight. More than usual. I'm pretty sure they enjoyed themselves, too. The stakes are not too high with THOR. AVENGERS is already filming, so Hemsworth is already locked into returning to screens as Thor and Marvel has tons of other projects to keep them afloat. THOR seems to be like a bonus. It came at just the right time where they were comfortable enough to roll the dice with this weird concept between two successful IRON MAN films and a sure thing like THE AVENGERS. They kind of have nothing to lose with it. And neither do you. You will have a fun time and get to hear an Iron Man reference. I will be seeing it again. Just thinking about it makes me feel like I did back in those 90's summers. And that's a great feeling.
I give the mighty THOR three stars out of four.
*** out of ****
I saw the new GREEN LANTERN trailer today and...well, I'm glad I didn't use any disappointment on this one because something tells me I'm going to need more than I bargained for in June. Oh well. Big headed Peter Sarsgaard will be fun to chuckle at, I guess. Remember when he was a respected actor? Those were the days. I leave you with the Foo Fighter's new song WALK off their awesome new album. SOMEONE MADE A THOR MUSIC VIDEO! ANOTHER BONUS! CHIPS ON CHIPS, MOTHER FUCKERS!
Until next time!