Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Movie Review: Thor

I wasn’t as stoked about Thor as I was about all the other comic book movies coming out this summer.
Actually that’s not entirely true. I’ve been going back and forth between Thor and Captain America as to which one I was least excited about, and that’s no knock because I was really stoked about both movies. It’s just that Green Lantern looks so damn good and X-Men: First Class is a Matthew Vaughn movie (Yes, I know there are other movies based at least loosely on comic books coming out, but these are the big four). The thing that gave Cap the advantage a month or so ago was that last theatrical trailer. It totally sold me on a movie that I wasn’t sure was going to work in the first place.

But again, that’s no knock on Thor. It’s not that I was any less excited about the adventures of the Thunder God, it’s just that the Sentinel of Liberty got a little extra shine. But Thor was still going to be an opening night experience if I could make it happen. Which I couldn’t.
I was supposed to go to the Movie Tavern with Evil and Monkey but the stupid place was only showing it in 3D. As I’ve documented before, I can’t see 3D movies. The shit just doesn’t work for me. I had corrective surgery for Amblyopia when I was younger and either the surgery or the problem in the first place left my eyes unable to process 3D (except for the attractions in Walt Disney World for some strange reason).
Evil called me after they saw it and said it was so damned good he was going to take his son to see it the next day and wanted to know if I wanted to bring Lil’ Troublemaker. It sounded good to me so I asked Lil’ Troublemaker if he wanted to go see Thor. He said no. I told him it was Thor like the Avengers cartoon, but with real people and he said no. I tried to show him the trailer and he didn’t even stick around for the whole thing. I can’t say I blame him – for all the color and action in the trailer, it doesn’t necessarily look all that super-heroic.
We got up Saturday morning and went to the comic shop for Free Comic Book Day. I’ve never been able to go before because I’ve always been working. It was not the big comic book party I was expecting. I’m not going into a whole lot of detail, but I’ll just say that I sure do wish I could run that store.
I met Evil & son in the theater and we had a lively discussion about Smallville and what a hilarious wreck of a television show it is. We also discussed the new Green Lantern Movie Master action figures (I’ll have a review up later).
Then it was Thor time.
If you’ve read my reviews before you know that I don’t do spoilers (mostly), so I’ll just be covering the basics here without giving anything away. Also, be aware that I have never really kept up with Thor as a Marvel Comics character. I know the story and I’ve read the odd issue of Avengers here and there, but I am no expert on Marvel’s version of Nordic mythology.
The movie opens with the scene from the trailers – Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and company are chasing odd atmospheric conditions through the desert. A familiar desert. And then the van the trio is in runs smack into the (former) God of Thunder. The scientists exit the van to check on the guy and our story kicks off, with Odin (Anthony Hopkins) narrating a Brief History of Asgard.
Which brings me to the first thing I really liked about this movie: the format. We spend the first portion of the movie getting to know Thor as a god; with all of his powers and abilities and foibles. It’s a nice change from the standard origin story where you spend a lot of time waiting to see the main character finally get to kick some ass. Thor gets to go crazy right at the beginning, so you can appreciate the character building stuff in the middle without waiting for awesome super hero action. It really helps to build up anticipation rather than impatience for the climax of the movie.
Along with the pacing and sequencing of the plot, the story itself is a huge success. Nothing is ever too complex and none of the plot points come out of left field. Every character has their place in the events and nothing feels forced or squeezed in just for fan service. Obviously we all know that Loki is ultimately the bad guy, but his story is told just as well as his brother’s (Thor, if you didn’t know). There is a great twist here that I’m not sure is from the comics (or the mythology, for that matter) and both of the character arcs feel full and logical.
The cast is outstanding. I don’t believe anybody but Chris Hemsworth could have played Thor. He has a charm and likeability that sell the character immediately. This is important because the character’s actions at the beginning make him a pretty unlikeable ass. I just happen to have watched Green Hornet over the weekend (not sure if I’ll do a review of that or not) and didn’t much care for it overall. A big part of the problem – as Jeffistopheles pointed out – was that Seth Rogan was just too much of an asshole. The same thing could have easily happened with Thor in the hands of a lesser actor. Hemsworth also handles the thunder god’s ignorance of modern Earth’s ways admirably. He never comes off as stupid or foolish; and that’s pretty impressive given a couple of the scenes that he has.
The rest of the cast holds up just as well. Naturally Anthony Hopkins is tremendous as Odin, pulling off fatherly love and godlike rage equally well; seeming wise the whole time. Jamie Alexander and Ray Stevenson stand out among the Warriors Three Plus One as Sif and Volstagg respectively; though all four were entertaining to watch and played their roles well. Idris Elba made Heimdall memorable and I’m not even going to touch on the controversy over that casting choice.
The Earthbound cast were also a lot of fun to watch, with Portman providing a sympathetic and entertaining Jane Foster supported by Stellan Skarsgård and Kat Dennings. The three carried the movie admirably when Thor wasn’t around. It isn’t often that a movie doesn’t struggle at least a bit when the central character isn’t on screen. I also loved that Agent Coulson got a bigger role this time around. His interrogation of Thor was great. Even Jeremy Renner’s brief cameo as Hawkeye was fun and gave him a chance to show a little character.
Thor’s visuals were outstanding except for a couple of shots where he’s flying, and I’m not going to get all bent of shape about that. The Frost Giants looked very real and part of the film. They didn’t have that weirdness that a lot of CGI characters have. Asgard was stunningly beautiful. If the filmmakers wanted to put out a video game that involved simply walking around Asgard I would buy it. I couldn’t get enough of that world. I can’t wait for the Blu-Ray so I can pause it and just look at everything.
All of the weather effects looked tremendous. There wasn’t a moment where I thought about the fact that I was looking at CGI.
The music was solid, with mostly score and only two instances of modern rock music intruding on the movie. And one of those was during the credits (the worst Foo Fighters song I’ve ever heard). The music of Thor brings up an interesting point, though: superhero movies just don’t have memorable songs anymore. Hardly any movies do. Where are our theme songs like Superman, Batman, Indiana Jones, Doc Savage and the like? Why aren’t there any more great, signature compositions that immediately bring the hero to mind? While I love Hans Zimmer’s score for Nolan’s Batman movies; it’s not like anybody is walking around humming, “DUNT chik-chik-chik-chik-DUNT DUNT DUNT!” And even if they were nobody would recognize it.
From beginning to end Thor is an absolute blast. The characters are all engaging and the story is executed flawlessly. Nothing takes you out of the fantasy and there are no segments that feel like dead weight. I loved it.
Not that I should have to tell you this, but be sure you stay after the credits.

5 out of 5 Mighty God of Thunder Dropkicks

Until next time, stay creepy
-Phantom

2 comments:

  1. I don't think I could've expressed my feelings about the movie any better. We're pretty much in total agreement.

    Also, as far as the twist you mentioned, it's absolutely the way things are in the comics, but not quite in mythology.

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  2. Yeah. I had to look it up once I got the chance. I believe I'm going to need some Walt Simonson Thor before too much longer.

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