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May 9, 2011
 

Movie Mondays: Thor

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Written by: AHudson
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Title: Thor
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Writers: Screenplay: Ashley Miller, Zack Stentz, Don Payne/Story: J. Michael Straczynski, Mark Protosevich (created by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Jack Kirby)
Distributed By: Paramount Pictures
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins
Release Date: May 6th, 2011
MPAA: PG-13

Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Asgard’s mightiest warrior and prince, gets exiled by his father, Odin (Anthony Hopkins), after he makes the mistake of causing a war with the frost giants. He ends up on Earth in New Mexico, depowered and without his mighty hammer Mjölnir. He comes into contact with Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), an astrophysicist who helps him back on his feet as he tries to set things right and get Mjölnir back from S.H.I.E.L.D. But as brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) makes plans as Asgard’s newly made king to wreck the realm, can Thor regain his power and save Asgard in time?

Well, it’s that time again. Another summer and another lineup of blockbuster comic book films. And what better way to kick it off than with Thor? It’s been a long time coming for the God of Thunder and a year since we saw Mjölnir at the end of Iron Man 2.

For starters, this is a Marvel Studios (independent) production. If you’re familiar with films such as Iron Man or The Incredible Hulk, then you’ll see a similar style here. A mix of action and comedy, the real world amidst unreal happenings. Also, as with those two films, Thor has a unique set of cast and crew. Just as Iron Man took a chance with comedy director Jon Favreau, Thor takes a chance with Shakespearean director (and actor) Kenneth Branagh. Might seem like an odd choice for those unfamiliar with the comics, but for those of us who do know them, picking the person responsible for modern film adaptations such as Much Ado About Nothing and Hamlet would be the perfect fit for the film. Thor doesn’t have as much of the Shakespeare spirit as I would like, and it has a bit too much comedy over drama. Still, for what it’s worth, Kenneth Branagh gets the job done and I certainly wouldn’t mind him directing the sequels to Thor.

They also made an interesting choice with Chris Hemsworth as the God of Thunder himself, especially since he’s relatively unknown. Looks wise there will probably be debates as to whether or not he is the quintessential Thor, just as with any actor taking on a superhero. However, the important part is that he comes off as a likable and charming Thor. Don’t worry, he can also do the arrogant and angry parts as well. He is a root-able hero and does a great job acting, too.

Hammer Time (sorry, couldn't resist). From IMDB.com http://imdb.to/ltDw91

Tom Hiddleston is antagonizing enough to be the villain and also talented enough, although he wasn’t quite the Loki that I expected. Wily and shrewd he is, but not nearly as mischievous or playful as the Loki I know. However, that’s more due to the director’s and writers’ decisions than Hiddleston.

And what can be said of Sir Anthony Hopkins? He’s one of the finest living actors out there. It’s an honor having him choose Thor as a project to work on, and he does a great job as always.

Another Oscar winner is Natalie Portman. Again, we know she’s talented and there’s no worry of her doing a bad job. She doesn’t get as much flexibility as her other roles, but there’s just enough room to make her character interesting.

Probably won't work unless you know her well enough or if you're Thor. From IMDB.com http://imdb.to/hg4HNN

All the other actors do a good job, too; not a bad performance that I can think of. And in case you’re wondering, yes, Idris Elba fits the bill as Heimdall. I really didn’t have a problem with him being another race, especially considering that Asgard is a realm and not an ethnic region on Earth. Not everyone gets a huge chunk of screen time and I wish some had gotten more. Especially one of my favorite groups of all time, Lady Sif (Jamie Alexander) (who’s considered a member in this film) and the warriors three (Joshua Dallas as Fandral, Tadanobu Asano as Hogun, and Ray Stevenson as Volstagg), but with such a big cast, there wasn’t time for everyone.

Which leads us to the plot. It stays fairly faithful to the comics, although there are a few major changes. One major change, is that Thor isn’t Dr. Donald Blake. This makes sense in the movie’s plot, especially considering that the main event only takes place for about four days. But why force in a Dr. Donald Blake reference with a fake I.D. for Thor inspired by Jane Foster’s ex-boyfriend? Speaking of Jane Foster, she’s now an astrophysicist instead of a nurse. Which doesn’t bother me; I don’t care about a minor (or even some major) change as long as it serves the story and the story is good. But another big change along with her career, are two new coworkers with Jane Foster, scientist Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) and co-worker Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings). Again, the casting isn’t so bad compared to some movie made characters (*cough* Walker and Lord Norinaga *cough*), but with the plot being painfully stretched between New Mexico and Asgard, do we really need to be spending a lot of time with new characters?

This leads me to my biggest complaint of the film. Most of the time, Thor simply isn’t Thor. For the majority of the film, he’s powerless and chatting up with Jane Foster, Erik Selvig, and Darcy Lewis. Yes, I understand that this is a bit of how the plot went in the comics (though not this stretched out), and he needs to discover his noble purpose and reclaim Mjölnir to get his power. But it’s still frustrating to only witness the true power of Thor near the beginning and near the end of the film. Imagine Spider-Man if Peter Parker didn’t get bitten by the spider until the end, and the rest of the time he was hanging out with Mary Jane and two new friends. Imagine watching Blade where Blade lost his vampire powers and kept getting his ass kicked. This is how it felt watching Thor.

And I know what some of you are going to say: “Well, they’re setting it up for the sequels, duh!” But that’s the problem with the new Marvel films. Sometimes it feels like the plot is just serving as a set up for a set up for a set up. Don’t get me wrong, it’s cool how they’re tying it all in and getting ready for the big Avengers film. Still, I can’t help but wish for early films such as Batman 89 or Spider-Man where the films were whole and complete on their own with only the hint of a possible sequel.

From Comic Geeks (Facebook Page) http://bit.ly/m031Aj

However, while Thor may have its faults with the plotting and pacing, and it’s certainly not on the top of my favorite comic book film list, it definitely wasn’t a bad film. That’s the beauty of Marvel Studios’ independent productions. While it hasn’t achieved the magic of the Pixar touch, it’s gotten to the point where it’s decent at worst and amazing at best. No more worries about going in to watch a Marvel film and end up seeing a Howard the Duck or even an Elektra.

So while the film has a few flash in the pan moments, Thor has enough thunder going to make it worth seeing. Maybe not for the plot, but definitely for the acting, fun times, and a beautiful recreation of Asgard.

Andrew Hudson
ahudson@comicattack.net
@Hudsonian

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