Movie Review: Thor

Thor

I owe Marvel comics and Stan Lee an apology.  For quite some time I have poo-pooed most efforts to convert each and every random superhero in the Marvel Universe into a blockbuster movie… and time after time I’ve found myself eating a large plate of crow.  I was behind Spiderman, I used to enjoy reading the comic found in the newspaper… I was behind the Hulk films (both of them) thanks to a love of the Bill Bixby/Lou Ferrigno TV show in the 70s… X-Men, why not… but Iron ManThor?  Nick Fury?  Captain F’ing America?  Really?  Then to attempt to make some catch all superhero movie like The Avengers seemed like nothing but a cash grab wallowing in mediocrity in order to help Stan Lee get his ya-yas out in the twilight of his years.  Today I shall sit down and eat a heaping serving of crow and admit I was wrong.

For as much as I’ve criticized all of the above, and for as much as I stated I wouldn’t waste my time or money on something as silly as Thor, I was shocked to find myself not only going to see it last night, but thoroughly enjoying myself.  In a last minute decision, when I got home last night my girls asked if we could go see the movie, and being the sucker that I am for those smiley little faces, I acquiesced.  A bit late for a school night, but what the hell, you only live once… and I couldn’t think about what to make for dinner anyway, popcorn and hot dogs sound good enough.

My six year old didn’t make it very far into the film before starting to whine about going home and eventually conking out… but my eight year old loved every minute of it (although she admitted that she didn’t know too much about Norse mythology… which I then told her that most people here in the US really don’t know much about it either and that she already knew more than most.  I helped her fill in some of the questions) and didn’t even complain when I told her we had to stay to the end of the credits.

Where to begin on reviewing this film?  Let’s begin with the plot in a nutshell.  We open in the real world with Natalie Portman, Kat Dennings and Stellan Skarsgard driving through the desert looking for something that Jane (Portman) is researching when the sky opens up and a man suddenly appears out of nowhere.  Portman and her team are astrophysicists (Dennings is her intern) seeking proof of wormholes, and this hunky blond dude pops out of one.

From there we travel to Asgard, the seat of Norse power and are introduced to Odin Allfather (Sir Anthony Hopkins), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and the rest of the Aesir.  At this point we are in the realm of mythology, which is handled in a way that I was floored by… instead of these people being gods, they are highly advanced alien races who watch over the nine realms of the universe and have been mistaken in the past as gods (not that they try to dissuade that impression, they go with it).  As events unfold in Asgard, Thor shows his arrogance and inability to follow the orders of his father thus endangering his people and starting a war with the frost giants, in an awesome and epic battle scene, and ensuring that he is banished from Asgard and sent to Earth to be a mortal man until he learns humility and earns the powers of Thor which he took for granted.

Now the story has caught up to where we left the science team and the sexy delusional man in the desert who is walking around talking about being Thor and scoffing at anyone trying to help a god.  Fortunately, we have Kat Dennings as comic relief in a far too small role with all of the best one liners.  The looks that she gives Thor as he walks around shirtless are perfect… and of course it’s Portman who is most taken with his Nordic (actually, he’s an Aussie) charms, even though they all believe him to be a delusional homeless guy… who happens to be cut (Dennings’ words, not mine).

The story then bounces back and forth between Thor on Earth and Loki in Asgard as the mechanisms for what has been a rather large and grand master plan by Loki the Trickster are underway.  I must interject one wonderful thing about this film… Kenneth Branagh, the Shakespearian actor/director/scholar who I didn’t expect would handle this story well at all did an amazing job.  Not only did he manage to rein in Hopkins scenery chewing, but he nailed Asgard and its mythologies… particularly Loki.  A testament to both director and actor, he was magnificent and very much in keeping with the Loki of myth.  Also, the Bifrost bridge and Heimdall (Idris Elba), Scandinavian issues with a black actor portraying the gatekeeper to Asgard aside, were freaking amazing.

I shan’t go into any further details of the plot simply because the fun of it is watching it unfold.  As for the performances… a bit odd to see Portman as a physicist, but she was alright… nowhere near as annoying as say Denise Richards or Tara Reid trying to pass that off… or Mark Wahlburg for that matter.  Chris Hemsworth was quite compelling as the titular hero and I’ve already mentioned Hopkins and Hiddleston.  Thinking back, I can’t really fault any performance in this movie.  And for as much as Asgard is all special effects, it is in it’s own way a character, which I can’t fault either… extremely well done and a pleasure to be in the midst of.  The lovely Rene Russo is one actress who does not get enough to do considering who fantastic she is in general… but c’est la vie.

The last thing I will mention are the tie-ins.  Again, for as critical as I was regarding The Avengers and the attempt to tie all of these random superheroes together, I think I now see the point and how huge the task has been and how well it’s being tied together.  There was passing mention of Stark (Iron Man), a scientist working on gamma radiation (Hulk) and Jeremy Renner in an uncredited role as Hawkeye… and if you stay through the end of the credits you will see Sam Jackson as Nick Fury having a chat with someone and revealing what will become a plot point to The Avengers.  Also, Stan Lee makes his requisite cameo, and it’s a clever and fun one at that.  Hell, even the trailers prior to the show were telling.  In Captain America you hear the name Stark dropped, but obviously Stark Sr.  Well played.

For someone who claims to not like superhero movies, I seem to like them quite a bit.  Perhaps it’s that I would like to not be the kind of adult who likes superhero comics… which for the most part, I don’t.  The comics I’ve enjoyed get to be called “graphic novels” (I know… it’s bullshit, they’re comics, just with dirty words and pictures and gore).  But who am I kidding.  I love them.  They are fun, escapist and spectacular when done right… and Thor nails it.  What more could I ask for in my entertainment.

By Grabthar’s Hammer… wait… wrong one,
Cornelius J. Blahg

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