Friday, May 13, 2011

The God of Thunder – THOR: A Movie Review

Back to writing after an unplanned “technical difficulties” outage on Google's end, I'd like to talk about what exactly it was that I did with my “day off”. I've written before about my excitement regarding the Avengers Movie Crossover project that Marvel Studios is in the midst of, and my wife and I took some time out yesterday to go watch the newest installment of that line of films, Thor.

Now I kinda wish I'd gone to this panel at C2E2.

Thor is one of those characters that I never got into reading, at least not in his own books. I've got at least one friend who is very, very into the character, and if you are at all into the Universe-wide crossovers that Marvel sometimes does, (and I am) then you'll find yourself reading an awful lot about him over a period of decades as a comic fan. Before seeing the movie, I brushed up on the Thor basics that I didn't already know, filling in a few gaps to feel qualified to watch the movie from my typical comic-geek default perspective.

I like to watch comic book films from the perspective of someone who has a great deal of respect for the source material, and will be keeping an eye out for “authenticity”, but that's about where I stop. In my opinion, some leeway has to be given to account for the fact that a 100% faithful translation of precise costumes, plots and dialogue from comic to film screen would in most cases be completely unwatchable. Thor is an excellent example of a comic that would see a completely faithful translation not only completely fail in feeling like it could exist in the same world as the Iron Man films, but would come off as kind of... silly. If your knee-jerk reaction is to disagree, I have only one word. Volstagg. I love the comic character, but making this character more “faithful” by casting him as morbidly obese and then dressing him in a pink waitcoat and bright yellow trousers would not have improved this film.

Insisting on this, or Hogun's Mongol Cap and Fu Manchu mustache makes you "that guy."

For those people who haven't seen the movie yet, would like a quick and dirty opinion on it, but don't want any spoilers, I can oblige. I liked the movie a lot, it had a lot of elements to juggle, and I feel it did an admirable job balancing them while telling a story worth watching. If there is any criticism the film deserves, it is perhaps that too much screen time was lent to “Avengers Crossover” subplot at the expense of the films core story, and the development of some of the supporting characters. So, if you are concerned about spoilers about particular plot points, this is where you may wish to stop reading, you have been warned.

Thor tells three stories, with three villains. The first is “Thor protecting Asgard from the Frost Giants”, with the villainous King Laufey as antagonist. The second, which is probably the main plot is “Thor protects Two Worlds” with his brother Loki, the piece's main villain and most interesting character as villain. The last is “Thor Gets Grounded to Earth, runs afoul of SHIELD, and learns to not be a douche”, with Thor vs. himself as primary conflict. The movie had to balance and connect these plots while working in a lot of detail for a large supporting cast, while making sure principal characters didn't get shafted.

Thor, Loki and Odin... I initially didn't like the idea of Anthony Hopkins for the role. He was a good choice.

We get a good dose of CGI action, introduction to most of our primary cast and the fighting styles of Thor, Loki, Sif and the Warriors Three in the action sequence near the beginning that keeps the first third of the movie from being too slow. Most comic movies have to spend half the first film doing the “origin story”, where Thor tells us, “he's Thor, he's a god, he lives in Asgard, 'nuff said.” I particularly liked getting to see supporting characters perform their own schtick, and Loki's use of deception, magic and misdirection even in the middle of a comic book punch-up was really cool. (More about him later.)

When Thor is banished to Midgard (Earth) for disobedience, arrogance and foolishness indicating that he is unworthy of his powers, we have the first major opportunity for the film to fall flat. What could have been a long sequence of painful forced humor about “Thor doesn't understand modern culture” (there's some of this, but it is kept to a tasteful level) and “A world that has superheroes all over the place refuses to believe in a god of thunder” is handled well. What passes for an origin tale occurs here, as Thor comes into his own, SHIELD becomes aware of him and he of them, and he becomes a hero in fact as well as name. Thor's “human secret identity” is worked in, his place as Ancient God and Modern Superhero is explained, and we're set up for sequels, ready to go back to Asgard. In a rare misstep in this part of the film, my wife and I agree that his kiss with Dr. Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) would have been more romantic had they left it as a kiss on her hand.

We thought for a moment that they'd leave it here, instead of having them start making out. Dammit, Hollywood.

The last sequence with the confrontation with Loki and restoration to his rightful place was made good because the plot did right by Loki along the way. The Frost Giant prince stolen at birth and raised as Asgardian has everything from origin through motivation, method of operation and even costume nailed by the producers, and they managed to be faithful to all of it without it being convoluted or silly. His deception and betrayal (which is kind of “his thing”) of everyone, including his real father, the King of the Frost Giants is all out of a desperate need to prove himself to the only father he's ever known. His revelation of what he really is plays into his existing feelings of inadequacy in Thor's shadow, and makes him behave... well, like a comic book villain.

The cameos from Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye (blink and you'll miss it) and Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury (we knew we'd see him pop up again) were an additional nice touch, but the real SHIELD agent standout returns from Iron Man 1&2. Agent Phil Coulson gets even more screen time than usual, continuing to walk the line between “I'll kill you if you don't cooperate” and “No, really... I'm a good guy.” We're pretty much solidly set up for The Avengers here, whether Thor gets a proper sequel of his own or not. I look forward to, and am curious about what role SHIELD will play in the upcoming Captain America film, seeing as how it seems to be set in WWII.

"Expect me to show up a LOT, as Samuel L Jackson with an eyepatch popping up everywhere is distracting."

So far, a great start to the summer blockbuster season, and I'll probably wait until Cap makes his way to screens for my next big geek film, as I'm not sure I care about DC's Green Lantern, and as a child of the 1980s, I despise the Transformers movies. Anyone else see Thor and have something to say?

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Astronomy Pirate said...

I saw Thor, and I have to agree that to much was sacrificed for the sake of the Avengers movie. But all in all it was a good movie. Some bits of the story felt a bit rushed, but when you have the 'rainbow bridge' I guess it makes it easy to switch locations pretty easily.

Also, I didn't realize Hawkeye was in the movie until you mentioned him, and then I figured out who it was. That was a pretty great scene.

Alpha said...

That Hawkeye comment really blew my mind.

Electric Addict said...

looks like a decent movie. i've heard good and bad

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Electric Addict Set #7

The Angry Lurker said...

No and wasn't going to but now after you're review I might give it a go.

Dave said...

Ill defo watch this.

Patti D. said...

haha, very nice review, thanks.

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