Thor Review (2011)

Thor is the first film that I’ve seen at the movie theater this year since The King’s Speech. There has been nothing that I needed to see this year. I almost went to see Battle For LA but after it got panned by practically everyone I lost my enthusiam for it… Yeah? Well I don’t listen to critics, either. But usually when EVERYONE has the same opinion, there IS something to it. There are exceptions. I also can usually tell if I’m going to like  film or not by the trailer. I’ve rarely been wrong but occasionally a movie trailer editor suckers me or doesn’t do the film justice.

When I saw the trailer for Thor I wasn’t impressed. It looked like your typical slick, blue tinted, CGI heavy, time wasting, modern’ superhero flick with an uninspired cast a mediocre to atrocious story AT BEST. More trailers followed and it only reinforced my opinion. Then I ‘accidentally’ saw a film clip. I try to avoid seeing such things because I’d rather be surprised by the film. The clip (which turned out to be the worst moment in the entire film) made me think that it would be a complete dog.

The problem is that not only  is this a comic book film… And not only am I comic book nerd….  But this is one of the seminal characters of comicdom.  This isn’t Kick A$$ or The Losers or Dylan Dog or even Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (that one was passable) or any of these other wannabes… This is The Mighty Thor. So I HAD to see it.

I have to admit that I think the Walt Simonson run on Thor was one of the better takes on a mainstream superhero in comics history. Never was Thor more noble or heroic. There was an EPIC feel to the exploits of  Thor during Simonson’s run. Everything that possibly could have been thrown at Thor was. He was made horribly disfigured. He was given brittle bones.

His hammer and the mantle of Thor was taken up by a worthy alien (gotta’ love Beta Ray Bill).

He was turned into a frog (my favorite issues). But Thor would not be defeated. Always being too strong willed and clever to let his enemies win. He was sent to the underworld and wreaked so much Havok there that Hela, the goddess of the Underworld kicked him out and aid he couldn’t come back.

In one of the greatest one issue comic book battles EVER,  he took on the Midgard Serpent, the dragon-like creature that was so large that it circled the world and who was foretold to be the creature that would ultimately kill Thor. Every single page was a splash page and the end result was legendary. Oh, the comic book memories.

I would not expect the film to live up to this. But I was hoping for a good movie. What I got was what I expected. A film that had some impressive FX (at times) and poorly written story. I won’t say that this was a terrible film, I did marginally enjoy it, but in a ‘lower my intelligence and take it for what it is ‘ sort of way.

Kenneth Branaugh has made some good films (most of those Shakespearian), but he’s directed some terrible films, also, like  Dead Again, which I think was on one of my ‘Worst’ lists. If it wasn’t, it should be. I like Branaugh and think he’s an intelligent guy, so it always surprises me when someone who seems to be intelligent directs a film that is so much the opposite. The film does have have competent scenes, but for every one of those there is something that seemed to not have been thought about too long.

One doesn’t have to look any further than the writing credits. It has five writers and that’s too many cooks in the kitchen. It also has nods to three more but that’s just the tip of the hat to Thor’s creators: Stan Lee, his brother Larry Lieber and Jack Kirby.

Thor seems to be written by looking at demographics rather than to create a good story. There is a fanboyishness to the story and I mean that in the worst way. Some of the scene’s were unnecessary, not to mention stupid. Thor and Jane Foster’s dad in a bar, for instance.It was pandering, practically begging for 20 year olds to like it. There’s just enough here to make this PG-13 with a curse word or two. The PG-13 rating has really watered film quality down, but that’s a whole other bag of worms.

The story opens with ‘researcher’ Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), a friend and her dad monitoring strange weather occurrence s. This ‘research’ becomes increasingly important as the film goes on and I still have no idea why. Anyway, they see an odd aurora and a tornado and they drive straight for it. When they start getting close, Darcy (Kat Dennings) decides it’s too dangerous and hesitates, but Jane grabs the wheel in a true over the top fashion and forces them to drive right into the tornado. This is an illogical action even in a superhero film, not to mention an example of the writers not paying attention to what the others have written. Later in the film, Foster picks up Thor against her father’s wishes to drive him to where his hammer is located in the desert. She says this the craziest thing she’s ever done, but I doubt that since I’ve seen her take the wheel from her best friend and force her to drive her and her father into a tornado. Moving along…

They run into a man in the tornado (which is a little strange) with their vehicle. It’s Norse god Thor, of course.

We then get a flashback to show the audience that this is indeed Thor and after his display of reckless arrogance and just poor judgement he is stripped of his godlike power and banished to Earth until he’s proven himself ‘worthy’ , thereby regaining his soo-per-pow-ers.

There are some  impressive FX and sets concerning the world of Asgard along the way. The ‘rainbow bridge’ looked impressive . The updated ‘Ultimates’ line Frost giants were okay (but I prefer the old versions). I was hoping that they would at least just give a glimpse of the Midgard Serpent. They didn’t. I liked seeing some of the things in the film that I saw in San Diego, like Odin’s throne.

When he awakens he starts with the worst exchange of the film. “Hammer?! Hammmmeeerrrrr?!” and Dennings responds ” Yeah. We know you’re hammered.” No you just ran him over with your truck, but the writers thought it would be funny if they think Thor’s behavior would be explained by him being drunk. It’s not. Of course, we all know he’s Thor, but Jane Foster and company don’t know that so you would think that they would be a little more concerned that they just hit a guy with their car. Kat Dennings’ character by the way, has no purpose in the film other than to occasionally say something sarcastic. And for some reason they manage to hide her mammoth moneymakers under many layers of baggy clothing which might have been the greatest (and most unwanted) FX trick in the film.

There’s no reason why Portman’s character couldn’t have said  these things. It would have actually given her something that resembled a personality. Instead she just smiles pretty and is the vanilla love interest… Oh and she’s doing  ‘important research’. I won’t say she ‘phones it in’, but she is just ‘there’ in the film.

Thor is played by Aussie Chris Hemsworth. They should have looked a little longer. He comes off as a redneck  Norseman. I don’t think he looks like the comics Thor, either. Just becasue he’s blonde and larger than your typical actor doesn’t mean he looks like Thor. He IS adequate in the film, but just going by this, he’s never going to be accused of being a good actor. I’m probably being a little hard on him since the things that he had to say and the way he had to act in some scenes was not his fault. Thor in this film comes off as a fool. That’s not the character of Thor. Much like Superman would NEVER renounce his citizenship, Thor is not an idiot. You can write a character as being impulsive and prone to snap judgements without writing the character as a complete dumb@$$, which he is unnecessarily called in the film at one point.

The worst casting of the film wasn’t Hemsworth, though. it was the casting of Loki. Tom Hiddleston plays Thor’s arch enemy/brother as understated. Quiet, even. This is the god of mischief not the god of somnambulism. He is played entirely without a sense of humor that the best villains have. I always saw Loki as having a MAJOR ego. Thor was always the conservative compared to Loki. Hiddleston reacts many times in the film by… get this… staring blankly straight ahead. He almost looks like Loki, but doesn’t have the nose for him.

I could run right down the line and complain about the casting and the take on the character. Volstagg wasn’t fat enough. Heimdall was given FAR too much importance. I always pictured Hogun was more Mongolian looking. Rene Russo as a Norsewoman? The only casting I did not have a problem with was Anthony Hopkins. He’s a safe casting, but he is a good actor. He’s great here as the All-father Odin. He’s perfectly suited to playing quasi-superhero drama with a Norse mythology spin.

The biggest mistake of the movie is not letting Thor have his own film. Here we once again get Agent Coulson of SHIELD who is even a bigger part of this one than he was in Iron Man. Here he and the other members of the group, do illegal search and seizure of private citizens and  asks REALLY  politcally  motivated questions that have no place in a movie with Thor. I mean, really. he questions Thor about his fighting prowess and thinks he may have been trained possibly in the Middle East or in one of those Russian independent states like Chechnya. There’s no reason to believe he was trained as a terrorist. He’s anglo, not middle eastern. And he didn’t have a bomb strapped to his chest. That was incredibly forced into this story.

The story… The story… My digression has lasted quite a few paragraphs. As I said, Thor is portrayed mostly like a big dope in the film. Possibly to save on the budget, they did what many superhero films do: they take away what makes the super hero super. Not what makes them a hero, but what attracts most nerds to see the film. The supernatural. The super scientific. That kind of works with Thor since he had the same thing happen to him in the original comics. For a while he had amnesia and an alter ego named Don Blake. He became Thor when he found the hammer of Thor which if I remember right turned out to be his walking stick. Don Blake is mentioned here, but Thor never has amnesia. It might have worked better if he had and if the writers had made him work a little harder.

The hammer is never hidden and there is a strong ripping off… I mean.. riffing on the Sword In The Stone. However this never pays off and the audience is even robbed of the obligatory scene where he lifts the hammer from its resting place. Instead, as soon as he approves his worth the hammer comes flying from miles away. I hope that’s not a spoiler that he got his hammer back and that he eventually proves himself worthy.

I guess I’m not going to get too far into the storyline. You can see for yourself as to whether it’s a wonderfully crafted masterpiece or not (IT’S NOT). I do hope you’ll pay attention to the details. Things like when flying characters are dangling from a bridge why there’s any danger in falling…. FLYING characters! Remember that. I don’t think the horde of writers did.

Anyway, Marvel appears to be using the same marketing strategy that they do with their comics. They think the Avengers will be a big event movie that will draw fans from the Hulk, Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, etc… I STILL don’t like the horribly miscast Sam Jackson as Nick Fury and I’m getting tired of him turning up after the credits talking about the Avengers Initiative or whatever… I’m beginning to hope it fails or at least underachieves as petty as that seems. That being said I’ll be there for the midnight opening if I’m able.

There ARE things that I liked about the film. I did like the ‘Journey into Mystery’ billboard reference. Thor originated from Journey’s pages if you weren’t aware. I did like seeing the Destroyer, even if he was used rather unimpressively here. The Stan Lee obligatory cameo was funny. I don’t think it was bad, but all of its success will be because of the marketing and that it’s a big dumb CGI FX film that summer moviegoers flock to.  Show some stuff blowing up and spend tens of millions on ads and your film will probably make a dollar or two. Die Hard or Robocop or Raiders of the Lost Ark, this is certainly not.

Is it worth seeing? I guess, if you’re a fan that’s been dying to see Thor on a big screen, even if it is far from perfect. Just seeing a movie made about a character you love is enough for many. Just not for me. The film did entertain me, as I said. It did so in a way though, that now that I’ve seen it, I feel like I never have to see it again. Maybe the Captain America film will be better.

I’m being very generous here, but… 3 of 5


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