Hey everyone. Capone in Chicago here.
I firmly believe that the key to any good movie based on popular source material—whether it be a comic book, a best-selling novel, a well-regarded play, etc.—is that the film adaptation appeals beyond those who are fans of the original material to begin with. I shouldn't have to be a fan of the Thor comic books, or even the Marvel Universe, to like the movie version of THOR. I may get more of a charge watching the characters from the Thor comics come to life if I were a fan going in, but I should get a pretty substantial jolt just seeing the imaginary realm of Asgard for the first time, or the incredible costumes, or The Destroyer, whether I've heard of these characters or not.
I'll admit, I'm kind of tired of positive reviews for Thor that incorporate the notion that "it's not a perfect film, but..." or "it's got problems, but..." Guess what, people? No movie is perfect and every movie has problems. Those are wasted words. The truth of the matter is that THOR is the best comic book movie since IRON MAN, and in some ways, it even surpasses that movie. The primary reason for its excellence is two-fold. Kenneth Branagh's direction is exactly what Asgard needs. After decades of directing films based on Shakespeare's works, he knows how to direct pomposity and make it sound cool. More than half the movie is set in a realm where everyone is a god, or thinks they're a god, and Branagh is gifted at taking dialogue that is meant to be heard in the furthest reaches of any size room and unstuff its hot air.
The other reason THOR works is Chris Hemswoth's thoroughly enjoyable performance as the God of Thunder. I particularly liked the scenes of him on Earth, trying to blend in but still assuming that those around him are lesser beings (well, they are, right?). Thor is banished to Earth without the source of his power, the leather-strapped hammer called Mjolnir. He's still a strapping giant of a man, so even without the incalculable power of the hammer, he's still a pretty strong dude. The banishment comes at the hand of his father the ruler of the Nine Realms, Odin (Anthony Hopkins), after Thor disobeys his order not to seek reprisal after a team of Ice Giants manage to sneak into Odin's Vault and almost steal back the source of their icy powers. They are stopped, but Thor is riled up enough to sneak out of Asgard with his warrior pals and brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston), who may have had a hand in coaxing Thor to go on this mission. As a result, he loses his place as the new king, is sent to Earth, and his hammer is sent as well with explicit instructions only to be wielded again by someone worthy.
I do want to single out Hiddleston's performance as Loki as being one of the best in the film. He never crosses over into a stock villain territory. In fact, he's smarter and more subtly persuasive than anyone around him. And in many ways, you kind of feel sorry for the guy for not being as handsome or strong or well regarded as his hot-headed brother. He also looks good in a horned helmet. It's encouraging and refreshing to have an adversary who possesses power in a comic book movie use primarily his smarts to arrange the world exactly how he wants it. Hiddleston is an actor I've never seen before, and I'm thrilled to know he's a primary villain in THE AVENGERS movie.
This would be a good time to admit, I was never much of a Thor comic book follower, although I did follow him through the pages of The Avengers. So I wasn't anticipating seeing Asgard, the Warriors Three, Heimdall, and everyone else in that realm on the big screen for the first time. Still, I was impressed by what I saw—a vast, fully-realized landscape of where both science and magic mesh as seamlessly as metal and cloth do in this plane of existence. I love the idea of the rainbow bridge (which looks nothing like a rainbow or a bridge) guarded by a giant Idris Elba as Heimdall.
With Asgard in peril, Odin going into a kind of regenerative hibernation, and Loki taking over the throne of his realm, Thor on Earth does what he can to retrieve his hammer and return to Asgard, which he doesn't know is in peril. I actually love the scenes of Thor on Earth. I've seen many reviewers call Hemsworth's Thor "charming," but that isn't really true. It's Jane Foster's (Natalie Portman) reaction to him that makes him charming. Foster is a scientist investigating atmospheric disturbances in the New Mexican desert with her partner Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard) and assistant Darcy (Kat Dennings), when they literally run into Thor during a sandstorm. Pretty soon (as you know from the tag at the end of Iron Man 2) SHIELD comes to take charge of things when Mjolnir is found. Clark Gregg's Agent Coulson (as much a linking thread in the Marvel films as Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury) is the man in command, who at first confiscates all of Dr. Foster's equipment and research, but then enlists her team to help SHIELD.
Getting too much more into the plot than this probably isn't a good idea, but let me mention two things. One, as much as I love Kat Dennings in just about anything, she's kind of wasted here as nothing more than a character on hand to provide a hipster vibe. Her character could have easily be excised, and you never would have missed her. Second, yes there is a fun post-credits scene linking Thor to The Avengers. However, an almost ridiculously intercut moment occurring in the middle of the movie is worth mentioning. You may know what I'm talking about, but if you don't I won't be specific. Another Avengers character is included in the sequence in which Thor is running to retrieve Mjolnir from SHIELD. But if you really watch his inclusion in this sequence, he doesn't interact with any of the other characters, except by radio, clearly indicating that his inclusion in this movie was shot after the rest of the film was. It seems so blatantly crowbarred into the movie that it's a huge distraction. And yet, I kind of like having this character included here. I'm torn, but again, it could have been taken out and I never would have missed it.
And if you have the chance to choose between seeing THOR in 3D or not, please don't. Despite having so much time to do a bang-up job post-converting to 3D, it really doesn't do anything to improve this movie. Other than this little sticking point, and a couple of distracting minor characters, THOR is a great fantasy-action work with a stellar cast, beautifully designed sets and CG-created landscapes, wonderfully conceived heroes and villains, and enough humor and lighter moments to keep things from collapsing under their own weight. And for the Marvel diehards, you get your moments too, from quick references to other heroes in this universe to previews of big things to come. I think you're going to dig it immensely.
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