Thursday, May 19, 2011

Counter-review for Thor, or "Analysis Brit Doesn't Understand"

(Here's a review from our friend, Nick Michael. He's far more seasoned than I am at reviews, so expect quite a bit more depth to his. I for one always enjoy reading his work, so tuck in and enjoy! -Brit W.)

Counter-Review: Thor

For me, the act of actually going to see Thor was a Herculean act itself. Trying to organize my Tucker Street Irregulars was as much an effort in herding cats as anything I’ve experienced in the past few years. I mention this because I think it had something to do with our expectations for the movie itself.

As a geek, the film run up to the Avengers has left me both excited (Joss Whedon) and hesitant (replacing Ed Norton as The Hulk)… and Thor? Well, Thor has always been the sort of red-headed stepchild of the Avengers core (so long as you don’t count the unpopular B and C level members they were churning out in the 60s and 70s… *cough*Wonderman*cough*). It’s not as if Marvel or DC haven’t used mythological gods before or since. Hell, recently there’s been a minor resurgence of demigod “The Mighty Hercules” in several Marvel books, but Thor has always been key and core to the Avengers line, if he hasn’t always been able to support his own title to the heights of popularity that other Marvel A-listers have. I mean, even Ant-Man is more interesting a character (which may lend itself to the rumor that Simon Pegg wants the role) than Thor, even through his name changes (Ant-Man, Giant-Man, Goliath, The Wasp, YellowJacket) and forced villainy (in order to make the reader hate him, Marvel writers made him a wife-beater).

That being said, it took almost two weeks of daily “will we/won’t we” hemming where instead we stayed back home and watched what we ultimately thought would be better (or lazier) entertainment (such as this year’s 2-part Community finale or Dudley Moore’s original Arthur) before finally taking the plunge and seeing Thor.

And, well… it came out pretty much as I expected. The film was a mix of Shakespearean tragedy (which I secretly think was the reason they hired Brannagh to direct) and Smallville melodrama.

All the Asgard sequences, with the exception of Loki’s short hop to kinghood, were suitably interesting and artistically breathtaking. Everything from the Rainbow Road to the expansive sitting rooms of the gods were awe-inspiring, to say the very least. Anthony Hopkins brought a decent amount of gravitas to his role of Odin, even if his fall into the “Odinsleep” looked more like a stress induced heart attack and Rene Russo was thoroughly underused as Frigga, given a bare few lines to speak after her husband is incapacitated. The true gems of Asgard, though, were Sif and the Warriors Three. I would much rather have seen a movie about them than Thor, thanks to how they were characterized… even if I could have done without the lame “Volstagg’s a glutton” jokes.

Then there was the fictional small town in rural New Mexico, which looked exactly like they built it overnight, a throw-back to the film towns of old… all façade, no interior… a problem that continued through to the Earth-centered actors. Natalie Portman’s Dr.Jane is no physicist… not that physics is all that important to this movie. At least in both Iron Man movies there were very specific and cinematic engineering sequences to lend credence to Tony’s building genius. Here all Dr.Jane has to rely on is the fact that she has enough pull to get a family-friend/elder colleague (Stellan Skarsgård) and a not at all convincing work-study/grad student (Kat Dennings) on a trip to the middle of the desert to prove that she is, in fact, a scientist. No fancy equipment (until SHIELD comes to steal it) and very little tech-speak beyond the often repeated Einstein-Rosen Bridge.

Overall, the only things that mattered in this movie were the grand vistas and the tie-ins to the other Marvel movies. Agent Coulson makes his non-Iron Man debut, placing the timeline for Thor as the same for Iron Man 2. Jeremy Renner picks up the bow for the first time on film, no doubt to fanboy squees in convention halls around the country. Aside mentions are made of Tony Stark and Bruce Banner, and Sam Jackson makes his (now almost standard) post credits cameo as Nick Fury. And, while plenty is left open for a future Thor-specific sequel, not much is done to allow for Thor to insert himself into the Avengers movie, unless they make his return to Earth the prime subject of The Avengers first act… well that or handwave it by saying Dr.Jane did it off-screen before the events of the movie.

Still, as summer blockbusters go, Thor wasn’t a bad movie… it was visually pretty and acceptably entertaining, but it certainly wasn’t a great addition to cinema on the whole (or even Marvel movies specifically). If you can wait to rent it, that’d be my recommendation.

Now to wait with anticipation for Captain America to (hopefully) not disappoint.

Nick Michael

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