Friday, May 6, 2011

Thor - Movie Review

Thanks to the wonder called “The International Market”, I was able to see the Thor movie a full week before it opened in the United States. Marvel Studios’ latest film opened here in Europe during the long weekend, and I made a trip to see the God of Thunder’s film debut. How did it fare now that I've had time to think about it and let it cool down on my brain? Hit the jump to see the whole review, though be aware that there will be spoilers.




Thor

Directed by Kenneth Branagh
Story by J. Michael Straczynski Mark Protosevich
Starring Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins and more

The Plot

At this point, I think everyone knows what the plot behind Thor’s origin story is, but just in case I will make a quick recap before I head into the juicy bits. Thor and Loki are the two sons of Odin, the Norse All-Father of legend. The two siblings grew up together, knowing that someday one of them will be chosen to become the next ruler of Asgard, the mythical land where the Norse Gods reside, a place of magic and science. Even though the two brothers have reached adulthood, Thor still behaves in impetuous and violent ways, which almost lead to a war between Asgard and the ice realm of Jotunheim, where the Frost Giants (eternal enemies of the Norse Gods) reside.

To punish Thor because of his violent and hot-headed ways, Odin casts him out of Asgard and into Midgard, which you might know as “Earth”. It is here where Thor meets Jane Foster, a scientist investigating strange weather patterns in New Mexico. With the help of Jane, Thor must learn a lesson in humility and temperance, while retrieving his magical hammer Mjolnir, a weapon of tremendous power that allows him to fly, cast lighting and more. When Thor does finally make his way back to Asgard, however, he finds things have changed as his brother Loki, with his magic and sly tongue, has taken the place of Odin as ruler of Asgard. Thor fights back to reclaim the throne, not because it was originally his, but because Loki tricked his way into power.

The God of Thunder


Chris Hemsworth plays the role of Thor, and before saying anything else I will mention this: the man has certainly shaped his body into something worthy of legend. You’ve probably already seen some of the key scenes but the man has seriously bulked up for the role and his body is certainly worthy of lifting Mjolnir. I went to see the film with my wife and she now has a new celebrity crush.

Of course, it’s not all about looking the part and Hemsworth certainly sells the cocky and arrogant Thor, that just wants to go out and battle some frost giants. His arrival into our world is marked by lots of humor, and seeing the mighty Thor getting taken down by a tazer or hit by a car while keeping a straight face takes some chops. The more emotional and chevalier moments, such as the final confrontation with Loki, are also capably delivered by Hemsworth. As a whole, the Thor franchise has a certain level of cheese involved, and some lines might sound like a bit too much, but it never becomes overwhelming.

Mischief Has a Name


Thor may be the protagonist and hero of the movie, but his antithesis Loki totally (and appropriately) steals the show. Tom Hiddleston portrays one of the most complex and morally conflicted characters in comic book films. Just when you think you have Loki all figured out, he pulls the rug from all your expectations and wonderfully reveals yet another layer underneath. You see, Loki isn’t really an Asgardian like everyone else, and this revelation cause an incredible set of conflicting emotions within him: hatred, confusion, envy and who knows what else. If you read comics, you are probably quite familiar with the “God of mischief” aspect, where he takes joy in causing chaos just for the sake of it, but the movie portrays a completely different angle that I enjoyed quite a lot.

The possibility of Loki reprising as the villain in the upcoming Avengers movie fills me with glee if they are planning on keeping this incarnation of him. His powers also lend themselves to some very neat visuals and scenes, and some very creative cool moments that will have you cheering for the “villain” of this piece.

The Goshdarn All-Father


Speaking of stealing the show, Anthony Hopkins as Odin certainly had a good try, and casts an imposing shadow over the rest of the Asgardians. Aged 73, Hopkins certainly plays the weary king with understandable ease, but the scenes where he must scold and shout at his irresponsible child are the ones where he shines the most. Even if he spends a good portion of the film in his Odinsleep, his actions as ruler come back to haunt him in more than one ways. He is practical but at the same time benevolent and even-handed, if sometimes a tad harsh. His portrayal of Odin is magnificent and iconic, totally rocking the beard and eye-patch along the suit of armor. As with Loki, I hope we can see more of him in upcoming films.

Goodbye, Nurse


Jane Foster is a character the comic fans are probably familiar with, but Natalie Portman’s role in the movie is completely different. She is no longer a nurse that becomes involved in Thor’s world just by pure chance and her connection to Donald Blake (in the movie, relegated to an "ex" status). Instead, she is an astrophysicist studying strange phenomena on the sky when she becomes involved with going ons of Thor. While there is still an element of chance and coincidence involved, it gives Foster a more active role and a nice way of tying her story with larger events of S.H.I.E.L.D. that we have seen in other movies. Portman plays a pivotal role, never relegated on a support status, and the final scene in which she appears left a huge smile on my face. She is no damsel in distress, or a princess waiting for her prince charming. If there’s something she wants, she is going to go get it, but never falling into the typical “badass babe” archetype that so many films are fond of and appear in a host of other media (video games, for example).

The Science of Myth



So far I have talked about the main players of the movie, but big props have to be given to whoever designed Asgard and everything surrounding the mythical realm. While there is a definite other-worldliness to it, everything looks like truly mechanical, with moving pieces and grand architectural touches. The Golden City has never looked better, and all of the elements within it have been updated to work in the screen. The Rainbow Bridge plays a very large part in the mechanics of the film, and Heimdall (portrayed by the imposing Idris Elba) works as a technological gate keeper, controlling where everyone goes. Meanwhile, the Destroyer armor shows up to deliver damage at the right amount of times, providing a clear and unstoppable danger, completely devoid of remorse or sympathy.

While the effects looked incredibly good, the large amounts of green screen during the Asgard scenes could harm the movie in the long term, as they might look outdated in the future. For the time being, however, they are incredibly good. I should also note that I went to see the classic version, and have no idea how it all looks like on the 3D version (though I’ve heard from several sources that it was disappointing in this regard).

A Basket Full of Easter Eggs


For the watchful movie goer and comic reader, there’s a whole lot of details to bask in on, and I think fans enjoy this game that Marvel likes to play. Just off the top of my head, I saw the Infinity Gauntlet in Odin’s war room, a funny reference to Bruce Banner, the heavily publicized small role of agent Clint Barton (also known as Hawkeye), and it wouldn’t be a Marvel movie without a Stan Lee cameo, though there’s also one by JMS (one of the writers involved in Thor’s most recent revival, and collaborator in the screenplay for the movie).

Oh, and I almost went the whole review without mentioning The Warrior’s Three and Lady Sif, who show up for some rather important scenes. These characters are not just thrown in for fan-pandering, but play an honest role in the film. Any way you look at it, there’s plenty to keep your eyes peeled to the screen, as if the entertaining main portion of the film wasn’t enough. Also, make sure to stay all the way to the end of the credits for a very special hint at what will be coming in the upcoming Avengers movie.

It Can’t Be All Golden Apples

While I have talked pretty positively so far about the film, there are some qualms I have with it. What you have heard from most critics is probably true: the film, particularly the scenes in Earth, are too short. It feels like Thor spent a weekend in Earth and learned his lesson rather quickly, instead of being a long-term struggle of understanding how to change his behavior. This fast pace makes the relationship between Thor and Jane Foster also seem very rushed and slightly artificial (though with those pecs, it’s perfectly understandable that anyone would fall in love for Thor so quickly). I really don’t understand why they kept this section so short, as the whole film is only slightly under two hours. Fifteen or twenty extra minutes of Thor experiencing life on Earth and learning his lessons would have done wonders and moved this film into classic territory. I guess they were worried that this might not be too entertaining to audiences, but I felt it would have greatly improved the characterization of Thor before the final confrontation.

Verdict - Must Watch. Even with some issues in the length of the Earth scenes and other small nitpicks, Thor is still a very entertaining movie with some fantastic and complex characters. Funny and dramatic in all the right places, it will keep you wanting for more, just like Iron Man originally did. The Avengers and 2012 can’t come soon enough.


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10 comments:

CombatSpoon86 said...

It was a great movie, all the small reference to marvel history were great, plus the small cameo scene at the end of the movie, alot of my friends thought it was alright, but they have no knowledge of thor or anything marvel related history which is such a shame. It was a true treat to us thor and comic fans

Rocker69 said...

I completely agree with you in almost everything and you nailed it: the movie could have been a little bit longer. It actually feels short, because so much is going on all the time. I didn't bother to look at my phone not even once.

I really liked the movie (not as much as Iron Man but close) so these are the only critiques I have:

-Loki and Thor's relationship deserved more screen time. Maybe a scene showing them as teenagers or something. It's never clear if Loki is acting the way he is because he's jealous of Thor or angry at Odin or simply just being mischievous (which is a trace of his character that is mentioned but never explained).

-Still on Loki: he's a master of the dark arts. But how? Why?

-Thor and mjolnir's bond is also never explained.

-Like you said, it seems like Thor "learned his lesson" rather quickly. Felt rushed.

-Why isn't Volstagg er....fatter?

Matt Duarte said...

@CombatSpoon: As I mentioned in the review, I went to see this with my wife, who only knows of Thor in name only but has never read anything that he has ever appeared. She enjoyed the film quite a lot, and she was asking me all kinds of questions about the history of the character. Hopefully, like it did with your friends, the movie will appeal to casual movie goers as well.

@Rocker: Well, I can answer the question of Volstagg for sure. Most mortals of the size of comic-Volstagg The Voluminous would surely have trouble breathing, let alone acting, haha.

Ivan said...

Great review. But isn't the Frost Giant's home "Jotunheim"?

Nuv said...

Great review, great movie! I think the best thing about this movie was the casting. Just awesome! Peep out my review if you like http://review2akill.com/2011/05/09/thunderstruck/ Hope you enjoy it half as much as I enjoy Weekly Crisis!
And as for Thor: here's hoping there's more Heimdall in the next one.
Also: The Destroyer rules all!!

Peace out!

Matt Duarte said...

@Ivan: You are totally right. Got my Nine Worlds mixed up.

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