The Chad's Quick Review of Thor

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The Chad's Quick Review of Thor

Postby The Chad » Fri Jun 03, 2011 11:06 am

Thor was a pretty good movie. Not great, just pretty good. It was very entertaining, but some elements of the movie were left rather wanting overall. It’s not that any one thing was bad or seemed completely out of place, but it just seems like they could have stretched it out and put more into it. More action, more story, more characters. Just more.

To start off, there were four action scenes in the movie and they were all very good. They were well plotted out and dynamic with easy to follow action, but just seemed to not be enough. While the usual idea in an action movie is to have the fights become increasingly extravagant and challenging, it seemed almost the exact opposite to me in this movie. The challenges went from an army of Frost Giants (Who aren't really giants at all, just really tall Smurfs) to human S.H.E.I.L.D. Agents (With a special superhero cameo) to The Destroyer (A literal walking weapon more than an actual character or proper villain) all the way to Loki (Who put up a great fight, but was never able to go toe-to-toe with his brother). Each time the stakes never seem to be a high as they could or should be. At the beginning of the movie this makes sense and serves to show the consequences of Thor's actions. At the end it also makes sense and serves the same exact purpose, except to prove Thor's newfound nobility instead of showcase his arrogance. They were good, but seemed to lack something and ended with simply smashing stuff (Then again, it is Marvel after all).

I will admit the actors and portrayals of the characters are top notch. Chris Hemsworth made a worthy Thor. He brought out more than just the arrogant and powerful God of Thunder. He was able to believably portray the humbled and repentant son of Odin as well and I follow and feel his character change as the story progressed. I think it was a good casting call for this relatively unknown actor and a major career boost to boot.

Another thing I liked was the portrayal of Loki by Tom Hiddleston. There's a Shakespearean twist with Loki’s character and you can clearly sense director Kenneth Branagh's touch in this portrayal. Instead of being jealous of Thor and just plain evil like in the comics, Loki is jealous of Thor, but also insanely desperate for his father’s affections after he discovers his true origins.

Anthony Hopkins as Odin was a true coup in my opinion. True, the classically trained dramatic actor has done a wide range of roles including a cannibal genius, a retired swashbuckler, and a werewolf, but I honestly never thought I’d see him in a “comic book movie”. Though when you think of it, Odin is the perfect role for Sir Anthony Hopkins, King of the Norse Gods, a role sufficiently grandiose and legendary enough for his talent. On the other hand, Renee Russo as Frigga is there, but she doesn't really do anything and her role isn't as big as it should have been for an actress of her caliber. Again with the idea of needing more.

Natalie Portman as Jane Foster wasn’t bad as far as the spunky love interest, but I really didn’t buy her as an astrophysicist. In fact, I might go so far as to say they needed Stellan Skarsgård as Professor Erik Selvig to sell the group as actual scientists. It's not that Portman doesn't sound like she doesn't know what she's talking about, but she comes off more like a student than an actual scientist. Sounding resolute and spouting phrases like "Einstein-Rosen Bridge" does not an astrophysicist make. All of her other actions make her seem more like the over-eager April O'Neil type than anything else. She is not a bad character by any means and she plays a wonderful part as the grounding love-interest for our hero, just as she originally did in the comics.

Here's a bit of comic history to clear things up. Odin did indeed cast Thor out of Asgard and strip him of his powers as punishment for his brash arrogance, but originally he also wiped Thor of his memory and turned him into a mortal doctor with a bum leg, because A) all superheroes at the time needed a secret identity and B) all superheroes by Stan Lee needed to be humanized/relatable (You know, instead of enhancing secondary characters for that purpose). Now, in the persona of Dr. Donald Blake, Thor helped heel others instead waging war (I admit, this was a good twist) with the help of his nurse, Jane Foster. Of course, as is the case with many Marvel Comics, in the 'round about 50 years of continuity the original idea of the story and characters got swept under the rug and forgotten in favor of focusing mainly on the Asgardian side of Thor's adventures (Except for that span where he got turned into a frog in Central Park). Because it served the story better in the movie, when Thor was banished to Midgard (Earth) he retained his memory and did not become a doctor (At least not literally, but the idea was touched upon in a very clever way), and his nurse became an astrophysicist. Because all little girls dream of becoming astrophysicists when they grow up!

… … …I kid! Of course all children should aspire to roles beyond the sexist stereotypes and norms of society, but it just doesn't seem to fit Natalie Portman whose more popular roles included an extremely fantastical queen/wife/mother and a ballerina (See what I mean?). So in comes Professor Selvig the sensible old teacher/mentor to make the group seem legit, because the third member of the team sure didn't sell it.

The one character I just plain overlooked the first time I watched the movie was Kat Dennings’ clichéd quipping character Darcy Lewis. Basically, she's just there to earn college credit and make smart ass comments. Would the movie have been stronger without her? Not necessarily. We certainly wouldn't have had as many cheap chuckles without her character, but the story wouldn't have suffered without her either. In the end, a completely inconsequential character.

One interesting twist was Clark Gregg reprising his role as S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Phil Coulson from Iron Man and Iron Man 2. Besides making a clear reference to his previous appearances he actually gets much more screen time and his character is a little more flushed out in subtle ways (Plus it’s just hilarious to hear Thor refer to him as "Son of Coul"). I look forward to seeing him again in next summer’s The Avengers.

The roles of the Warriors Three (Volstagg the Valiant, Hogun the Grim, and Fandral the Pimpin’) were well cast, but unremarkable. The same goes for the warrior woman Sif and the all-seeing guardian Heimdall. They were there, they played their parts well, they all had at least one good/clever/funny line, but they didn’t draw away from the overall plot. Granted this is good for secondary characters but it just seemed like almost anybody could have played their parts (With the exception of Fandral who I’ve had people willing to fight me over the fact that he was NOT played by Cary Elwes).

Of the Asgard mainstays in the Thor comics, there actually were a few missing I would have liked to see, but I can understand why they were left out. First there’s Balder. In Norse mythology he is another son of Odin. This is also later revealed in the comics although up until then he was just a close friend of Thor. Either way he just largely treated in the comics as Thor’s understudy, filling in as a warrior or leader when needed then fading back into the background. It would have also just made the Shakespearean Loki/jealousy angle too convoluted to add a third son of Odin into the mix so better just to forget about him entirely (They do in the comics half the time anyway).

Amora the Enchantress and her enthralled henchman Skurge the Executioner are another two I would have liked to at least seen or had made mention of. Exclusive as villains in the Marvel comics universe with no actual basis in Norse mythology, these two are nonetheless gods of Asgard and when they’re not directly causing trouble or battling Thor they are often as commonplace in the Halls of Asgard as Loki, so it would not have been strange to see them in a group scene or briefly mentioned. Still they are just two more villains to add to the plot, otherwise to get an appropriate actress to play the Enchantress would take all attention away from the other female actresses for a cameo. And without the Enchantress including the Executioner would just be silly.

And finally there’s Hela, Goddess of Death and ruler of Hel and Niffleheim, where the dishonorable dead (Those who did not die a heroic death in battle) go. Of course she’s not a major part of the story unless death is involved and why would they want to kill off major characters in a movie? Also she’s Loki’s daughter although they typically don’t have much of a bond. Also also, to have control of a major universal element like death she would have to be an actual god and the movie establishes that the Asgardians are not gods; just highly advanced beings form another dimension.

Wait...they're NOT actually gods? They're aliens?

Oh there you are. Well, yes and no. They’re not so much aliens as extra-dimensional beings with abilities so advanced as to be magic that were worshiped as god when they visited ancient Norway. This is another reason Jane Foster worked better as an astrophysicist than a nurse.

The story of the movie actually only touches on the very first and very latest aspects from the comic's 50-year continuity in a clever blending of the two. Of course, it features Thor's initial banishment to Earth and change from an arrogant god into a hero, but it also includes elements from a relatively recent story-arch where Asgard is recreated after Ragnarok in the desert near a small town in Oklahoma (In the movie it’s New Mexico). This brings up one of the more jarring aspects of the movie. The differences between the grand kingdom of Asgard and the tiny New Mexico town on Earth are drastically different and I didn’t really feel like there was a connection between the two until Sif and the Warriors Three were walking down the small town street over 2/3 of the way into the movie. It was almost like watching two completely separate movies at the same time. Although it was a genuinely charming moment to see four armored fantasy warriors smiling like idiots through the glass door of a greasy spoon diner.

All in all Thor was a good movie and very entertaining, but it just didn’t quiet stack up to movies like Iron Man 2 and The Dark Knight. Are we a bit spoiled by movies of such caliber? Perhaps. After all, you can’t expect to get the gold 100% of the time. The time, effort, budget, and just plain talent put into a blockbuster film doesn’t always realistically allow for it. Sometimes you just have to settle for silver. Still the biggest “disappointment” came after the credits. Samuel L. Jackson makes an uncredited cameo as Nick Fury and calls for Professor Selvig to show him a glowing cube (An object any
Marvel fan should recognize instantly as a powerful device). This device will not only be fully revealed in the upcoming Captain America: The First Avenger, but also sets up the plot for The Avengers. Making the whole movie ended up seeming like a two-hour prologue to next summer’s The Avengers. I can only hope both upcoming movies live up to the hype and enhance Thor through their close association.

Until next time: Don’t take life too seriously. You’ll never get out of it alive.

Next: The Chad’s Review of the 80’s Revival.
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The Chad
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