Sunday, May 1, 2011

'Marvel's Thor' Review - The Superhero Genre Just Got a Lot More Mythical

I had a chance to see an early screening of Thor today, and I have to say, I'm very impressed. Thor is a character that could have been very hard to translate onto screen, and I know some people worry how it they could make it connect to Marvel's Universe of Iron Man and Hulk seemlessly.The short answer: They did it. But there will be more on that later. This movie was a lot of fun, and is nothing like you've seen before. Although the trailer suggests that most of the movie takes place on Earth, but the better portion of it actually takes place in Thor's home of Asgard. A bold move, but something that makes this movie stand apart from all the other comicbook based films, and in my opinion, elevates it. Along with its fantastic cast and great direction, Thor looks to be one of the biggest hits of the summer, and it deserves to be. Marvel once again proves why they are the best at making movies based off of comics: they stick to the source material and make it real. They don't take the comics for granted, and it works wonders in their favor. Other studios could learn from their example.

When Thor (Hemsworth), son of Odin (Hopkins), breaks a treaty with a race known as the Frost Giants, he foolishly begins a war with his world of Asgard. Angered by his son's arrogance, Odin declares Thor unworthy of being the next in line for the throne and banishes him out of Asgard without his powers, exiling him to a realm known as Earth. As Thor is cast out, he is found by a group of scientists, led by Jane Foster (Portman) and taken in by them. As the war at home in Asgard continues to escalate, all is not what it seems and Thor must find a way back, but learn from his mistakes to once again become worthy of becoming the powerful God he was born to be.

The hardest sell for the movie to it's audience is selling a movie that doesn't fully take place on Earth. But the movie would not be nearly as cool if it did. Asgard is a beautifully constructed world that looks like nothing I've ever seen in a movie before. It's part futuristic, with a very Norse and Medieval feel. Asgard is a character in and of itself and not just a setting. What Branagh and his team have created is striking and rich. Everything from the Rainbow Bridge to the Great Hall of Odin's Palace, it's just amazing to look at. It all feels very real, and I hope that audiences can accept it and embrace it, because it really makes this movie stand apart from other movies. But if you're like me, you'll find yourself with your jaw dropped at just how spectacular Asgard is.

Which leads me to Kenneth Branagh, the director of the film. Many of you will recognize his name as the director and actor of many great adaptions of Shakespeare's plays. While others will recognize the name as the man who played Gilderoy Lockhart in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. No matter what Branagh does, he's always been great at it. And nothing shows that better than Thor. He has a great eye of working with actors and makes these characters feel very real and less like a stiff caricature that they could have become. He really just knows how to get the best out of everyone, and there is even a bit of Shakespearing tone to the film while in Asgard that I felt fit it very well. But one thing that really surprised me was that Branagh could shoot action, and well. The movie has some very cool and epic fight scenes, and Branagh handles them very well. I've never seen him do anything quite like it, and I loved how it turned out. They have a very epic feel to them, especially during the battle with some of the Frost Giants at the beginning of the movie. It's one of the movies highlights, and it is really cool to look at it. If the movie hadn't been so well handled, it could have been a disaster, but Branagh has proven to be exactly what the material called for and Marvel made a great choice choosing him helm the movie. 

Of course, the movie would be nothing without its cast. First and foremost, Chris Hemsworth IS Thor. Not only does he look the part, but he just oozes the cocky and arrogant attitude that Thor was known for. He excels at it even. But when Thor starts to feel compassion and human, Hemsworth is just as good there as well. He really owns this role, and they couldn't have picked a better actor for him. Honestly, he gives a performance close to Robert Downey Jr's level in Iron Man. He was that good. Some of the movie hinges on Hemsworth's comedic timing, and he's great at it. He's going to have a long career ahead of him, and I look forward to seeing more with him. But the standout in this movie for me was Tom Hiddleston as Loki, Thor's brother and the God of Mischief. I've never seen Hiddleston before, but he just completely steals every scene he's in as Loki. He is kinda and caring, but there is something underneath it all, and you can tell. He is the master of deceit, and when Loki gets angry and learns a shocking truth, he becomes scary. I was just blown away by Hiddleston, and I found my self just hypnotized by him everytime he was on screen. It was just a very good performance, and I look forward to seeing his character in The Avengers. 

The supporting cast is good as well. Natlie Portman is good, but terrribly underused as Jane Foster. She's not given terribly much to work with, but what she is given, she does very well. She's my favorite the three leading Marvel ladies so far, out of Gwynth Paltrow's Pepper Potts and Liv Tyler's Betty Ross. Anthony Hopkins is also good as Odin, and although he doesn't have much screen time, he really has a great presence when he is. Kat Denning's is good as Jane's student Darcy, who serves more as comic relief then anything. I know many people were worried about her being annoying in the movie, but she's really not. She's quite good in it, and her character is very likable. Stellan SkarsgÄrd is very good, but underused as Erik Selvig, a scienetist helping Jane Foster with her research. Criminally underused though were Sif and the Warriors Three, some of Thor's companions from Asgard. They aren't given much to do really, which is something I hope to see improved upon in other movies. And of course, Clark Gregg returns as Agent Coulson from Iron Man and Iron Man 2 and is fantastic as always. Brings a lot of fun and humor to the movie, and he really seems to be part of the glue bringing this whole Marvel universe together.

The movie is full of great dialogue, fun action and special effects, and great music. I really found it very well written. There is a bit of cheesy dialogue, but that's to be expected. But I really felt that this may be the best written of the movies. It just felt like the comics and really understood the characters and their motivations. It's also chock full of references from the Marvel universe that comic fans and movie goers are going to love. Some as small as the name Donald Blake for Thor fans, to other mentions of Bruce Banner and Tony Stark. Also, keep an eye out for an appearance of a very popular Marvel character and future Avenger. They never call him by his hero's name, but they do call him by real name and he is shown doing what he does best. It was a great moment for me, and many of the comic fans cheered when they saw him. I look forwards to seeing his character returning in The Avengers. Also, stay until the end credits. There is a big plot point revealed for The Avengers, so don't miss it.

Overall, I really enjoyed this movie. It was a lot of fun to watch and Marvel has a big hit on their hands. I can't express enough how much I enjoyed it. Marvel really is on a streak, batting four perfect for films for me. It's just very well acted and directed, is beautiful to look at, and a lot of fun to watch. In relation to where it stands, I'd say it's right up for the first Iron Man for me. It just worked that well for me. I hope you all go out and check it out next weekend when it opens up, because you're in for a very special treat. 


On a side, if you can, skip the movie in 3D. This movie was post converted and the 3D really doesn't add anything to the proceedings. In fact, it's a bit distracting becaues the glasses make the screen darker and at points it was hard to tell exactly what was happening. Just my two cents, but 3D is not neccessary in the slightest and should be avoided if you can.

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1 comment:

  1. I agree with this completely. Director of classics, big beefy mythological heroes, and some very amazing visuals made Thor one of the best summer films I've seen in awhile. Certainly better than Marvel's Iron Man 2.

    I also think that Thor will generally net an audience of moviegoers that don't necessarily care about super heroes. Who doesn't want to see Asgard? Who doesn't want to see a big, beefy hero throw a hammer around and kick some serious arse?

    Oddly enough...the ending was a bit surprising to me. How is he going to get into the Avengers movie?

    I guess we'll have to wait and see.

    Great movie. I give it a B+ or A-