Man, did I not have high hopes for Thor. The trailer left me with an overwhelming sense of, “meh” and a fair amount of disappointment that after two highly enjoyable films, Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk, The Avengers origin stories were about to turn a little lame.
I was…mistaken. I was very mistaken. This is a fun movie.
Here’s what works:
1. Lets start with the obvious win here: Chris Hemsworth. An Australian born actor best known in this country for his brief but memorable turn as George Kirk in the recent reboot of Star Trek, this tall, blond, beast of a man is well cast in the role of the god of thunder and lightning. Not only does he look the part, but would you believe this guy can hold his own in scenes with the likes of Anthony Hopkins? Oh, he can. He’s charming when he needs to be charming, petulant and arrogant when he needs to be, and when he is crushed and humbled, you believe he is crushed and humbled.
Oh, and when he fights? Yeah, he can pull that off too.
I’m a big fan of all of the already released movies leading up to next year’s release of The Avengers and before seeing Thor I would have argued it would be nigh on impossible to pull off better casting than Robert Downey, Jr. as Tony Stark. Hemsworth has proven that statement incorrect, in my book anyway. We’ll see if Chris Evans can outshine him in Captain America, due out later this year, but I have my doubts.
2. Chris Hemsworth…again, and this time I’m putting down my objective reviewer pen and picking up my 30-something-woman-with-needs pen. My alternate title for this blog was “I just got back from seeing Thor and boy are my ovaries tired.” Seriously, they kicked out so many eggs during the shirtless scene, it was like a farmer’s market down there.
The man can wink, he can kiss your hand, he can smash a mug and say he meant no offense, all with a playful charm that isn’t as easy to pull off as you might think. Not all hot guys can be charming. In fact, a lot of them kind of seem like douchebags. This guy can do charming. He can also do angry, I’ll kick your ass and that’s cool, too.
3. Kenneth Branagh – Remember when KB was all the rage for Henry V and Hamlet? I know he’s fallen a bit out of fashion lately, but this Shakespearian trained actor/director brings something to this script that is badly needed. I wish I could say exactly what it is, but I can’t be certain because I don’t know enough about how the whole directing thing works. This is a predictable movie, with a plot outlandish enough to alienate mainstream audiences if done poorly (rainbow bridges and alien planets are just the beginning). Luckily, Branagh is not one to do something poorly. Something about his directing gives the events of the film legitimacy. Most things work, even the things that are over the top. There is a great scene involving dropping coffee cups and cartoon-style open mouths akin to a classic spit take that works in spite of itself – little things like that, he and his actors pull off beautifully.
Perhaps because of his experience with The Bard, he also creates a sense of weight and importance to the dramatic scenes that could be considered cheesy and over done under another director’s leadership.
4. The connections to and foreshadowing of the other soon-to-be Avengers movie. This franchise is being very well played. I don’t want to give anything away, but for those in the know, there is plenty to be excited about. And, of course, please stay until the credits have ended.
While all the above makes Thor a highly enjoyable experience, not everything works. Here’s a few things that don’t do it for me:
1. The Jane/Thor romance. I’m a Natalie Portman fan from way back in the day when she made her debut in The Professional at the age of 12 or so, but I have to tell you she is wasted in this role. Hemsworth is so perfectly cast that he dwarfs her in more than just the literal sense. She’s beautiful to be sure, and she too can pull off charming and and funny, but there is no zing to their chemistry and no meat to her role as a scientist. I can’t blame Portman, but something doesn’t work about this pairing.
2. The marginalization of Thor’s friends. You get the feeling that these guys (Lady Sif, Volstagg, Fandral and Hogun) are going to be more important later, but in this film their presence feels more obligatory than important. I liked what I saw of them, however, and hope to see more in either The Avengers or the very likely sequels to Thor.
Some things about which I’m on the fence.
- The Earth crew of Dr. Selvig (Stellen Skarsgard), Darcy Lews (Kat Dennings) and Jane Foster (Portman). Kat Dennings is quirky and fun without being cliched, but Skarsgard and Portman are in the same “meh” boat by way of script in this one. They are a fun trio and provide some nice comedic moments, but while it’s not worse than any other straightman crew, it’s not better either.
- Loki. Played by Tom Hiddleston, I’m not sure this character was mischievous enough to be the god of mischief. Still, mostly I liked him in this role. Mostly. Edited 4/23/2012 – after watching this for the third time (hey, I’m getting ready for my Avengers Boot Camp, Thor edition – it’s my job to watch it) I have to say this character has grown on me. There was never any denying the actor is talented, but I’ve come to appreciate more the much needed element of darkness, even a hint of melodrama, he brings to the film to act as a balance to the humor and joviality of Thor, as Thor lives some of his life on Earth – and vise versa, actually. I still don’t feel the sense of mischief I want coming from him, but he is very smart, wounded, and menacing. That’s pretty good for a villain.
All in all, Thor has a few weaknesses that may turn off those who respond only to the very best the genre has to offer, but for this particular geek, it worked far more often, and in more important ways, than it didn’t.
GO SEE IT. I command thee!
Stuff we geek out about…
- A Little Something for the Fellas (2)
- A Little Something for the Ladies (9)
- Avengers Boot Camp (9)
- Before the Movie – Trailers (13)
- Editorials and Reviews (136)
- Interviews (19)
- Miscellaneous Geekery (48)
- Nostalgia (17)
- Sandman Re-Read (11)
- Three Favorite Things (4)
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