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Summer Full o' Superheroes pt. 3 - Thor


Nathan Strum

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Okay, true story - I've actually known two people named Thor.

 

One of them was a co-worker, and the other a student (who is now a director).

 

I also knew someone whose last name was Batman. I bet she got teased a lot as a kid. But that's off-topic.

 

I went to see the movie Thor today, despite being somewhat underwhelmed by the trailers for it, and despite that I've always felt Thor was somewhat of a third-stringer, superhero-wise. But I decided to go see it since I enjoyed watching Iron Man 2 on Blu-ray recently, and thought since this is going to be one of the tie-ins for The Avengers next summer, that I might as well stay caught-up on the series.

 

I didn't really know a lot about the character, since even when I did collect comic books (which was over 20 years ago), I didn't have a whole lot of his comics. In a way though, I think that was a good thing because then I didn't really have any pre-conceived ideas about what the movie should be about.

 

I thought Thor was probably going to be a rather odd movie for Marvel to sell to the general public, since he's not really a traditional superhero, being steeped more in pseudo-Norse-mythology than technology or mutation or science-gone-wrong. But I found the movie surprisingly accessible, and ended up really enjoying it.

 

I think that Thor benefits from recent science fiction properties like Stargate or Battlestar Galactica which successfully mixed mythology and science fiction, and that's what Thor ended up doing. It came up with a plausible backstory for the characters, and was able to integrate that into the pre-established Marvel universe.

 

It also helped a lot to spend quite a bit of the movie in Asgard, establishing the history of the principle characters, how they related to earth, and most importantly - their relationships to each other and their personalities. By the time we get to Earth, we realize that the stakes for this particular movie really aren't on Earth, but that the point of the film is to develop Thor into the heroic character that he's expected to be. While he had the bravery and power to do heroic deeds, he didn't have the selflessness necessary to be a true hero.

 

Chris Hemsworth does a good job portraying Thor. He's a likable character, and hits the right notes in his performance (although his character's change of heart happens so abruptly that it's a little hard to buy into it). Anthony Hopkins did a great job as Odin, and really carried himself with the kind of screen presence that's required for that kind of a role. He managed to strike an imposing, authoritative figure, and reminded me a bit of the way John Wayne or Sean Connery could do the same in their later years. Tom Hiddleston as Loki was the standout performance in the film though, because you could never quite tell when he was being genuine, or lying through his teeth. And even when you knew he was lying, he never tipped off to the people he was lying to that he was being deceptive. It was a smart, subtle performance, where you aren't really sure when he's being evil (unlike, say, Emperor Witchiepoo in Return of the Jedi). Plus, he was a likable and tragic figure, which always makes for a compelling and enjoyable villain.

 

The rest of the cast was good as well, including Thor's Asgardian cohorts and some of the people he encounters on Earth. However, I never really bought into him falling in love with Natalie "Spock eyebrows" Portman. That just really wasn't developed much, and like his character's personality turn, felt like a whole lot got skipped over.

 

From a costuming standpoint, I thought everything generally worked well, but sometimes what should have been metal accouterments looked too much like painted rubber or plastic. But they did look a lot better in motion than the still photos that are online. And while it probably wasn't intentional, sometimes when Thor was flying, you just saw his red cape flapping, looking for all the world like Superman from a distance.

 

The action scenes were pretty good, but the direction and editing often made the action hard to follow (which seems to be the case in films now, more often than not). Maybe it's just easier to fake things in fast cuts than wider long shots. Special effects wise, they pretty-much have everything nailed now. It's less a matter of being able to technically achieve something, than it is designing it in the first place so that it's going to look good. Gone are the days of matte lines and bad compositing, or hokey stop motion and unconvincing miniatures. That said, there are still some shots that didn't look quite right, as if they weren't quite sure how to make something so grounded in fantasy look "real".

 

Overall, I enjoyed Thor more than I expected to. It's a different film than what the trailers implied, as a great deal more of the story revolves around Asgard than it does Earth. The characters were likable, the action was good, and the story did a good job of covering some potentially confusing groundwork, without becoming convoluted or ridiculous.

 

Certainly worth a matinee at any rate. But see it soon if you're going to. With all of the other films opening up now, it's already being relegated to just a handful of screens, and there was maybe just 20 people in the theater with me.

 

Thor gets a 7/10

 

(Incidentally, while looking up tickets on Flixster, I realized that next summer is going to be another "Summer Full o' Superheroes". Superman and Batman will team up in a box-office battle against Spiderman and The Avengers.

Personally, someday I'm hoping for "Forbush Man vs. Fred Hembeck: The Motion Picture". ;) )

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If you want more info about Thor from comics, there is a animation movie released for DVD only, Thor vs Hulk, I liked this animation. Well, 7/10 too :P

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