May 6, 2011

Movies: Thor

I am a big Marvel fan. I am fully aware that most of what the studio produces right now is utter crap, but it's still a huge part of my childhood, and I will probably love these characters till the day I die. Also, ever since they acquired the rights to some of their franchises and started making their own movies, Marvel has done an amazing job at creating comic book adaptation of a level usually vastly superior to anything else on the subject.

That said, I have never read a single issue of Thor, and have only basic knowledge of who the character is and what he's about, so I went to watch this movie with no comic book preconceptions. That also means I have no idea how true it is to the original, although I don't suspect it's too close to it.

Thor is not a typical comic book movie. Unlike most other superhero flicks where the good guy is some form of altered human, Thor's origins are otherworldly. He is, quite literally, the god of thunder, hailing from Asgard - a place of wonderful megalomania where technology and magic combine to produce a people that seemingly hasn't evolved morally since Norse Mythology times, and somehow hasn't invented any means of transportation that isn't a world-destroying space blaster that propels the user throughout the cosmic chasm or a horse...

After showing us how mighty Odin's (Anthony Hopkins) ancient armies were and how thoroughly they raped the collective Frost Giants' ass, the movie schwooms forward to present time, where Odin's older son Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is a monstrous frat-looking douchebag who - in a less adolescent friendly movie - would spend his life drinking, whoring and fighting, but in a Marvel offering does only the last bit. He is apparently very good at it, but little else, which of course makes him seek battles like a junkie. In the end this causes actual damage (one might say almost political) and Odin gets furious, strips him of his powers and casts him down to Earth, throwing his all powerful hammer Mjollnir which has all the fallen god's might trapped within after him, making sure that only one worthy of it can wield it.

Being a thoroughly unworthy but lucky douche, Thor happens to crash-land in front of a scientist's van - Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) who is studying a strange phenomenon which is actually the Asgardians' world-destroying space blaster. Through her he finds the value of compassion and self-sacrifice, thus becoming worthy enough just in time to kick some godly ass.

Thor is a first grade popcorn experience. It combines heart-breaking kitsch with tongue-in-cheek humor, and although it never reaches the quality of the first Iron Man, it is a far superior offering than the second one and definitely on the level of The Hulk. Half the time it feels more like a modern day He-Man reimagining than a comic book movie, what with the epic epicness of golden Asgard and its mighty inhabitants - but it still ties nicely to the whole modern Marvel mythos.

The plot is nothing original, and actually doesn't quite manage to convey Thor's evolution properly at all - he seems to just flip at some point - but it is not offensively dumb either, and is a solid summer(ish) entertainment without making the label sound like an excuse. Chris Hemsworth's role is lovable and doesn't take itself entirely seriously, which in this case is a huge plus, especially considering the actor looks like a total Norse bro and could easily become very offensive to all the five senses. Instead he is utterly disarming and has a few moments of actually decent comedy.

In fact, the acting might combined within the cast is quite formidable. Anthony Hopkins is the perfect Odin and doesn't seem absurd or embarrassed in the role. Natalie Portman's Jane is a lot more furtive and awkward character than one would expect from a Norse god's love interest, while Thor's semi-evil semi-brother Loki is a wonderful performance by Tom Hiddleston who, I admit, I'd never heard of in my life before. The cast also sports lovely geek-favorites like Rome's Ray Stevenson, Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist's Kat Dennings and Stellan Skarsgard in a role that literally every actor in his age range could have played just as easily.

The special effects are quite grand, as can be expected in a blockbuster about gods, and they look really, really good, although the 3D is mostly unnoticeable. The action is borderline chaotic, but not enough to start twisting your enjoyment's wrist, and the soundtrack is Epic Comic Book Movie crap that is hard to listen to without cringing a little from the blandness of it, but is still mostly ok.

In the end, Thor is a good, solid entertainment. It doesn't inspire wowness, but for what it's trying to be, it is really successful. And yes, it might not be in sync with the comic books. I suspect the differences are infuriating to actual fans. My perfectly sincere condolences to them, because they have been robbed of some real quality time. To all the rest of you I suggest you give it a go. It's more or less the best brainless fun I've had in a movie theater this year.


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