Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Case for Thor Day on Tuesday

One lesson I should have learned from Thor: always carry a hammer. That way, one has a very handy projectile weapon to throw at people in the audience who may be the size of ice warriors but have the intelligence and emotional maturity of 12 year olds and who thus insist on stating what is happening on screen and commenting on all the action sequences, all in their normal speaking voice. Would that I had Thor's handy rage, and imposing physique, to sort someone like that out without a weapon in hand. Instead, all I did was sit and seethe.

Well no, I also did watch the film. And, even with Mr Irritating behind me, I quite enjoyed the film before me. It was sufficiently distracting.

It was a 3D screening, and while the earth-bound scenes were fairly normal looking, the 3D effects used in the other mystic realms of existence were spectacular. Asgard in particular looked stunning, inspiring and very heroic, if not exactly keeping to the laws of physics of this world.

Adding to the scenic beauty was a pretty attractive cast: the always gorgeous Natalie Portman plays an intelligent, headstrong, stunningly beautiful physicist who falls for Thor the instant she sees him without a shirt. Thor, played by Aussie Chris Hemsworth, is a fine specimen of manhood with an accent set on Received Pronunciation though there are many lapses where I am sure his American accent training comes through (he is miles better than Sam Worthington though). The other cast members are all attractive in their own ways too, and pretty good looking to boot: there are the familiar faces like Anthony Hopkins, Scandanavian Stellan Skarsgard and the little-used Rene Russo; and the less familiar faces like Tom Hiddleston as the wickedly helmeted Loki, and the awesome "Stringer Bell" Idris Elba as... some other character who is just very cool.

Less successful are Thor's group of godling buddies. That is perhaps an understatement: I am sure they are meant to be comic relief, but their scenes end up almost painful to watch. Cut these scenes out, and the movie would be tighter and shorter, and very little would be lost.

Those scenes notwithstanding, I can't claim the film moves at a terribly quick pace. While the extra-terrestrial scenes are all lovingly shot and move about ceaselessly, the scenes on Earth just seem to stumble around. A lot of money went into realising Asgard, but there didn't seem much left for anything else, with the local SHIELD regiment having to make do a giant hamster cage as their base of operations.

There are moments of humour, and while the characters have history, there is no real attempt at bringing anyone off the two-dimensional comic book page - only the images get that special treatment. But, reflecting on it after, how could I complain about that? I know nothing about the Marvel version of Thor, but the film portrays him as a god come to earth, sure of himself, on a quest to get back home. He isn't burdened with inner conflict nor turmoil, no murdered parents nor desire to be normal, no attempting to change the world nor overcoming a physical problem, and no alienation from normal society. Thor just... is.

So, taking that into consideration, I can see why it is getting fairly high ratings on IMDB. Thor is spectacularly stunning, intellectually undemanding film, with a strong current of anticipation as it all builds to the grand Avengers movie. There are plenty of weak spots, a few cameos (Lee and Strazynski, take a bow), a few chuckles, but plenty to treat the eyes. And a brief "post script" at the end of the movie if one waits around to see it.

Verdict: Thor aims squarely at the popcorn market, and hits its target with its mighty hammer. It is a mix of some great and gorgeous actors giving enough gravitas to a simplistic script to make it entertaining, with a pretty substantial special effects budget giving all the worlds involved an amazing look and feel. I am not sure what they could do for a Thor-alone sequel, but this movie passes the time. Just pray to Odin that you don't have an imbecile spouting distracting nonsense behind you - or that some hearty Nordic warrior will descend from Asgard to smite him. 7 Almighty Johnsons out of 10.

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