Sunday, May 22, 2011

At the Movies: Thor

If you are a fan of Marvel Comics God of Thunder, then you aren't going to be disappointed in director Kenneth Branagh's "Thor" feature film. However that being said, if you're the nitpicking type, you will probably have a field day over some portions of the movie.

Let me address my own minor quibbles with this opening chapter of Thor's adventures, in fact that sums it up in a nutshell. While the film plays out as a complete story, the overall impression that I was left with at the end, was that the whole thing felt like a grand opening act or terrific first "chapter" that really whetted my appetite for the rest of the story. Not a deal breaker really, but still slightly disheartening to me as a viewer. It made me feel - somewhat - like, "That's all?"

The cast was topnotch and Chris Hemsworth was wonderful as Thor, Anthony Hopkins embodied Odin the All-Father even better than I had hoped, and that despite his screen time seeming more akin to a glorified cameo. There are several cast members that I wasn't particularly familiar with including Jaime Alexander as Sif, Josh Dallas as Fandral and Tom Hiddleston as Loki. These three standout to varying degrees in their roles, with Hiddleston's Loki truly a tour de force performance. Genre veteran Colm Feore is almost unrecognizable as Laufey, King of the Frost Giants, but he was one of my favorite characters in this film. Great work on his part. One character isn't an actor at all, and despite his limited use in the film, the Destroyer was awesome!

Comic book purists will either be pleased with the nod to Thor's original comic book secret identity "Donald Blake" or be left a bit cold, but this didn't bother me as much as the major change to Jane Foster's original career. Of course we live in the "modern" era and therefore must show a woman in a strong role, so Natalie Portman's otherwise fine performance as scientist Jane, trumped the originals comic book role as a simple nurse. Try getting actual nurses to understand why their traditional caregiver role in our society isn't respected enough by the film makers to retain this aspect, and you might find yourself on the receiving end of a dirty needle sometime. Oh well, that alteration certainly paled against the most egregious change made from comics to film. No surprise that politically correct mindsets won out in the casting department. Two significant characters were unnecessarily tweaked to widen their appeal to - who the hell knows - but Hogun and Heimdall are Norse Gods after all, and having a samurai and a soul brother on hand didn't seem especially Scandinavian to me.

Idris Elba was actually not too bad as the mighty Heimdall, guardian of Bifrost (aka the Rainbow Bridge) and he almost won me over despite the fact that a black actor has no business in this pantheon of gods. Same goes for Tadanobu Asano as Hogun, not an Aesir like most of the Asgardians, but certainly not a Japanese warrior either. I call bullshit on these two casting choices, but don't blame them for being present in the movie; the modern thing to do after all - for inclusiveness.

The special effects are quite terrific, the writing was really good and the film does leave me wanting more epic Thor tales on film. Hopefully, Marvel Studios can keep it up with all of the planned Avengers segments, since they basically blew it with X-Men and Fantastic Four. Recommended!


Anonymous said...

There's an interesting bit in the initial BIGGER FONT credits where the creators of THOR are listed as follows and in THIS order:

Stan Lee
Larry Lieber
Jack Kirby

Interesting, huhn? Well, more smaller credits follow and after a few moments the order appears as follows and in this order:

Stan Lee - The CREATOR (sic)
Jack Kirby - employee (aka "wrist")
Larry Lieber - the CREATOR's brother (sic)

I added the stuff after the hyphens. But doesn't that make you wonder. Why switch the order in the smaller text. I'll tell you why. You're not reading it anymore. It isn't important that Jack's name has moved up a rung at that point because nobody is paying attention now. Everyone is waiting for the teaser at the end of the credits.

So once again the credit for the whole endeavor is placed in the eager hands of Stan Lee. As usual, he enjoys a cameo in the picture.

Jack, it ain't fair.

Chuck Wells said...

It is most significant isn't it? My brother mentioned this sad credit snafu to me before I even went to see Thor.

Long ago my brother, David, coined the phrase "kirbyed" as slang for when someone gets intentionally screwed by the powers that be. Larry Leiber may have scripted portions of (or all of) the first Thor story, but Jack Kirby had as much - or more likely most - of the creative input on the character as Stan(Lee)Leiber did.

Stuff like this, particularly in recent years, truly belies "The Man's" claim that he was only minimally involved in giving "The King" the corporate shaft.

Joe Ackerman said...

yeah, I had issues with the token black/asian guy thing, too. I think both actors were pretty good in their roles, at least as good as anyone else in the film ( 'cept Loki, Loki rules ), but, to me, they felt like the token black/asian guys. then again, like yourself, I'm a long-time Thor reader. It's not going to be noticed by your average film-goer.

I think they've done a cracking good job of it, all in all, it's the best Thor film we could've hoped for. the real problem is going to be sustaining it.