2011-05-22

Thor






Saw Thor today (I wanted to see it earlier, but was felled by a nasty bout of bronchitis), and I wanted to get my thoughts down while they are fresh.

One thing I will NOT do this time around is review it as an adaptation.  Because, while there were several shout-outs to (and a welcome cameo of) Walter Simonson, no film could match the sheer quality of his run.  Hence, it would be unfair to judge it by that standard.

So, as a thing unto itself, how did it do?  Not bad, not bad at all.  I think it's best to judge it on 3 levels:  The Plot, The Characters, and The Effects.

The Plot

At first,  it seemed like there would be few surprises.  Thor does something stupid, gets banished, and has to reclaim his hammer to save Asgard.  You could tell that much from the trailer.  But along the way, the movie fed us several surprises.

First, his "arrogant" act was actually quite justifiable, given his upbringing and approach.  He was reared as a warrior, with a warrior's approach.  Indeed, in a way, Thor & Loki made the same mistake, treating worthiness as something to be earned via strength of arms, not character.

I also thought that having Thor find his hammer BEFORE he became worthy gave the character some badly needed pathos.  He thought it would be easy, when instead it was a challenge greater than any of us expected.

Finally, it was refreshing to see Loki do something unexpected.  Rather than go through all this merely to seize the throne, he had much more personal motives in mind.  His plan led o Thor defending the one realm I never expected.

However, the plot definitely had drawbacks.  The sections on Midgard were both too long, and too short.  Too long because we spent a lot of time trying to make Jane Foster an interesting character, and too short because Thor's character arc seemed to come out of nowhere.  There seemed little REASON for him to suddenly make the choice he did, except the story demanded it.  Perhaps if Jane had still been a medical professional, and he'd seen her work to save lives, his growth would have made more sense.

The Characters

I liked Hemsworth as Thor.  While not the somewhat melodramatic character of the comics, he was relatable without being mundane.  Cocky, without being an ass about it.  And when he grew into his power (as mentioned above) it sorta worked, even if some of the emotional underpinnings were missing.

Anthony Hopkins made for a regal and paternal Odin.  And while Rene Russo had less to do as Frigga, she still managed to hold her own.

Loki was fantastic.  Mischievous, emotional, but never actually evil.  He reminded me of Edmund, from King Lear, which is perhaps not surprising, given Branagh's background.  And Hiddleston looks fabulous in a suit.


The real surprise for me was Idris Elba's Heimdall.  Despite the controversy surrounding his casting, I soon forgot it completely, as he handily stole almost every scene he was in.  I particularly liked his scene with Sif & the Warriors Three.

Sif, with what she was given, did well.  She played the warrior goddess well, without losing her femininity or uniqueness.  I can't say the same for the Warriors Three, unfortunately.  Volstagg was the only member of the trio to have any scenes that gave him (the barest) characterization, while Hogun & Fandral were basically window dressing.  I felt like they were added as a sop to the comics fans, and the story would have worked equally well with Sif alone.

On the human side, things did not go as well.  For a character who was supposed to be a maverick scientist, Portman's Jane Foster was rather whiny, indecisive, and babbling.  Stellan Skarsgard's Selvig went from being the resident skeptic to the comic relief, and the best thing I can say about Darcy is that when she vanished from the plot for a period, it didn't suffer from her absence.

Agent Coulson (from Iron Man 1 & 2) lacked some of the snarkiness I'd seen in his earlier appearances, and as for the cameo of a certain archer...  it happened.  That's basically all I can say about it.

The Effects

Asgard looked a LOT better than the trailer made me fear.  It was less "Academy Award set", and more "Norse version of Stargate".  The Destroyer was scarier than any comics portrayal I've ever read, and Bifrost, while drastically unlike any depiction I'd seen in the past, practically thrummed with power.  The Jotun basically worked, and I have few complaints about the costuming (except it looked like Odin's eyepatch changed color at some point, from gold to black). 

I think they could have worked a little harder on the CGI for Thor's powers, though.  When he confronted the Destroyer the second time, I could barely make out what was going on.  The initial flying scenes seemed awkward as well (although they improved dramatically once he returned to Asgard).

There were also several scenes (particularly in Jotunheim) where things were a bit too dark.  While I saw the film in 2D, I suspect they would have been worse when shaded by 3D glasses.

All in all, while not a perfect Thor film (particulalry on Midgard), it was a lot better than I feared.  I will probably watch it again.

Oh yes, and Walt got his cameo.  He fit in great among the Gods. :)

(For those looking, he's in the banquet at the end.  You see him sitting next to Sif after Volstagg finishes his boast.)

4 comments:

Margaret said...

Glad to hear you enjoyed it - I thought it was great. I was amazed at the rainbow bridge, thinking how could they make that look cool and be believable, and they did both. The only weakness I saw was the quick conversion by Thor of arrogant warrior to earning the hammer. . .and that Destroyer was scary. I'd definitely get it on DVD to watch a few more times.

Mario Di Giacomo said...

Yes, apparently helping to make breakfast was a tremendous character-building experience. :)

jensaltmann said...

What I enjoyed about Loki was how his plan kept growing and evolving. It starts out as just wanting to play a prank to ruin Thor's special day, and then it escalates. It's really a credit to Loki's smarts that he doesn't go ohshitohshitohshit damagecontrol, but instead takes the developments, runs with them and formulates an increasingly ambitious and daring plan.

Loki definitely owns the movie.

Mario Di Giacomo said...

Hard to say, really, how much of his plan was predetermined and how much was taking advantage of developments.

I tend to be more in the former camp, I think, simply because Loki looks and acts like he could pull off a massive Xanatos Gambit like that.