Sunday 29 May 2011

Thor: God of Thunder Rocks My World

Now that the entire planet has reviewed Thor, it's my turn. Thor with his mighty hammer is a childhood favorite, so I did a happy dance when I found out Kenneth Branagh was to direct the live action film. The god of my Shakespearean idolatry, I knew he would do justice to the son of Odin. And I was right. For the first time since I started writing these snarky reviews, I have found a film I really liked. Cue Beethoven's Ode to Joy.

There are many things to recommend this movie and I must admit only a couple of truly WTF moments. There had to be some, of course, because this isn't The Godfather. Don't worry, I'll get to those. First, I have to say that I thought the cast was sharp and spot-on. Chris Hemsworth shines as the arrogant, blunt-as-his-hammer, yet innately noble, god of thunder. His performance is straight and pure, playing perfectly off of Tom Hiddleston's Loki, a more subtle, complex character. Hiddleston surprised me, giving Loki more layers than the average over-the-top comic supervillain ala Victor von Doom in Fantastic Four. Anthony Hopkins is fierce, wise and epic as Odin. He embodies the king of the gods right down to his DNA strands.

Natalie Portman does an outstanding job playing Jane as the self-absorbed scientist who can't believe this guy had the nerve to disrupt her research. The chemistry between Thor and Jane is great. Their relationship is by turns contentious, awkward and charming. It feels very real, if a bit rushed. I am so very proud of Branagh's decision to keep Jane relatively calm, cool and collected. She's wicked smart and so not the typical shrieking, mini-skirt wearing, come-rescue-me-because-I'm-too-stupid-to-live love interest like a certain Mary Jane Watson in Spider Man. Yes, Sam Raimi, I'm talking to you.

Another stand out for me was Idris Elba as Heimdall. He looks edgy and cool in that outlandish get up and though his part is small, he commands the screen in his brief appearances.

The plot was a bit on the thin side, but I was still completely absorbed. I loved how Branagh wove in the mythological with the heroic. Thor is not the typical Marvel hero. He is a god, not created from radioactivity or scads of money, so his background is even more important. Branagh took us to the world of Asgard and dropped us into Thor's family life, giving us insight into his character and skillfully setting up his problems on Earth.

Asgard was one of my WTF moments. I know Branagh loves his pomp and circumstance, but I seriously thought this place looked like some kind of My Little Pony, Care Bears extravaganza. I expected unicorns and leprechauns to come waltzing across the Bifrost Bridge. Or at the very least Dorothy and crew to come looking for the great and powerful Oz.

Branagh balanced this WTFery with a truly excellent hammer fest. Does this Brit know his Yanks or what? The scene when all those townfolk lined up with BBQ grills, beer coolers and pick up trucks to try and get the hammer Mjolnir out of the rock was brilliant. I could totally see the peeps in my 'hood doing the same shit. It was like tailgate time at Soldier Field when the Packers come to throw down with the Bears in a football game.

The only other WTF moment was having Odin slip into the so-called Odin sleep. Excuse me? He's arguing with Loki in a grand passionate storm when Hopkins just slips to floor and passes out. He's overcome by all of Loki's accusations and what he did to Thor. What the hell? Overcome? He's the freakin'king of the gods, an immortal and he's swooning like a Southern belle at a July BBQ. Whatevs.

My favorite scene made me lose my mind and is purely low brow. For those of you as appreciative of the fine male form as I am, when Chris Hemsworth goes shirtless, my mouth dropped open. Holla! I love it that Thor is sans garments rather than it being the ubiquitous female love interest flashing her treasure trove. It would have been so typical to have Natalie be scantily clad. And to all of you out there disappointed by this, suck it up. You all get naked or semi naked chicks in 99.9 percent of action films. Score another huge point for Mr. Branagh.

I did not see this in 3-D so I can't comment on that. Quite frankly, 3-D is really over done. I don't need things flying at me like fists or feet to know someone's getting his ass kicked. I'm not stupid. Nor do I need a blade whizzing at my head so I can duck like a little girl because somehow I might forget I'm watching a movie.

Anyway... We all know that there's this big film coming out called The Avengers. If you don't know, where the eff have you been living? Branagh handles the references to it with skill. He has characters hint at other heroes in real time situations rather than beat us over the head like Jon Favreau did in Iron Man 2. And this was the movie with the hammer.

I have to give this flick two digits straight up. It was highly entertaining and worth the price of admission. And I don't say that lightly as someone who has to see things on the cheap.


Craig Edwards said...

Melissa - late to the party is still AT the party, right? ;) Terrific review of Thor - glad I finally managed to find your movie blog! Duh...Following!

DEZMOND said...

Chris Hemsworth rocks my world too! Although, 'tis more like heavymetalling than rocking it :)

George Beremov [Nebular] said...

Though I was pleased with it, I expected a lot more from Branagh. For what it was, it was great though.

Chris Hemsworth looks like a God indeed, but slightly older than he actually is. 28? WTF? Are you serious? :)

Natalie Portman did an amazing job, but her and Chris didn't share a great chemistry.

I liked looked pretty spectacular. However, the costumes were kinda silly, especially on Earth.


Mel, you delivered a truly fantastic and very witty review, as usual. It was a pleasure to read! :)

Unknown said...

@Craig So glad you found me here. Thanks for the follow! You're right late to is still at the party. I'm glad you liked my snarky little review. :)

Unknown said...

@Dez Hell yeah Chris is certainly heavy-metalling our worlds. What golden deliciousness he is. ;)

Unknown said...

@Nebular I expected a bit more from Branagh, too, but overall I really was not disappointed. I loved it.

"Whatever!" LMAO!! I love when we disagree. ;)

I'm so happy you loved my review, hon. It took me so long to finish because the snark was just not there. I liked this too much. :)

George Beremov [Nebular] said...

@Mel, I don't disagree with you, hon. Just slightly :) By 'whatever' I meant - 'forget the above said' or something like that :)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

It wasn't perfect, but it was a lot of fun. Hemsworth rocked my wife's world - just made me want to work out harder at the gym. And I don't think we missed much by seeing in 2D.

FilmMattic said...

Better late than never, and in this case, better. Great review, Mel! As expected, witty, cutting and insightful. I'm glad you expressed some reservations about the aesthetics of Asgard. A lot of the success of Thor, as you point out, is owed to Branagh's careful construction, fluid pacing and brisk tone.

Unknown said...

@Nebular Aww, sweetie I'm sorry I misunderstood. But even a little disagreement is cool. We'd be bored if we had the same opinion all the time.

Unknown said...

@Alex Hemsworth was...Wow! I hear you, Jaimie Alexander as Sif makes me want to work out.

Seeing this in 2-D was more than okay. 3-D just doesn't do anything for me.

Unknown said...

@Matt Thanks! Asgard certainly was head shaker for me. Branagh more than delivered in my opinion. I knew he wasn't working with the deeper, more complex material he normally does, but he really did a good job with this superhero.

Jamie Gibbs said...

Awesome review! I completely agree that 3-D is overdone and I never bother with it anymore. Good call on the extravagance of Asgard, though I think a lot of the pomp attached to it was to counterpoint the desolation of Jotunheim. Hiddleston is definitely one to watch out for too :D

Unknown said...

@Jamie Thank you so much! I see your point about countering Jotunheim. That could very well have been the case. I'm so glad to know you don't bother with 3-D either.