MOVIE REVIEW: Thor

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While we still have to wait a few weeks for Thor to arrive in U.S. theaters, the movie has now opened in Australia and soon the rest of the world.  Major Spoilerite Antonio Sanciolo, who runs a movie theater, took a look at the movie, and filed this review.

THOR
Directed by Kenneth Branagh
Writing credits
Ashley Miller (screenplay) (as Ashley Edward Miller) &
Zack Stentz (screenplay) and
Don Payne (screenplay)
J. Michael Straczynski (story) and
Mark Protosevich (story)
Stan Lee (comic book) &
Larry Lieber (comic book) &
Jack Kirby (comic book)

Cast (in alphabetical order)
Natalie Portman … Jane Foster
Chris Hemsworth … Thor
Anthony Hopkins … Odin
Jeremy Renner … Clint Barton / Hawkeye
Kat Dennings … Darcy
Ray Stevenson … Volstagg
Stellan Skarsgård … Professor Andrews
Idris Elba … Heimdall
Rene Russo … Frigga
Jaimie Alexander … Sif
Tom Hiddleston … Loki
Clark Gregg … Agent Phil Coulson
Colm Feore … Laufey

Complete credits at IMDB

THE STORY

The powerful but arrogant warrior Thor is cast out of the fantastic realm of Asgard and sent to live amongst humans on Earth, where he soon becomes one of their finest defenders.

THE TRAILER

THE REVIEW

Just five minutes into the flm and one is made very aware that director Kenneth Branagh intends to guide viewers through his work not with the breakneck speed of a McG or Bay, nor with the slow reverence Zack Snyder afforded “Watchmen” or Nolan with “The Dark Knight”. Instead, it feels more like one is in the capable hands of a master seaman; equally considerate of his “passengers” as he is of his craft. The film dabbles in flashbacks but not confusingly so; and storytelling conventions like the obligatory romance are given no more screen time than what is absolutely necessary. The action strikes in perfect syncopation to the narrative; allowing for a film that seems to favor neither. This in its own way is a weakness as far as selling this movie; a comic book streamlining of Norse mythology, set in the modern day with a Shakespearean flair.

The casting is surprisingly effective and well handled as even the supporting cast, often neglected in comic book adaptions, feel relatively fleshed out and given due screen time. Chris Hemsworth as the titular Thor leaves his Australian soap opera pedigree behind. One sees the often absent spark of a leading man in his eye; equal parts charm, brawn and sincerity. He physically occupies the role with ease as his muscles ripple and bulge not only when assisted by chainmail and armour, but in his mortal guise as well. Natalie Portman plays the foil expertly yet does not allow her character, Jane Foster, to come off as too helpless or “girlish”. Tom Hiddleston is unnervingly brilliant as Loki. This is not the maniacally laughing trickster stereotype but a deceiver; a true serpent in a garden of Eden. Hiddleston, under Branagh’s direction, plays his role so efficiently that the merest nod and darting of eyes speaks volumes and yet the viewer still is forced to reserve sympathy for and await a change of heart from the character of Loki. Even Sir Anthony Hopkins seems to value his role of Odin the Allfather as more than just another paycheck. One can feel more sincerity and depth from his role as the father of the Asgardian gods than in many of his other roles in recent years. The support cast is handled perfectly and there are several appearances throughout the film of characters that will have an increased importance as the Avengers films, of which this is one, build and intertwine with a manic complexity that could make Tarantino blush.

This leads to one of the film’s main flaws, as occasionally one can feel the producers hands around the piece, peeling away from a single director’s tale and leaving as many openings available as Marvel Pictures needs to create their Frankenstein’s monster of a franchise.

Visually, the film is stunning and the portrayal of the godly realm of Asgard alone is enough to pay extra to experience the film in 3D. It is worth noting that certain parts of the film, especially the battles with the Frost Giants, are considerably dark due to the polarization of 3D. The pre-Avatar rollout of “Real3D” installations will not do these scenes any justice so it is recommended one locates the nearest cinema with the newer Dolby Digital3D technology or similar. The usual foibles of 3D present themselves, most notably the “forced blur” that directs one’s eye to the intended focus point. When experiencing Asgard, though, one’s eyes wish to wander and take in the beauty, not limit themselves to sitting upon a blonde man in a cape and on his knees. The 2D version of the film would be just as enjoyable though one is truly missing out on one of the only films to really take advantage of the 3D plane when it comes to large panoramas and establishing shots. Even the shots set in New Mexico dazzle as wide-angle lense effects really set the viewer inside the shot.

The New Mexico scenes do let the film down in others ways though; rendering the glimmering Asgardian armor as light plastic props in the true light. Thor himself faces the brilliantly conceived “Destroyer” in a shirt and jeans, looking as if he has wandered off the victory dais of a surfing tournament. The only other thing that really failed to capture the intended grandeur of the film was the score. Patrick Doyle seems to have scored the entire film in the key of beige with nary a theme or leitmotif. Though not creating anything sonically offensive, he retreats to the stock standard horns and string accompaniment of a superhero film. The film is done no favours though when other films lifted from the pages of comic books have received musical treatment from the likes of Williams, Elfman and Zimmer and have accordingly entered the cultural soul of society.

Thor is well crafted piece that refreshingly commits to a story as much as it does musclemen with fantastic powers. This balance does take away a lot of the potential wow factor one anticipates going in to see the “God of Thunder”. There is a real sense of “the old way” of telling stories here; which, besides being obviously relevant to the Norse myths that have begotten this film, is evident in it’s telling: free from gimmicks like “bullet-time” and Snyder’s “fast/slow/fast” technique; absent are the alternate endings, fast forwards and rewinds; and there are no Keyser Soze moments, yet the film approaches the predictable in a manner that doesn’t make one feel like a six year old. Sometimes, however, I really value how I saw the world as a six year old and would have loved if this film could have granted me a glimpse of that. I give Thor 3 and a half stars out of 5.

Rating: ★★★½☆