Saturday, May 21, 2011
THOR: More Fun Than Getting Hammered on a Rainbow Bridge.
Writing about THOR has been surprisingly difficult – maybe because I was a bit surprised at my reaction to the movie. The action sequences are big & flashy. The plot feels a bit convoluted at times. Certain roles are superfluous. Elements of the direction are contrived. And the love story in the center of it all is nothing short of unbelievable. However….I have to admit that I walked out of the theater smiling.
With THOR, Kenneth Branagh (clearly adding to his 401k) has created one of the most satisfying blockbuster movies I recall seeing in quite a while. It’s a big oaf of a movie – for all its faults, it’s just so genuine & kind that I couldn’t help but love it.
I walked into the movie with essentially no knowledge of the Thor mythology, comic book or not. And, as with most comic book movies, this ignorance generally helps me more than it hinders. I’m sure there were little quips and references throughout it that flew over my head, but I also avoided the pitfall of: “Well in the comic book, it happened THIS way.” The dangers of comic book adaptations are bountiful, and I’m sure sometime we’ll have a discussion about the nature of adaptations in general. But for now, I was just able to enjoy THOR in and of itself.
Here’s what needs to be known about the plot: in another world/dimension/whatever, Thor ends up getting banished by his king father for being too arrogant. He ends up on Earth, while his sinister younger brother ends up assuming the throne which was meant to be Thor’s. On Earth, he meets & befriends some scientists, who end up trying to help him find his hammer (the source of his power) which also ended up on Earth during the whole banishment ordeal. Uhm…yeah. There are also ice giants, Thor’s group of friends who are trying to find him, a secret government organization who are working against (yet also with) the scientists. The Na’vi show up to save Pandora, but not before Magneto rides in on Shadowfax to steal the secret of Bruce Banner’s power. I couldn’t really care less about all of this. One of the story’s hang-ups is its trying to cover so much ground. I understand that this was basically created as a setup for THE AVENGERS, but come on.
Another problem is how Thor and the lead human scientist, played respectively by Chris Hemsworth and Natalie Portman, almost instantly fall in love. OK – it is just a comic book movie, but still. I guess two attractive people have no need of dating or spending more than a couple days together in order to become enamored with each other. Apparently, one should never underestimate the power of the “V” (right Vincent?).
Alright, when it’s all said and done, THOR did win me over for two main reasons. First, I found the movie surprisingly funny…and the humor was INTENDED. Maybe I was just in the right frame of mind, but I found myself laughing quite a bit, even at all the slapstick. And this pains me to say, but…I even liked Kat Denning’s character, even though she existed for the sole purpose of comic relief. I. KNOW. Don’t ask me to explain.
The second reason I liked THOR was because of its general, good-natured tone. No thanks to a certain well-liked director out there today, so many movies have this push to be “realistic,” and dark, and moody - and they end up just squelching the fun out of so much of the cinematic experience. THOR hit me like a fresh wind. It wasn’t pretentious. It wasn’t angsty. It just set out to be fun, and it succeeded. At the same time, the movie didn’t dumb things down and shove explosions into your eye-sockets. It respected the intellects of the audience more than it didn’t. It all just worked.
There is some serious cinematic chemistry at work in THOR. If you add all the pieces up, THOR doesn’t sound like it should work, and it shouldn’t. However, it ends up surpassing the sum of its parts. The credit can be spread around to a few different places, but primarily to a very likable Chris Hemsworth and to Kenneth Branagh who ends up making a number of mistakes but also makes some gutsy choices. Ultimately the basic, good natured elements of the film end up shining through, making THOR a very satisfying movie.