Monday, May 9, 2011

Thor - The God of Acceptable

Since the inception of Marvel Studios, there has always been the plan to create an Avengers movie, with movies before it to establish the characters to appear in it. With Iron Man and Hulk down, the next one to get a movie was Thor. The movie seemed interesting to me not only because I plan on watching the Avengers movie, but I also gained a recent interest in Norse Mythology, which Thor is based on. After seeing this movie without any real knowledge of the Thor universe, save for the Loki comic, I can say that although I liked it, it's not a movie I would recommend in a heartbeat.

The movie begins by showing us that even though there is peace between the realms of Asgard, the land of the gods, and Jotunheim, the land of the frost giants, after Odin (Anthony Hopkins) had already fought the frost giants in the past, there is still some tension between them. This results in some frost giants attempting to steal their power source, the Casket of Ancient Winters, from within Asgard on the day Thor (Chris Hemsworth)  was to be declared King of the Gods. In retaliation, Thor and a few others, his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and the Warriors Three, cross the rainbow bridge Bifrost to convince the gatekeeper Heimdall (Idris Elba) to allow use of the teleporter to go to Jotunheim. When they actually get there, Thor ends up battling the frost giants, bringing everyone else into the fray. When Odin rescues the gods, he takes away Thor's powers and banishes him to Midgard, aka Earth, to learn humility. Odin also sends Thor's hammer Mjolnir down with him, putting a spell on it so only the worthy may wield it. After a run-in with scientists Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings), and Dr. Eric Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard), the movie becomes an action-packed fish out of water story that manages to break trends associated with that plot.

To elaborate, most fish out of water stories make the character in this situation an idiot in their new surroundings or are completely arrogant when being taught new customs. This is not the case for Thor. While it is admittedly odd that he accepts Earth customs with ease, it is actually refreshing to see this kind of story and see the character willing to learn more about where he is. An example of this, which is actually cited often, is a scene in a coffee shop where Thor is enjoying his coffee and declares it. As he is used to the customs of Asgard, he throws his cup on the ground and breaks it. Jane tells him that he can't do that and he just accepts it. At the same time, the coffee shop scene is a great example of the humor present within the movie. Thor surprisingly had perfect comedic timing, making me laugh more than the other Marvel Studios movies thus far.

Since Jane and Thor spend time together in the film, there is some romantic tension between them. However, this isn't elaborated very well, making for some rushed character development on Thor's part. As other reviews have pointed out, the only real moment the two have together is when Thor is explaining the Nine Realms to Jane. At the same time, Thor manages to go from jerk with a heart of gold to a kinder protector in record time, which left me with more of a sense that I missed something in the movie, not exactly the best feeling I could have had. I would elaborate on this further, but doing so would give away more of the plot than I intend.

The battle scenes in this movie also ranged from very large and busy, such as the battle with the frost giants in Jotunheim, to somewhat empty, like a later fight Thor has in New Mexico. To me, the bigger fights were a little hard to follow because of the large amount of cuts used, but this is unfortunately mostly due to the 3D glasses I was wearing. Watching the movie in 3D actually made the movie darker than it really was, taking away from the experience rather than enhancing it. At a couple of points, I lifted my pair up for a brief moment and the film was much brighter. This made me believe the battery in the glasses was dying, and now I wish I had seen it in 2D instead.

While I'm in this train of thought, I liked the visuals of the movie. All of the CG was very well rendered, from the frost giants to the Destroyer to the realms of Asgard and Jotunheim themselves. Asgard looked like it combined aspects of the Norse mythos with a sleek and well thought out futuristic vision. I like seeing alternate interpretations of mythology, and Thor plays the aspect of the gods actually being aliens better than I expected. Through the technology, I liked how they kept some parts of the mythos intact, like the rainbow bridge Bifrost having multi-colored technology lines. But again, I could not enjoy these environments in their full splendor due to my 3D glasses.

The one thing I can praise despite my problems was the acting. The roles were very well cast, like Anthony Hopkins being a better Odin than I had thought when I heard he was going to be in the role. Chris Hemsworth also brings a lot of charisma to Thor's character, at the same time making him pretty believable. I would also like to say that Natalie Portman as Jane Foster was also a good choice, as she had a better performance than her track record would lead people to believe. However, roles like the Warriors Three are hard to comment on. While I think they did a good job in the role, the characters hardly did anything in the entire movie, mostly being in the background even when they go to retrieve Thor later on.

The one thing I have heard mixed opinions on is the sequence after the end of the credits. I'm not going to say what happens, but rather than skip this segment, I would actually say to stick around for it. You may be left scratching your head, but it is overall better to see it, much like the segment at the end of Iron Man 2 that leads up to this movie. The credits aren't very long anyway, around five minutes, which is actually very short for a CG-heavy movie.

Overall, I didn't find Thor to be a very stellar movie, not as good as Iron Man, but still a fairly enjoyable one. The fight scenes may not be the best ever made, but everything is really great to look at and the acting is superb. Thor was also a laugh riot, which somewhat makes up for some of the rushed exposition in the movie. I would recommend this movie to fans of the Thor comic, people who want to see a very good alternate interpretation of Norse mythology, or people like myself who are gearing up for the eventual Avengers movie. Otherwise, I would suggest looking at more reviews of this movie when considering a viewing, or even try and hold out for Captain America. If you do decide to go, do yourself a favor and make sure you watch it in 2D, as well as watch the after credits segment.

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