Calling Down The Thunder: Alex Reviews THOR

As a card-carrying nerd (yeah, I really do have cards) I’m a little ashamed to admit I don’t really read comics, or at least not big-name superhero titles like the Avengers, so I’ve never been inspired to make a point of seeing the film adaptations.  But my friend and co-conspirator Will Perkins of Dork Shelf offered me a free ticket to the premier of THOR on Thursday, and as a starving musician I stalwartly refuse to pass up anything I don’t have to pay for, so THOR it was.  What follows is an account of my thoughts on the film.


What I lack in comic knowledge I make up for in literary nerdiness, so I’m pretty familiar with Norse mythos.  What I most anticipated going into the film was how the script would marry the existing Avengers world (as established by Iron Man, The Hulk, et.al.) to a character who is quite literally a living god.  The films leading up to the Avengers mega-movie have taken pains to keep the more fanciful elements of the Marvel universe at bay, and you don’t get much more fanciful than Asgaard and Mjolnir and big, beautiful blond men wearing really nifty armor.  (This will not be the last time I reference Chris Hemsworth’s rather spectacular physique in this review – no, I am not gay)

But if I *were*...

So I was impressed with the way scriptwriters Ashley Edward Miller, Zack Stentz and Don Payne dealt deftly and frankly with the true nature of Asgaard within the established universe – just kidding, they didn’t do that at all.  What they did instead was employ a tactic we seldom see in Hollywood: allowing a plot point to remain open to interpretation.  Throughout the course of the flick I saw suggestions that Asgaard existed on another planet, another dimensional plane and maybe even in an afterlife, but they never overtly stated “this is how it is”, and I rather like that.  It allows the audience to exercise their atrophied imaginations a little rather than relying on huge CG budgets to envision it for them.

Also, CG will never compare.

Okay, there was a little of that too.  But it was reasonably tasteful, up until the end (and even then it was contextually viable to have a big CG fight between hero and nemesis – unlike, say, Ang Lee’s “shouldn’t there be a lightning monster” ending to the first Hulk flick) so it gets a pass.

Yeah, this was about how I felt after watching that movie.

But that said, I don’t have a lot of patience for CG in movies anymore.  I know for a big epic blockbuster like THOR it comes with the territory, but the places this movie shone for me were not the oversaturated greenscreen moments.  With one noted exception (that I’ll get to momentarily) I was genuinely impressed with the caliber of acting in this movie, and as a result, my favourite parts were the human interaction moments, brought forward by a genuinely engaged cast.  From Chris Hemsworth’s delightful fish-out-of-water obliviousness on Earth to his arrogant presumption in Asgaard, this newcomer stole the show for me.  Him and his impeccable figure (told you).

HEY LOOK. FAN SERVICE. (Seriously though. Holy shit.)

Tom Hiddleston ate mountains of scenery as Loki, and yet he still came off sincere.  Anthony Hopkins as Allfather Odin was a bit of a footnote to this film, though I suspect his character will feature prominently in future instalments of the series.  I’m happy to see Clark Gregg continuing his cameo stints as S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Phil Coulson, and I particularly enjoyed Stellan Skarsgård as the fatherly Erik Selvig.  And yes, like all the other nerds in the room I enjoyed the Clint Barton / Hawkeye cameo (played by Jeremy Renner) though some of my Nerd Mafia compatriots seemed to think I might miss it.  I didn’t, you judgemental bastards.

Maybe you've heard of us.

The only role that fell far short of expectations was, I hate to say, the lovely Natalie Portman.  And before legions of fanboys rise up and slay me for besmirching her good name, I’m going to qualify that statement.  I think Natalie Portman is one of the best actresses working in Hollywood today.  I have seen her play powerful, engaging roles in a variety of genres (V for Vendetta and Leon the Professional come to mind immediately), and her turn as astrophysicist Jane Foster rather denigrated her past work.  It was painful to watch her giggle and weak-knee her scenes with Hemsworth, though she gave a good account of herself in so doing (and I can’t really blame her either – did you see those eyes?).  The problem here isn’t Portman, who was just working with a script.  The problem was, as one Nerd Mafia member put it, “she’s a female character in a Marvel story” which is to say, for all her education and training, Jane Foster is a damsel in distress.  This really bugged me.  I know it’s a trope of the genre (if you’re narrow-minded enough to take “comics” as a genre unto themselves, which Hollywood seems to be) but it’s also the 21st century.  I’m not suggesting every female character in a flick like THOR needs to be some kind of super-powered ass-kicking machine, but it would have been nice to see a little more gumption from an actress I respect and appreciate.  Also, would it have killed her to show a little skin?  God.

DON'T YOU DARE JUDGE ME.

That last bit was a joke, sort of, but seriously – naked Natalie Portman is the only reason I can think of to shoehorn 3D into this flick.  I’m not going to harp on this issue, but at the end of the day, 3D is a dead end.  There.  I said it.  It’s not immersive, it doesn’t look cool and it keeps ending up in films that don’t need it.  It’s a gimmick.  Also, it gives me a *splitting* headache and the glasses look ridiculous.

I’m not going to comment a lot on the story, partly out of a desire to avoid spoilers and partly because of my aforementioned dearth of comic knowledge, but I was sufficiently impressed with the pacing and the dual plot structure that I stayed engaged for the entire 114 minute run time.  At the risk of sounding like a snob, I don’t exactly go into Marvel Studios films expecting high art – I expect to be entertained, have my nerd-glands stimulated a little, and go home more-or-less satisfied.  And THOR delivered on all three counts.  Sure, it had its plot holes, but go find me a franchise that doesn’t – and honestly, if you’re going to go searching for inconsistencies in a story about a guy with a magical hammer fighting ice giants, I’d like to introduce you to a concept called “outside” because I have a feeling you haven’t left the basement for twenty or thirty years.  THOR knows what it is: a piece of enjoyable comic fluff, and I definitely recommend it both to fans of the comic (you can scream at me about how the comic is better at nerdswithguitars@gmail.com) and to those like me who just want to turn off our brains and watch Norse gods flirt with Natalie Portman and break things for an hour and a half.

Four stars.

I don't have Photoshop yet. Imagine four of these. THERE ARE FOUR STARS.

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~ by Alex James on May 2, 2011.

2 Responses to “Calling Down The Thunder: Alex Reviews THOR”

  1. Hey there, I just hopped over to your web page thru StumbleUpon. Not somthing I might normally read, but I appreciated your thoughts none the less. Thanks for making something worth reading through.

    • Thanks for your response! It’s been a while since I’ve updated this page, and it’s always a pleasant surprise to find out that people still read it periodically. Just made my day!

      Alex,
      NWG

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