More than Thunder and Fury

29 Apr , 2011,
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If you’ve been following Marvel movies in the past couple years, then you’ll know pretty much just what to expect. The Thor movie, one of the last to be screened before the Avengers hits the big screen, is just as formulaic.

It’s a regular  action adventure, with a slapped on dash of romance, a stab at comedy, and plenty of glitzy special effects. Yet despite it’s routine  script and simple premise, it has its high points, thanks to industry veteran Kenneth Branagh’s direction, as well as a cast that’s not half bad.

Thor’s tale begins with his meteoric rise as Asgard’s golden boy – a blonde haired, blue eyed, and likely brain-dead warrior, who loses it all when he leads a force of warriors into Jotunheim, the frozen kingdom of the frost giants,  jeopardizing a millennium old truce between the two worlds.

Stripped off his power, he is banished to earth so he could learn how to play better with others,  but his first run-in with a mortal – the astrophysicist Jane Foster (who, naturally, ends up as his love interest), proves to be the catalyst for his growth and development from just another beefcake with a big hammer into a real hero.

While the pacing of the story plodded along at times (especially when Thor’s just sitting around doing a whole lot of nothing), it was interspersed with enough intrigue and theatrics to keep the things going.

It helped, too, that the actors were as competent as they were. Chris Hemsworth played a convincing Thor, Hollywood doyen Anthony Hopkins was just brilliant as Odin, and Tom Hiddleston, heretofore an unknown, was a suitably conflicted and tortured Loki. The Warriors Three (or perhaps The Three Stooges) were played for laughs, and there were enough in-jokes and bits of humor (some self-deprecating) that helped to polish the script’s otherwise dull edge.

There’s not a whole lot to complain about visually.  Character designs and costumes were true to the comic books, and made even better by the dynamic nature of film. Special effects and CG too were used effectively, and these touches formed the proverbial icing on the comic book cake.

The worlds of Asgard and Jotunheim were stunning to say the least. Jotunheims icy vistas, crumbling crags, and the Lich King-esque castle of the frost giants were as breathtakingly beautiful as they were haunted and foreboding, while Asgard’s shining halls, as well as its blend of magic and technology (just watch the Bifrost activation sequence) were impressive and arresting.

Fight choreography sadly wasn’t one of the film’s stronger suits, especially if it involves more than 2 people going at it at a time. The melee between Thor’s allies and the frost giants in the first act proved messy and unnecessarily complicated, and the skirmish between the Destroyer and the Warriors Three proved no different. The final battle between Thor and Loki, at least, was better conceived, and more than just another slugfest.

Overall, though, it was a fairly decent movie, and a fair treat for the May Day weekend. It’s worth a watch, if you’re a Marvel fan.

Oh, and stay for the credits. You won’t regret it.