Saturday, May 7, 2011

Thor: A Review

A Masterpiece. 

Truly, this is the best comic book movie made to date (sorry Mr. Favreau) and regardless of specific genre, a straight-up great movie. Everyone will love this, diehard fan or neophyte.

While everything works in this film, I suspect the secret to its utter success is Kenneth Branagh. His experience and eye brought us a well-oiled machine, scenes perfectly cut together, action perfectly balanced with emotion, as well as some time in his personal wheelhouse, with Shakespearean betrayals and family strife and true love. One can almost see him coaxing the performances out of his actors. And they didn't disappoint.

Chris Hemsworth is so completely the Asgardian Prince that I was rather shocked. I didn't get such an overwhelming sense of that from the trailers or clips, and in fact was a little worried that he'd be some swaggering, Rugby jock type of God-hero. And to be sure the arrogance of his character is off-putting in the first part of his arc, but you are completely absorbed by his raw power and authority (and yes, attraction.) A few twists of fate later and he is grinning in a trailer with Natalie Portman, and you realize you are grinning like a fool in your seat as well. By the end he is everything a comic reader knows Thor to be, and even more. Kind, beautiful, noble, polite, strong beyond belief, but with an unexpected sense of humor you don't often see in the comics. Hemsworth utterly nailed it.

Tom Hiddleston as Loki was perhaps even better. The God of Mischief with the serpent's tongue is a character one would think tough to translate to the screen, all those thought bubbles and boxes of narration being rather helpful when it comes to explaining how he's deceiving his loved ones by saying exactly what they want to hear. Somehow it is accomplished, whether the credit goes to the writers or Hiddleston or even Branagh, but Loki becomes a clearly portrayed  yet complex character; beautiful in his own way, skilled, treacherous, consumed with such a vast amount of loneliness and self-doubt that no amount of love reaches him. The two brothers are so young, they act with folly and recklessness and pride, that one almost doesn't recall they're immortal until the end of the movie.

But Gods they are, and everything is done, including the humor, to confirm this. The sets for Asgard and the Rainbow Bridge are gorgeous. Again, I worried they would be too much or too fake, but they were aesthetically pleasing and, once the characters began speaking, completely believable. The juxtaposition of Thor on Earth, stripped of most of his power and in the company of mortals, even enhances his true, God-like stature, and yet you can see the beginnings of Thor's lifelong love of Earth.

 I could easily go on, spoiling the movie and doing little else but gushing. But I shall call on the power of brevity to reveal any further points. Scenes with SHIELD were exciting (Hawkeye Cameo!!) and well done and Agent Coulson ("Son of Coul") has become an old Marvel movie friend by this point. Even Natalie Portman, who has of late become rather annoying, was dead-on as Jane Foster and provided a warm, simple foil to Thor. Stellan Skarsgard stole several scenes and Anthony Hopkins naturally reminded us of his acting prowess. I had forgotten Rene Russo was in it (love that woman, go rewatch the Thomas Crown Affair remake) and while she only had two lines, she looked stunning. Kat Dennings delivered her comic relief very well and in fact, there are several moments of pure hilarity throughout the film that do nothing to take away from the epic nature of the story. It is based on a comic book after all, and the skillful blend of heavy emotion, thrilling adventure, and lighthearted humor is a joy to experience.

The bar has been set high indeed for Captain America, let alone Whedon's Avengers. But no matter what those two accomplish, Thor is a triumph.

Go see it now. And don't forget to sit through the credits for the traditional bonus Marvel movie scene. You will hear the spontaneous howls of wonder from the geeks in the audience, and then either overhear the awestruck explanations or else start googling [redacted] on your iPhone.

Rating: Nine out of Nine Realms.

1 comment: