Film Review: ‘Thor’

Truth be known, this isn’t the review I wanted to write. Trust me, it would be a lot easier to heap glowing praise on this over-hyped tale of a Norse God who is banished to earth, but the movie just wasn’t my cup of mead.

I’m convinced someone must have messed with my 3D glasses. Based on ecstatic word of mouth, I should have seen a thrilling, well executed, well acted, and good looking film. Instead, I saw a dull, erratically paced film with gaudy set pieces, tacky costumes, and inconsistent writing.

Admittedly, I am no master of the Marvel universe, so take that with a grain of salt. However, I am game, and have enjoyed several of the movies culled from their stable of superheroes in recent years.  Throw director Kenneth Branagh into the mix, and I am not only intrigued, but a little giddy. I guess that might be part of the reason I was so disappointed in the film; I expected better with Branaugh at the helm.

The film tells the story of Thor, a Norse God who wields a mighty wicked hammer as his weapon of choice against the bad guys. Thor resides in the realm of Asgard, and he is a sure shot to take over the throne from his aging father Odin (Anthony Hopkins).

Odin has maintained peace between his kingdom and the Frost Giants, a rival population, for years.  When they threaten to infiltrate Asgard, Thor makes a hasty decision to attack the Frost Giants. This infuriates his father, who banishes Thor to Earth, and strips Thor’s hammer of any real power.

Thor arrives on our planet via a wormhole, and astrophysicist Jane (Natalie Portman) is equal parts exhilarated and horrified when she literally bumps into Thor with her vehicle while driving in the desert.  Thus begins a somewhat amusing story arc in which Thor tries to acclimate to his new environment.

Later, Thor tries to reclaim his hammer, to no avail.  He has to prove his might and valor before he earns his weapon back.  He is thwarted by little brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) who is harboring a nasty  case of daddy issues, and inexplicably dons a helmet sprouting antlers when he goes to the dark side.

Let’s just pretend the story is remarkably coherent (it isn’t). What are my other qualms with the movie? I thought the CGI and the backdrops (most notably of Asgard) looked cheap. It reminded me of the fantasy backdrops from Flash Gordon, circa 1980.  For a high level production, I found the set design extremely distracting. Complicating the matter, the scenes shot in Asgard were very dark, and that doesn’t mix well with 3D glasses. An early fight scene looked like a blurry, muddled mess.

This ceased to be a problem when the action moved to Earth, namely New Mexico. These scenes were well lit and more enjoyable to watch. I think that is a large reason that I enjoyed the second half of the movie a lot more, I could actually see what was happening.

The costumes look like they were made of plastic and red velour. Normally these things don’t bother me, but these were silly, tacky, and just plain baffling.  They looked like something I would throw together for a school play the night before. Horrible.

The characters are poorly written, and lack consistency. When Thor lands on Earth, he is a monosyllabic, grunting fool.  Mere hours later, he is well versed and articulate as he explains the whole scientific process of transportation via the wormhole.

Natalie Portman’s Jane is supposed to be a brilliant scientist, but we are to believe that she is ready to drop her panties the moment she meets Thor.  If I ran into an disheveled, dirty man in a costume in the desert spewing vernacular straight out of a Renaissance festival, I would assume that he was schizophrenic, and in need of psychiatric care.

I simply couldn’t buy that this seemingly brilliant woman could so easily dismiss so many red flags. Asgard is supposed to be a sophisticated realm with superior technology and intellect, but apparently they can’t grasp the elusive concept of bathing.  Thor carries enough grease in his unkempt mane to supply a breakfast diner.

I felt Loki’s sudden swing in motivation and temperament is suspect, and far too  convenient, though I enjoyed Hiddleston’s performance as a whole. While the actors do an okay job with the material, I found Chris Hemsworth to be far more charismatic in Star Trek, even though he had limited screen time.

I fault the material more than the actor. Hopkins is solid, and Portman is darling, per usual. She is flanked by Kat Dennings, who plays the sassy sidekick in the film. Stellan Skarsgard rounds out the trifecta of scientists and Clark Gregg returns as Agent Coulson, the stereotypically sinister g-man.

The romance? Really, why bother? I don’t think anyone is going to buy that Thor and Jane have fallen in love over the course of the movie. They literally exchange about seven sentences during the full running time. They are cute together, but have limited interactions.

As far as pacing goes, once we get out of the realm of Asgard, the action really picks up. The last forty minutes are quite enjoyable and thrilling, I just wish the rest of the movie would have followed suit.

I know that I stand alone on this movie. Thor will doubtless rake in the dough over the weekend. The audience I saw the film with was delighted with the movie. I couldn’t get out of the theater fast enough. To each their own.

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