Friday, 3 June 2011

Thor Review


The character of Thor always seemed a bit of a laughable concept for a superhero. In a historical sense Thor was part of Norse mythology. He was a god that wielded a hammer and controlled thunder and lightning. Thus, an ‘almighty being’ as a superhero always seemed a cheap effort by Marvel, who are usually more ‘creative’. However with Marvel putting heavy focus on the creation of The Avengers franchise with Captain America, and the recent Iron Man 2, Thor was inevitably going to gain his own blockbuster film. From the start I was very apprehensive towards the idea, and with Kenneth Branagh directing, he would inevitably inject a ‘Shakespearian’ twist or influence into the production. The trailers furthered my sceptical perception towards the film with bad-looking CGI and terrible dialogue. However the casting looked promising with the likes of Anthony Hopkins, Stellan Skarsgard and Idris Elba.  And after the very positive reviews surfacing around the web, I gave in and went to see it with a sense of ‘open-mindedness’. The result was a ‘superhero’ film that failed to be ‘super’ or entertaining. It was dull, stupid but sufficiently watchable and had some noteworthy performances. 
The film begins with the waging war between Odin (Anthony Hopkins), the king of Asgard and the Frost Giants. However after centuries of peace, Odin’s son, Thor’s (Chris Hemsworth) arrogance sees the threat of war reappear. He is thus banished to Earth and removed of his powers. After being ‘discovered’ by a group of scientists (Natalie Portman/ Stellan Skarsgard/ Kat Dennings), he must lean his lesson and defend Earth from a dark threat sent from his homeland. It’s a simple story that Branagh structures well and portrays  confidently. It’s free from the over-indulgent use of flashbacks, and includes some neat twists and turns that keep it somewhat interesting. 
The cast is full of fantastic names such as Anthony Hopkins, Stellan Skarsgard and Tadanobu Asano. However, the problem is they aren’t fully developed and are fairly underused. For example, from my limited knowledge of the Thor universe, the Warrior Three (Fandral, Hogun, Volstagg) play a substantial role in the comics. In relation to the film, they merely appear on screen, say a few lines, a few jokes, fight....a bit and move along. There’s no energy, no spark and little personality. Instead Natalie Portman and her band of scientists are the main focus, and their story isn’t very interesting. A romantic relationship between Jane Foster (Portman) and Thor is inevitably constructed, yet fails to materialise, meaning her character is completely redundant. Chris Hemsworth, remembered mainly for his minor role in J.J. Abram’s Star Trek, plays the strong, blond haired protagonist. While he certainly looks the part, he fails to bring any character or anything likeable. While many will laugh at the hilarious shenanigans of Thor trying to adapt to Earth life, it felt very cliché and pointless. The standout performance is that of Tom Hiddleston as Loki. He packs so much charisma and energy into his performance that he overshadows everyone else. We see a character that is intelligent yet devilish, and this comes across in each scene Hiddleston is in. He does especially well with the terrible script that has been written, and this is a big problem with Thor. 
Understandably, everyone in Asgard talks like they’re royalty, which come through with Branagh’s ‘Shakespearian’ style. Yet the majority of the script seems to simply point out what has just happened, or the obvious. Speeches by the various characters are generic and cliché, and lack gusto or ‘uniqueness’.  This links into another major problem of the film; the lack of anything ‘epic’ or grand. The setting of a small New Mexico town, really limits the ability to expand and explore. We are shown the grandeur of Asgard and the Rainbow Bridge, but apart from those locations it sticks to the barren, sandy New Mexico. It all seems lacklustre and humorous when compared to the likes of other superheroes; Superman protects Metropolis, Batman has Gotham and Spiderman has New York City, while Thor has a small town in the middle of nowhere. There’s no ‘epic’ scale, substantial threat or significant consequence. Maybe this was intended to allow for a more character focused film, yet it fails to do this successfully as well. Even the final act fails to be explosive, energetic or amazing, which the majority of 'comic book' movies manage to do well. Another problem that has me worried for future Marvel’s films is the dominance of S.H.I.E.L.D. Like Iron Man 2, S.H.I.E.L.D plays a predominant role in Thor and it’s really beginning to ‘hurt’ the films. While Nick Fury’s organisation (Samuel L. Jackson) is essential to the formation of ‘The Avengers’, there are so many stupid moments with the agency. They seem to have no intelligence and act as ‘canon-fodder‘ for the enemies. This isn’t helped by the shear pain Clark Gregg, who plays Agent Phil Coulson, is to watch. His acting is terrible, and every time he’s on screen, he’s dull and lifeless, which may suit the ‘official’, no-nonsense character(?).
Overall Thor isn’t a terrible film, its just a boring one. As I stated, the character of Thor always seemed like a humorous attempt at a hero, and whilst Kenneth Branagh brings charm and ‘seriousness’ to the source material, it lacks in every department. Nothing stands out, the humour and dialogue is cringe-worthy, the action isn’t exciting or enjoyable and the acting is average. I pray Captain America doesn’t suffer similar problems. 

1 comment:

  1. While Thor had many opportunities to expand into its own mythology deeper than this film did, that wasn't necessarily the main focus. These films are more of an introduction to characters from the Marvel universe in anticipation of The Avengers.

    Regarding the New Mexico filming in relation to the beauty that was Asgard, I think that dichotomy was intentional. Thor is a heavenly being of sorts hailing from essentially a "magical" realm. He possesses powers/technology foreign to Earth, and his superiority complex overwhelmed his ego. Odin noticed this, and he was banished to Earth. Now, Odin may not have chosen his landing on Earth, but in falling in a desolate location such as New Mexico, Thor escapes from most external influences and is able to discover his sense of self as well as compassion for others. In a sense, the emptiness of New Mexico allows Thor to discover how empty his life has been and helps him to develop humility and purpose that lacked previously.