Thor (2011) directed by Kenneth Branagh
Lots of weird stuff going on blogger.com right now deleting posts and such, this is the second time I've posted this....
When I first heard that they were making a movie on Thor I was somewhat skeptical because I wasn't sure how he would translate onto film. How would he be portrayed? How would they demonstrate his powers? Thor, in the comics and in Norse mythology, isn't just a superhero, but a god. One of the big appeals of recent comic book hits like Iron Man and Batman is actually the human element. Tony Stark and Bruce Wayne are regular human beings who do extraordinary things without any special powers. It leaves open the possibility that they could actually exist in our realities, maybe even be one of us (if we were billionaires of course). Even more improbable heroes like Spiderman or the X-Men deal with human problems on human levels. Peter Parker is just the dorky guy next door, your friendly neighborhood spiderman as he likes to proclaim. However, once you start going into Superman category, it stretches the boundaries of what is actually possible and messes with the balance of realism and imagination. In the DC universe, you have Batman patrolling Gotham City fighting crime, and is the very best that human kind can offer. But once Superman enters the picture, Batman's abilities becomes irrelevant in the face of such an awesome force. Superman can fly, can travel faster than speeding bullet, is virtually indestructible, saves entire planets, no, universes, while Batman has trouble protecting one tiny city. Given the realistic approach Christopher Nolan has given his Batman series, a crossover with Superman would never work in his vision, even if they are great allies in the comics. Hell, even bad guys that actually exist in Batman lore like The Penguin, Killer Croc or Mr. Freeze would be difficult to portray in Nolan's more realistic world.
One of the conflicts with Thor is that in order to acknowledge his existence, you have to throw disbelief out the window and fully embrace not just comic book lore but also its supernatural and extraterrestrial ethos. You have to expand our tiny world into Marvel's vision of the greater universe, which feels drastically different from the world presented to us in Iron Man. How is Thor supposed to fit into Tony Stark's world without totally diminishing Iron Man's status as a hero? I only bring this up because of amount of cross promotion between the recent Marvel films for the upcoming Avengers movie which throws these two together, along with what seems like a realistic portrayal of Captain America and other heroes.
Finally I talk about the movie:
My suspicions only grew as we spend much of the early part of the movie in Thor's home world Asgard across the galaxy. This superhero movie starts to feel a lot more like a fantasy/adventure in the lines of Lord of the Rings or Star Wars than a rock'em sock'em action flick. Thor's home world looks so incredibly computer generated (read fake) it's hard to imagine someone from this plane existing in our planet, let alone a desolate spot like New Mexico, yet the narrative manages to find a nice balance between the events on Asgard and on Earth, though nothing really important seems to happen on Earth.
Thor is a big, big picture with a pretty loaded cast including the likes of Natalie Portman and Anthony Hopkins (and future star hunk Chris Hemsworth). There are big sets and big effects, but practically everything is done in front of a green screen, giving much of the film an artificial look. Despite the big production, the premise remains simple. Thor, who is arrogant and brash, must learn to be a better person by living amongst humans. So we get a character study dressed up in a big action picture, yet his transformation doesn't really seem to jive. There doesn't seem to be the gradual progression or the "Aha!" moment that signifies Thor's change; we sort of just accept that he does. There is, of course, the girl factor. Superman had Louis Lane to keep him grounded on Earth. Thor has Jane Foster, astrophysicist, yet their romance seems just as unconvincing as the rest of the picture. Am I supposed to believe they just fall for each other, that Thor would suddenly turn into the hero he is because of some girl he's known for like, three days?
Despite the paltry character development and heavy reliance on big effects, it does get the job done as a big summer blockbuster. The special effects are sure to wow some people, while the "epic" story will be enough to hook others in. There is some well timed humor sprinkled throughout and the obligatory (though somewhat underwhelming) battles. Chris Hemsworth flexes his muscles and is generally pretty charming, along with a solid performance by his supporting cast. This movie does feature TWO Academy Award winners after all. Given the difficult source material to work with, Thor does a decent job in introducing us to one of Marvel's lesser known heroes in a generally entertaining summer blockbuster. At least it's done its job to keep me interested to see how he fares side by side Robert Downy's star power in The Avengers.