Two Very Different Reviews Of Thor (B+, D)11.05.11 # Review # 17 Comments
Review Number 1
By Adam Mason
After many found Iron Man 2 disappointing, Thor certainly has its work cut out. Not only does it have to restore faith in the crumbling superhero genre, it has to fit into the established Marvel film canon, demonstrate that the Norse God of Thunder is a credible protagonist and pave the way for the forthcoming Avengers assembly. Not an easy task for anyone.
It’s a bloody good job, then, that comic writers/ fans J Michael Straczynski and Mark Protosevich were on hand to provide a fabulous story for director Kenneth Branagh to follow. While Branagh might have been a left-field choice for a comic book adaptation, the decision has proved to be an inspired one. Without his keen eye for grand spectacle and tiny human touches, this might well have been a disaster.
Thor (Chris Hemsworth, doing his best to steal your girlfriends), gets tricked into waging a heavenly war against the Frost Giants by his mischievous brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston). Enraged that his son has put Asgard in danger, Odin (Anthony Hopkins, chewing the scenery) casts Thor out and strips away his powers, leaving the once-mighty god to fend for himself on Earth.
Perhaps the strongest criticism that can be levelled at Thor is that the first thirty or forty minutes are almost off-putting in their complexity. Indeed, the whole first hour comes close to collapsing under the weight of the exposition that needs to be established. Norse gods are real, the nine realms exist and the Frost Giants want nothing more than the extinction of Asgard. Except it’s massively more complex than that, requiring so much time and attention from the viewer that newcomers are in danger of total alienation.
Once that’s out of the way, the film becomes a whole new beast. Fantastical sets, amazing costumes and pompous dialogue all get traded for the refreshingly human world of New Mexico. This is when things arguably start to become more appealing, as Thor is forced to face his shortcomings, aided by the lovely Natalie Portman. Although it stills jars with the celestial worlds above, the film really begins to gather pace at this point, allowing the wonderfully flawed human side of Thor to emerge from beneath his chiselled abs.
Just barely tying the film with the entire Marvel franchise is the character of Agent Colson, last seen in the bonus post-credits scene of Iron Man 2, as well as the surprise cameo appearance of one of the Avengers. It will be interesting to see how everything ties in together, but at the moment the continuity between the films is only just hanging by a thread.
Thor works well enough as its own product, containing plenty of humour and action, as well as Chris Hemsworth’s abs (for the ladies) and Natalie Portman looking gorgeous (for everyone else). Well acted, with stunning CGI and great characters, Thor might just restore faith in the doubters and prove that Marvel still have a fair few tricks up their sleeves. You might say it’s Thorsome-[gunshot]
My Grade: B+
Review Number 2
By Dalmatian Jaws
If I could meet Joseph Campbell I would punch him in the face. Or just make him watch Thor.
Pictured: Joseph Campbell’s Gaydream
The mythical motif of a sacrificial hero has always saturated Western culture, but it wasn’t until 1949 when Campbell published The Hero With a Thousand Faces that these structural guidelines became widely known and clearly defined, and since then writers in all mediums have been looking to his work for inspiration. The problem is that Campbell’s deconstruction of myth was intended to shed light on trends that already existed, not to teach writers how to write.
The result (in regard to film): a slew of pseudo-mythical tripe that thinks placing a Christ Figure amidst shiny special effects is what makes a good story. I’m looking at you, Tron: Legacy, Matrix 2 & 3, Star Wars prequels, and now, Thor.
Thor isn’t so much a story as it is a skeleton of a story, a bare framework slapped together using pieces of other, better, stories. The screenwriters basically cut out parts of Beauty and the Beast and pasted them together with The Gospel. And because just having a hero sacrifice his own life to save the world world wasn’t painfully obvious enough, the screenwriters chose to have the protagonist’s FATHER WHO IS ALSO A GOD use his powers to restore Thor to life and Kenneth Branagh, genius director that he isn’t, decided to cut to close ups of the comatose Odin crying in order to convey this magical sacrifice.
My writers, why have you forsaken me?
Throw in a lame B-story filled with a ragtag team of Tolkien rip-offs and you’ve got the makings of a generic summer blockbuster.
Now, a lot of this could be forgiven, considering the Norse mythology as inspiration. But when working with time-worn tropes it’s important to make them interesting by dressing them up in cool packaging. Unfortunately, the producers of Thor chose to dress up their dull story with jaw-droppingly awful costumes:
The world’s angriest bunny.
and lazy production design brought ingloriously to life via some of the worst visual effects ever seen in a 150 million dollar budget film:
That’s right, Norse gods live in a giant version of Pan’s flute … I think every lit crit major just had a collective joygasm.
When it’s all said in done, the best thing one can say about Thor is that it’s “entertaining.” But the sad thing is that our definition of entertainment gets thinner with each new lazy blockbuster. Out of the entire 120 minutes of Thor there’s only one moment of unique action, a scene where Thor uses his hammer to blast through the head of a giant monster. While the rest of the movie does boast plenty of action, it’s mostly action that we’ve seen before. The cheap-looking sets, glossy armour, and prancing fight choreography feel like a non-slo-motion version of 300 and the final battle, with its Gort-rip-off of a villain, feels like a low rent ‘50s sci-fi. There’s nothing creative here, everything is stolen from other films.
With Thor, Branagh finally proves without a shadow of a doubt that he’s incapable of telling a visual story. The ridiculous overuse of dutch angles is reminiscent of Battlefield Earth and the tediously wide master shots of painfully theatrical fight choreography are laughable. The entire film is an absolute mess of half-assery and tedious dialog. While Marvel jump-started their crossover franchises so well with Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk, their current downward spiral of slapdash fanboy fodder does not bode well for Joss Whedon, who has the thankless job of steering this runaway stagecoach from the approaching drop into Geek Canyon. On the bright side, unless Captain America: The First Avenger is 900% better than its title, in 2012 The Avengers won’t have a very long way to fall.
My Grade: D