Saturday, May 7, 2011

THOR: Movie Review

rated PG-13 for intense sci-fi action/violence
Movie-making: 4 out of 5 stars
Morality rating: Good

The latest entry from the Marvel Studios film invasion is THOR, perhaps the most unique and strikingly visual comic-book adaptation to date. Starring Chris Hemsworth (Star Trek) in the titular role, THOR does a brilliant job of weaving fiction and reality, fantasty and sci-fi.

The plot of THOR is fairly simple- Thor is banished from the realm of Asgard to Earth and meets a beautiful and smart young astro-physicist named Jane Foster, portrayed by Academy-Award winner Natalie Portman (2011 - Black Swan). Meanwhile in Asgard, Thor's brother Loki attempts to weave a web of deception and usurp the throne. While other Marvel movies have maintained a scientific, albeit very sci-fi viewpoint (Think Iron Man, Incredible Hulk, X-Men) THOR stays in a mostly fantastical story, and therein it thrives. This is honestly the reason why I loved this movie. While other movies try to take themselves far too seriously and pass off fiction as reality, THOR knew that it was outrageous, unrealistic and completely far-fetched. Is not the reason behind cinema to escape reality though? Indeed I found myself escaping reality and entering into the realm of Asgard. The question, as one reviewer put it, is not is the movie realistic, but will you roll with it?

The cast of THOR was surprisingly well put together. Chris Hemsworth does a fantastic job as the mighty Thor, playing both the intense and comedic angles of his character perfectly. Tom Hiddleston (Loki) and Anthony Hopkins (Odin) head a fine supporting cast of the Asgardian characters across from Hemsworth. This Father/Son/Brother storyline was the best part of the movie and the best acted. Under the direction of Kenneth Branagh, a man known for Shakespearean films (As You Like It, Much Ado About Nothing, Henry V) the tricky linguistics of an otherworldly Norse culture was well dialogued, well directed and well acted. In contrast, the very "Americanized" English of Kat Dennings and Natalie Portman created a humorous cultural clash when Thor first enters their lives. On the heels of her award winning role in Black Swan, I was curious to see how Portman would do, and how she would fare in a comic book universe. I am happy to say that the chemistry between her and Hemsworth was fantastic. The charm that their relationship brought to the screen was endearing, and I actually found myself LIKING Natalie Portman in a relationship! Move over Padme...

The special effects in THOR were well done, although nothing to phone home about. Because of the mythological and fantasy elements of the story, the sets and character designs felt very comic-book. YET THEY WORKED. I saw the film in 3D, yet I imagine that in 2D the colors were better and the images more vibrant. Although the 3D was good, it really added nothing to the story and is not necessary when viewing (unlike Avatar!). Although the physics of the characters made no sense, the effects were FUN! Thor can fly for instance, and we see him do so on numerous occasions. If I sat back and critically analyzed the logic behind Thor, I would be miserable, yet if I just take it as good entertainment, then I am incredibly entertained indeed! The sets of Asgard were particularly well designed and well animated. I found myself transported there mentally, rather than merely watching the events unfold.

The final point I make about Thor is the hilarity of the script! I truly was not expecting such a funny movie. Yet, with the clash of Norse culture with rural American townsfolk, I laughed out loud many times at the sheer awkwardness of Thor in a small desert town. His mannerisms, language and demeanor all seem to belong in an Oscar Wilde play, so any time Thor and Jane had a scene together I always was waiting for the "awkward moment" in which Jane Foster would become flustered at Thor's sheer charm. Even in strictly dramatic moments I couldn't help but smile at the old-world charm of their dialogue. How refreshing is it to finally see a movie in which nobody sleeps with someone! Chivalry is not dead.... well in Asgard at least!

In conclusion, THOR was a great way to kick off the summer movie season. I am excited to see where Marvel Studios is going with this franchise and eagerly await both X-Men: First Class and Captain America: The First Avenger. Unfortunately, we have to wait until The Avengers to see Thor return to the silver screen. In my opinion it is well worth the wait! THOR was every bit as good as Iron Man and better than the 2nd. But don't let me have the last word! What do you think?