Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Assorted Thoughts on Thor
1. The bottom line (yes, I'm including the bottom line at the top of the post) is that I really enjoyed myself with Thor. And not in the ways I thought I would. I was expecting a big, dumb, loud series of explosions that took itself super-seriously, looked like crap, and hopefully gave me a chance to ogle Chris Hemsworth for a while. What I got instead was a big, dumb series of reasonably likeable characters who didn't take themselves nearly as seriously as I thought they would, and bountiful opportunities to ogle Chris Hemsworth, who from some angles may actually have tree trunks for arms. (It did sometimes look like crap, though. Let's not get crazy.)
2. It's that sense of humor, of lightness, that's the key. It's not quite like The Green Hornet, which was essentially an action comedy, but the plentiful moments of latitude not only let Thor breathe a little, but it let the characters lighten up long enough for us to get to like them. Nowhere was this more important than with Thor himself, who on paper could be really hard to like. But Hemsworth turns out to be pretty charismatic, and he used that to supreme advantage. Boy's got a smile on him. Between this and A Perfect Getaway, I'm really growing fond of this guy.
3. Hemsworth isn't the only cast member who makes the lighter tone work. Stellan Skarsgard has some fun scenes opposite Thor, and Kat Dennings dutifully fills in the role of audience surrogate, commenting on the ridiculousness of the setup and repeatedly ogling Thor's body like any sufficiently equipped human being would. I like Natalie Portman a lot, and while she's not bad here, the whole thing where there's supposed to be this great romance between Thor and Jane is the most underwritten and unconvincing part of the movie. And considering that's all Jane's there for, it's hard to say Portman's outing was a success.
4. Aside from the sense of humor, I also liked how the movie embraced the sillier, more fantastical aspects of a comic book story. I have nothing against the Christopher Nolan Batman movies, but I like that the Marvel movies aren't afraid of embracing the more out-there stuff. While I could quibble with the actual design of Asgard, nobody in the movie is making apologies for it being Valhalla in Spaaaaace. Sure, I'll be making "Rainbow Brite" jokes about the Bifrost bridge for a long time, and yes, some of the scenes with Thor's Viking pals stomping around New Mexico might've looked like the lost Capital One ad, but by that time I was invested in the story.
5. The challenge of balancing the Asgard parts with the New Mexico parts wasn't always successful, mostly because while all sorts of unwritten "Heroes Journey" rules were in play when it came to the outcome of Thor's battle with Loki, we still technically weren't sure how it'd go down. But once S.H.I.E.L.D. made its presence known in New Mexico, our knowledge of the bigger Avengers picture dictated everything that would happen and ensured that we'd be experiencing no surprises, right down to the now-requisite Samuel L. Jackson post-credits cameo.
6. All that said, Thor will go down as the movie that sold me on The Avengers. There's still a chance that Iron Man is going to run roughshod over the group and turn it into Tony Stark and the Supremes, but Thor suggested a landscape wherein multiple films to the work of all kinds of exposition and character-building, which will hopefully let Joss Whedon's movie out of the gates at a gallop. We'll see if Captain America advances that agenda even further.
7. I want to throw a bit of a shout-out to Tom Hiddleston's Loki, who managed to be a fun villain, while remaining three-dimensional enough to be reasonably sympathetic at times, all the while looking like a dead ringer for Johnny Weir.
8. And while I'm singling out cast members, Jaimie Alexander plays ... um, "The Girl in Thor's Entourage," basically, and she's pretty good. But between this and her recurring gig on Nurse Jackie, she's all up in my face recently. But then I realized she also played the underage hottie who took Dennis to prom in It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia's "Underage Drinking: A National Concern" episode. And now she can do no wrong with me.
9. Finally, I'm not fucking kidding about all the ogling of Chris Hemsworth. If you think the trailer lingered on his shirtless form a lot -- and it did -- the movie does so even more. Did there HAVE to be a scene where Thor ends up in a wet, muddy t-shirt? No there did not. But Kenneth Branagh gave it to us anyway. And if he had to sacrifice all but three of Rene Russo's scenes to give it to us, well, I for one appreciate the sacrifice.
Summer blockbuster season: begun!