May 23, 2011

In Need of a Horse

Time to break out my prediction hat, because Summer 2011 has begun. Though I am late to the party on this one, I see no reason why I shouldn't be able to judge. Anyway, as you no doubt are aware, I make a habit of predicting how the summer will turn out, movie-wise, based on how the first big show stopper does. Now last year, I royally screwed the pooch by predicting that, with Iron Man 2 starting things off strong, the season would be good. As we all know, Summer 2010, Inception notwithstanding, sucked a big fat one. Well, I hope I'm not wrong again, because if the kick off is anything to go on, Summer 2011 should be great! The kick off is Thor, the latest entry in Marvel's elaborate and ambitious cinematic universe. It's campy, over the top, and ridiculous. It's also spectacular!

Squeeze your belly!

See, the thing is, there are deities above us, looking down, observing our actions. Norse gods, to be precise. Housed the realm of Asgard, the god Odin rules over all the realms with wisdom and justice. He has two sons, Thor, who will ascend to the throne, and Loki, who will left on the sidelines. Thor is a hotheaded, arrogant warrior who, one day, provokes the Asgardian's mortal enemies, the Frost Giants, into breaking their truce and reigniting a bitter and bloody war. For his actions, Thor is cast out of Asgard and lands in, of all places, New Mexico, where he is picked up by Jane Foster, a scientist who is very interested in the portals Thor and Co. use to get around the realms with. As Thor begins to accept his new life in exile, his brother Loki is scheming something dastardly in Asgard, and soon, both sons are locking in a bitter conflict that will decide the fate of all the realms.

Norse gods? Otherworldy realms? Flying? A really athletic looking guy beating up giant ice people with a hammer? Yeah, this thing is absurd. Thor is very easily the most fantastical superhero movie ever made. Where most properties go for something resembling realism, with their grizzled heroes and real world setting, Thor is content to say, "screw you" to that, and go for broke. It was a big risk, but it paid off wonderfully. It's a very well told tale in the Marvel universe that manages to stand on it's own without being as facepalmingly stupid as Iron Man 2 was with the Avengers promotion. Sure, there're subtle references to Tony Stark and some gamma scientist (wonder who that is?), and you should keep your eyes open for a previously unseen hero who shows up, but, this is Thor's movie. It's the way it should have been done.

You'd have been forgiven if you thought Chris Hemsworth was an odd choice for the God of Thunder. His most well known role in the states was Kirk's father in the brilliant opening sequence of the new Star Trek, and that's about it. Lay your fears to rest, however, because he friggin' rocks the role! Thor is, honestly, a bit of a douche bag, and his scenes on Earth before he adjusts to human life are hilarious, as when he strides into a pet store and demands a horse, or when he declares, "This mortal form has grown weak. I require sustenance!" By contrast, the scenes where he has to kick ass and take names are awesome, and his few dramatic moments are touching and tender. Hemsworth owns it, making the role completely his own.

Along for the ride is Natalie Portman, wisely riding the Oscar wave with a big blockbuster as Jane, Tom Hiddleston as the devious Loki, Kat Dennings and Stellan Skarsgard as Jane's partners in science, and Idris Elba as the badass guardian of Asgard, Heimdall! Anthony Hopkins is Odin, and that's all you need to know.

Everyone leaves their mark. They all perform well, even if some of them aren't given as much to do. But, this Hemsworth's movie, and he runs away with it. I foresee wonderful things for him in the future, excluding The Avengers, of course.


So, a big, action packed blockbuster with a huge budget and massive marketing scheme. Does that sound like a movie Kenneth Branagh would direct? No? Well he did! I'm sure I'm not the only who was scratching their head when it was announced that Mr. Shakespeare would be taking the reins for one of Marvel's poster boys, but, upon seeing the finished product, I can't think of anyone else who would do better. Anyone else would have dialed back on the fantastical and made the movie into something more akin to every other superhero movie ever. Branagh, however, is known for going to extreme's with his movies. Seriously, his adaptation of Hamlet is one of the most over the top things I've ever seen. But, this is what was required for the project. Thor is supposed to out of this world, campy, and absurd, and Branagh goes to the lengthiest of lengths with it. The scenes in Asgard are bright and lively, popping with color and personality. Even the scenes on Earth have their own Branagh touch to them. It was an unorthodox choice, but sometime unorthodox is just what is needed.

Now, since this is a summer blockbuster, the action is going to be front and center and judged heavily. Branagh has never really done action before, but he is a virtuoso with his violence here. Like I said, everything about Thor should be crazy and over the top, and if the action in this movie is anything, it is that. The spectacle on display here is jaw dropping, from the opening scene that sees thousands of Asgardians and Frost Giants duking it out, to the finale that sees Thor and Loki battling against a backdrop of nebulas and stars. It's wonderful!

The 3D even works pretty well. The action pops in just the right way that 3D is noticeable and enjoyable, while not being a nuisance. It's more along the lines of Avatar and TRON: Legacy than Clash of the Titans. 

See Thor! Seriously! Do it! It's unlike any superhero movie you have seen or ever will see. The action and scope is spectacular. The writing is sharp and witty. The acting soars. The project was a huge gamble from the start, but everything about it just works. Summer 2011 better not let me down. It's started too strong for that!


  1. Glad you enjoyed this Seb! A very pleasant surprise for a movie I didn't expect to be any good, judging from the trailers. I also think it will be a good summer season :)

  2. Hope you're right about the summer! The only time I a) really have the time to actually go to a movie theatre and b) can afford it, last year I barely went because there was so little that interested me.

    Really liked Thor, LOVED him as a character even though the plot of the movie wasn't anything spectacular.