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22 May 2011 @ 10:26 pm
Thor: Blockbuster or Bomb?  
Last weekend was the start of the times of popcorn, action, and explosions for me as I took myself off to the metroplex to see Thor, and I find myself, even now, a bit conflicted over the film. Because, you see, Thor is one of the movies that you walk out of going, “That was fun!” and then, the more you think about it and talk about it with other people, you start going, “It was kind of dumb, but it’s still fun.” Days go by, and you realize that most of the things that are wrong with it are things that really do bug you, and you start wondering how you could have found it fun.

Hence, the source of my conflict. On some level, I still do think Thor was fun. Despite its flaws. Which are many.

Okay, let me start with a disclaimer. I do not go to superhero movies expecting to see complex, searing portraits of psychological complexity. I would wager not many of us do. Explosions? Yes! Action? Totally! Nifty gadgets and wicked-cool FX? You betcha. Character development? Errr.... Not so much. However, having said that, the characters in Thor are flatter than the flattest flat thing you can think of. Most only possess a single, defining personality trait. Many are little more than plot devices. Props moved about to carry the plot forward.

During the course of the movie Thor matures from an arrogant 10-year-old to an angsty teen. I’m not talking about physical age here. Jane, his love interest (and I use that term loosely since the romance seems to be in the movie just to give Thor some humans to interact with while he’s on Earth), has no credibility as a hot-shot scientist or a paramour. Thank god for Stellan Skarsgard for injecting a bit more gravity into the humans.

Ironically, the most interesting and complex character is Loki, the villain. His story is richer, and while what he does doesn’t always make sense (especially his more grandiose plots after Thor is banished from Asgard), they are fun to watch. Loki’s also more appealing to me because, well, unlike most of the other characters, he thinks. He plans. He schemes. There’s not a lot of smart happening in Thor, and as someone who finds smart sexy, Loki saved the day for me.

And yes, this is one of the reasons I like Batman more than Superman. But I digress.

Another pleasant surprise was the creepy and wonderful Heimdahl. His quiet, subtle (and not so subtle) menace was delicious, and while he was also a warrior figure, he had some smart too. I like how he managed to not disobey Loki’s command not to let anyone pass Bifrost and yet still allow it to happen.

The story itself was about as simple as the characters. There weren’t really any surprises in terms of what happened, and things didn’t always seem to logically follow. For example, Odin strips Thor of his divine status and powers when he sends him into exile on Earth, yet Thor still manages to suffer little damage from being hit by a van (twice), beaten up by cops and special ops agents, and downing enough booze to knock his drinking buddy senseless. There is the sense that what is happening must happen to get from Point A to Point B. I suppose that the thing that saves the film from being a real disaster is that the pacing is pretty quick and even in the slower moments, tension remains fairly high.

You know when you go into one of the top-tier FX extravaganzas and the sound and lighting and visuals and soundtrack just blow you away? You just know, even before the credits run, that places like ILM, Skywalker Sound, Weta, etc. and composers like Williams (in the past), Horner, Elfman, etc. are going to be in them. Then there are those movies where everything looks and sounds good, but they’re just shy of having the SPARK! that makes them truly magical. Thor is like that. In fact, some of the visuals I found most intriguing were the ones that Branagh achieved through his panoramic shots of New Mexico, rather than the ones full of digital wizardry.

Disclaimer: I did not opt for the 3D version of the film, since most of the reviews I read said that it didn’t add much, so if you’re a 3D junkie, maybe some of the action visuals would appeal more.

So what did I like most about Thor? Well, I liked the backstory that lead up to his fall and exile. I liked Loki’s raw pain and rage after finding out the truth of his heritage. I liked Heimdahl and the Bifrost. But what I liked most of all was the Avengers bit with Nick Fury that ran after the credits. That was the one moment that actually made me squee (uh, excepting for the half-naked Thor moment, but that was a whole other kind of squee). I seriously would have left the theatre, gotten back in line at the box office, and bought a ticket for the Avengers movie if it was playing: that’s how excited I was. I also appreciated the nods to Stark Industries and other things from Ironman that tie into the Avengers mythos.

I’ve had summer movie season start with a whimper in past years and with a roar. This one, well, it was more like a low growl. Not pathetic, but more a promise of things to come than completely satisfying by itself. Still, it does remain a fun ride, one which I’d suggest taking during a non-3D matinee showing, and one you’ll want to indulge in to prep for the Avengers film to come.
shimere277shimere277 on May 23rd, 2011 10:41 am (UTC)
Ironically, the most interesting and complex character is Loki, the villain.

You could make a good case for this being true in the original Norse mythology...