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Cross the Rainbow Bridge of Asgard,

Where the booming heavens roar,

You’ll behold in breathless wonder,

The God of Thunder, Mighty Thor!

 

Ahh, those lyrics from the animated TV series, Marvel Superheroes bring back memories:  Visions of Jack Kirby renderings of fantastic champions that seemed to stand still while brightly coloured backdrops moved around them, giving the illusion of action.  Those were the days.  Well, thanks to the good folks at Marvel Studios, we can once again enjoy stiff, one-dimensional characters on equally flat backgrounds in the live-action version of Thor.

The Frost Giants are coming!  Actually, the chilly creatures have been here and gone centuries ago thanks to the ethereal guardians of our earthly realm, the Norse Gods.  Led by the indomitable Odin, the walking popsicles were vanquished and their primary energy source plundered to threaten our world with freezer burn no more.  Time passes and Odin considers which of his two sons will inherit his crown.  There’s the quiet, introspective Loki, who always thinks before he acts, and the outgoing, vivacious Thor, who doesn’t think of anything at all, anything, that is, except fighting like any good Viking deity.  In an attempt to prove himself to his father, Thor undertakes a forbidden and thoroughly unsuccessful diplomatic mission that reignites the old Frost Giant feud and boy, does that make Odin mad.  So infuriated is the king with his impetuous child that Thor is cast out of Asgard, and the mighty Mjolnir, Thor’s war hammer and source of his power, is taken and thrown aside, also somewhere on Earth.  Luckily, scientist Jane Foster and her colleagues are out in the New Mexico desert watching the skies.  Not so lucky that they manage to run the now-powerless god down with their truck several times.  The question for Jane and her crew is whether or not this golden-haired hunk is delusional, or if there’s actually something to this Odin and Mjolnir gibberish he speaks of?  A shady paramilitary agency seems to think so.  (- This would be S.H.I.E.L.D. for those who haven’t been following the other recent Marvel films.)  Meanwhile, Odin has collapsed and the Norse Gods are without a leader, until Loki decides to lend a hand and seize the throne for the good of all Asgard.  Isn’t he thoughtful?  Thor’s trusty band of warriors isn’t down with the change in management and they set off to bring the young prince back from earth to his rightful place on Odin’s throne, but not if Loki’s handy Destroyer -- a very large enchanted suit of armor meant to live up to its name -- doesn’t get them first.

Nothing new under the sun.  2011 is a year drenched in superhero movies, many of them, like X-Men: The First Class, Captain America, Conan the Barbarian and the Spider-Man redux are Marvel Comics creations.  In 2012, we’ll get another Marvel Comics extravaganza with The Avengers, featuring many of the heroes from this year’s crop of films, as well as Iron Man and The Hulk.  That might be the trouble with Thor; it’s given neither the budget nor quality script of projects like 2008’s Iron Man or The Incredible Hulk.  It plays like an also-ran; as if someone said, ‘Well, some members of The Avengers’ audience might not know Thor, so let’s patch together a quickie actioner to introduce him.’  But for our being told Thor and his clan lived in the heavens, one might have thought it the dark side of the Moon; the aforementioned Rainbow Bridge of Asgard looks like a Tron scrap.  Odin’s palace looks like a pipe organ and the backgrounds for the Asgard scenes are so flat and badly rendered that they resemble Sears portrait studio backdrops.  Everything looks dingy and dimly lit.  This could only be the Mole Man’s idea of good living.  In terms of its script, all the characters, including Thor are such shallow creations it’s difficult to be concerned.  The action looks patently fake and very much out of a Saturday morning cartoon.  Those Marvel Superheroes shorts I mentioned earlier look stunningly true-to-life by comparison.  I could swear I saw strings on one character as an adversary’s blow sent him flying over parked cars.  When another pair of enemies fight, there’s an actual delay between the punch thrown and the opponent’s head whipping back.  Though there are occasional zingers, like the S.H.I.E.L.D. agent spotting Thor’s warriors walking down a New Mexico street in full battle gear and identifying them as “Xena, Jackie Chan and Robin Hood,” the majority of the comedy falls pretty flat.  The special effects are not particularly memorable, either, and there’s absolutely zero point to this film being either in IMAX or 3D.  The whole thing seems cheap and afterthought and I wouldn’t have been surprised to discover it was initially meant to go straight to DVD.  For something that feels so cast-off, Thor sure features a stellar bunch of names before and behind the camera:  Much-honoured stage and screen director, Kenneth Branagh is at the helm (N.P.I.) and no less than Sir Anthony Hopkins plays the father of the Norse Gods, Odin.  Branagh seems to be that rarest of all directors capable of steering the force of nature that is Sir Tony, giving us the only heartfelt moment in the entire film when Odin ruefully banishes Thor.  Oscar winner Natalie Portman plays the scientist who’s stared at the skies so long she’s no idea what to make of the heavenly creature dropped out of the clouds before her.  Portman plays Jane plucky and clumsy, but just a bit too broadly as if trying hard to inject some life into the role.  A bored-looking Stellan Skarsgård could have stolen the whole show as the salty veteran scientist/surrogate dad to Jane who’s afraid Thor might be exactly what he says he is.  Tom Hiddleston is a cunning and layered Loki, making the hat with big horns work.  As Jane’s smart-mouthed intern, Kat Dennings is pretty much Kat Dennings, serving no purpose other than to be Kat Dennings.  I was infuriated to see the brilliant Tadanobu Asano, the most sought-after actor in Japan, totally wasted as the “Jackie Chan” of Thor’s band of Merry Men.  I was only slightly assuaged by the cameo of another actor I admire and have written about all over TOWN popping in as a S.H.I.E.L.D. sniper with a deadly EYE who’s not sure his bosses’ AIM for the big blondie is true.  Aussie Chris Hemsworth is our hero, playing Thor as half jock -- or WWE wrestler -- and half loving son, eager to please his much larger-than-life father.  Though the lacefront gluing on his flaxen locks is visible, Hemsworth’s cobalt blue eyes and outrageous physique are the most special effects of the movie.  Though we only get one scene of Thor changing his shirt, it brands the retina and the whole rest of the movie is even less impressive.  That moment alone and the softened, meant for the kiddies violence, made me question whether Thor was meant to be a comic book movie for the ladies after all?

It doesn’t nearly come up to par with the previous Spider-Man or Iron Man films, but Thor is entertaining enough, especially for the younger ones in the audience, but it really should have been far better than the placeholder for more highly-anticipated Marvel superhero films that it is.

 

~ The Lady Miz Diva

May 6th, 2011

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Photos

(Courtesy of  Paramount Pictures)

 

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