Saturday, May 14, 2011

Thor: A great performance that highlights a mediocre story

By: Da’Mon Guy

     The Hollywood love affair with superheroes and comics commences with the summer’s first superhero flick, Thor. Thor is an entertaining addition to the ongoing surge in movies adapted from the pages of Marvel Comics. This is the latest character to leap from the pages of comics and progress to the silver screen. The film is highlighted by an outstanding performance by Chris Hemsworth (Star Trek), with Natalie Portman (Black Swan), Anthony Hopkins (The Rite), Tom Huddleston (Archipelago), Kat Dennings (Defendor), and Stellan Skarsgard (Angels & Demons). It also features supporting roles by Idris Elba (Takers), Ray Stevenson (The Other Guys), Renee Russo (Yours, Mines, & Ours), Jamie Alexander (Rest Stop), and Clark Gregg (Iron Man 2).

     Thor is one of the longest tenured characters created by Marvel comics, he is also one of its lesser known characters. Thor has been around almost 60 years but this is the first attempt to bring the character to the big screen. He briefly appeared in a made for TV movie with the Incredible Hulk in the 1990’s.

           The Marvel comics superhero, Thor, debuted in the science fiction/fantasy anthology title Journey into Mystery #83 (cover-date Aug. 1962), created by editor-plotter Stan Lee, scripter Larry lieber, and penciler Jack Kirby. (Wikipedia). The film is another addition to Marvel's attempt to franchise its character in an effort to grant exposure th the characters that will comprise its upcoming super team extravaganza, The Avengers.

     The film is actually two movies that are merged into one to try to establish a human element to the larger than life character. The film is a fantasy/ sci-fi film that showcases the God of Thunder in his true element as the heir to the throne of Asgard. This was one of the best parts of the movie where we see Thor’s power and his warrior-like ways. The special effects and cinematography are great as they are incorporated into the story to visually bring the other realm to life. The second sub-story of Thor is the tale of Thor after he is cast out by Odin. This part of the story is the backbone of the film as Hemsworth really displays the human side to the character and opens the door for more of the humorous aspect of the story. As Thor struggles to fit into the modern world, the audience is amusingly entertained by the conflicted ways of modern times as opposed to Thor’s Viking-like approach to life.

     The film is a visual extravaganza filled with tremendous special effects that highlight a mediocre origin story. The cinematography and most of the special effects are done extremely well. The portions of the film that takes place in the other realms are visual marvels. Most of the effects look fantastic, with the exception of a few of them which look cartoonish but they add to the nature of the movie.

     The film isn’t all true to the original character of Thor as this incarnation of Marvel's god of thunder more resembles the edition that was used in "Ultimate Avengers." However, Chris Hemsworth does an excellent job as the son of Odin. He nails the character perfectly, almost as if he were born to play it. Hemsworth’s portrayal of Thor is as impressive as any actor to transition a character to the big screen. Hemsworth delivers one of the best interpretations for a comic book character. Probably in the top three with only Christopher Revees (Clark Kent/Superman) and Robert Downey, Jr. (Tony Stark/Iron Man) ahead of him. Hopkins was impressive as Odin, adding a nice performance as the “All Father.” Kat Dennings (Darcy Lewis) has a number of witty lines that add humor and increase the enjoyment of the film. The other actors in the film were less than spectacular. Natalie Portman is a far better actress than what she was within Thor.

     The main detractor with Thor is that there’s no villainous performance to offset Hemsworth’s great portrayal of Thor. Any comic book movie is only as great as the villain that opposes the hero. All of the great movies have them (The Dark Knight, Spiderman, Superman). No matter how great the hero is, there has to be an equally or greater performance by the villain. Thor doesn’t have that. The biggest disappointment in the characters of the film was the character of Loki, Thor’s half brother. This particular incarnation of Loki (Huddleston) is no where near what he could or should have been. Loki is Thor’s quintessential arch-nemesis. Despite this being an origin story, the character was no where near as malevolent or devious as he should’ve been. This was one of the reasons that the film didn’t hit the upper echelon reached by other great comic book movies. There was no villain to match Hemsworth’s great performance as Thor.

     The second detractor is as with most of Marvel's attempts to transition its characters to the big screen is the climax of the films & Thor is no different. The film’s climax doesn't compliment the film the way that it should. Just like the its predecessors, Thor doesn't contain that great climax that makes us want to cheer for the end. Instead, it tries to piece together some huge finale that doesn't equate to the character.

     The problem whenever a movie debuts, is that it will be compared to others in its genre. With the recent abundance of superhero/comic book inspired movies, Thor will be measured against its predecessors and there lies the problem. Thor is a good movie. It’s not a great film nor would I consider it a blockbuster. It doesn’t contain that attention grabbing effect that some of the other recent superhero flicks have had. A good movie but not a great one.

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