Sunday, May 8, 2011
Summer Movies: Thor
I think "Thor" is one of those movies that's going to depend on word of mouth for its success, so let me be clear up front: I thought it was perfect. It's as good as "Iron Man" and I wouldn't change a thing.
It largely works for the same reason that "Iron Man" did: casting. Just like Robert Downey Jr. was Tony Stark from the first scene, Chris Hemsworth inhabits Thor from the minute you see him. One of the things that's unique about Thor is that he needs to learn humility, and so Hemsworth's Thor is arrogant at first, but so instantly charming that you can't help but like him anyway and want him to be a better person. (Even the Avengers character that has a weapon trained on him during his cameo says he's rooting for Thor.) As the film goes on, and Thor learns the lessons he needs to, Hemsworth's performance slowly gains warmth until the audience is completely smitten by him just like Jane Foster. And of course for the large percentage of the population that's into guys, it doesn't hurt that he's super hot.
Tim Hiddleston is terrific as Loki, who's arguably the harder part to play. Loki needs to stay believable even when the audience knows he's lying through his teeth, or the other characters will seem stupid for listening to him. Hiddleston gives a wonderfully subtle performance, slowly becoming more sinister throughout without turning into a mustache-twirling villain. The great Sir Anthony Hopkins plays Odin as a quiet, wise leader instead of a bombastic one which could have easily gone over the top. Natalie Portman is great as Jane Foster, a theoretical physicist in this version, and Idris Elba is the most badass character in the film as Heimdall.
The gorgeous production design for Asgard has a bit of a sci-fi spin, which makes it look modern but still classic, and making it plausible that this is an advanced civilization and not just a bunch of medieval hippies in funny costumes. Kenneth Branagh's direction makes the Asgardians, including the Warriors Three and Sif, seem larger than life but not ridiculous.
I saw both the 3D and regular versions, and while the 3D didn't bug me like I thought it would, I didn't feel it really added anything either (except to the ticket price.) It seemed a little darker and fuzzier to me in 3D, but that could have been just the difference between the projection in the two theaters. There are three comic creator cameos that I won't reveal (Hint: One of them is Stan Lee, and one of them is in the banquet scene at the end) and also the aforementioned Avenger cameo. (Which has been all over the 'net, but I won't spoil it here.) Samuel L. Jackson is also on board for the now-requisite after the credits scene.
"Thor" is both an adventure and a romance, and an excellent one of each at that. I highly recommend it for both fans of the character and newcomers to the mythos.