I finally saw “Thor,” the film adaptation of the Marvel Comics mythos based (loosely) on the character of the same name from Norse mythology. I sought refuge from God’s Judgment by going to another for escape, only to receive a hearty but unenthusiastic pat on the back.
In fairness, I did enjoy myself to an extent. It was a fun movie, and there were few glaring shortcomings. The dialogue and scene setups suffered from the dredgery of action film formulitis, but there have been far worse screenplays brought to life recently (in particular Robert Redford’s “The Conspirator,” a truly terrible and inorganic script made worse by overacting).
Everything else, however, was done adequately well. The casting was, for the most part, effective. Hopkins was a good fit for this version of Odin, played as a peacemaking King concerned with his ruthlessly aggressive elder son Thor and the younger Loki, who himself battles an obvious inferiority complex. The respective actors were able to portray not only their roles effectively but their relationships; at no point did you feel the trust Thor had for Loki waver, and to the credit of the script, it doesn’t give him much reason to. One of the main drags on the Thor comics under so many writers was that Loki was so far over the top he was hard to swallow and his treatment from his peers even harder. Why would anyone in Asgard trust someone who’s burned them so many times? Instead, “Thor” paints Loki as a jealous who is so effective in his manipulation that nobody – at times not even Loki himself – is aware of the depth of his deceptions and past or present trespasses. Actor Tom Hiddleton plays this balance well, only making a spectacle of the character when the character makes a spectacle of himself, particularly when his manipulations culminate in his ascendancy and his villainous status is fully realized. At no point do you question Loki’s motives or actions, and they come across as organic given the circumstances.
The same unfortunately can’t be said for Natalie Portman, who in this film collects a paycheck in the most pathetic and embarrassing manner possible as a wholly unbelievable pixie physicist, phoning in a performance so distractingly pedestrian at times that I nearly groaned. Chris Helmsworth, owing to his far more uncertain status in Hollywood, doest put in an effort and is far more believable despite having the more boisterous and ridiculous role.
The biggest problem in the film, however, comes with the fact that like so many other Marvel efforts, it seems more care was put into avoiding the pitfalls of comic book films rather than reaching to make the film better. “Thor” is enjoyable, but with such great resources at their disposal and especially the brilliant Kenneth Brannagh at the helm, the film revels in its mediocrity in a manner that’s equal parts disappointing and disillusioning. It’s a fine action film, but wholly absent is the sense of an epic that should accompany a character and events so powerful and grand in scale. “Thor” doesn’t reach or strive to be more than it is, a quality that made Christopher Nolan’s two films in the “Batman” franchise – “Batman Begins” and “The Dark Knight” – universally praised and adored. Fans loathe the comparison and call it unfair, but how fair is it that so much money, hype, and talent is put forth towards a movie that presents itself as an all-out epic but then performs as a prelude to another, presumably better, film? Is it fair that, like “Iron Man 2,” we are asked to simply look past the film as a piece in its own right and instead think of it as a pre-requisite for a later course?
Ultimately, “Thor” doesn’t strive to be anything other than not bad. Which is fine, except the folks behind this budding franchise of comic book superhero movies culminating in the get-along gang smashfest “The Avengers” are clearly more interested in the end game than the journey itself. The result is a film that strives to portray the story of the Norse God of Thunder but instead delivers on a passable action movie starring a big guy with a magic hammer.
“Thor” promises a romance, but only delivers on a one-night stand. Yet, somehow, you’re the one leaving money on the counter as you leave.
Speaking of which, check out this Associated Press headline from Sunday afternoon:
Stay classy, AP. Stay classy.
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