Cricket Cemetery sent Lukas Smith to the movies..

And he saw THOR in 3D.


Heart and (. . .) Sold:
Words in review of Branagh’s Thor
One of the main reasons movies like Thor make it to production is that a certain group of people can be correctly counted on to watch them, regardless of any possible marketing problems. These people can see a hundred terrible trailers, read a dozen merciless reviews, and undauntedly (nay, happily) fork over their $15.50(!) to watch a caped (or otherwise laughably constumed) character perform digitally enhanced 3Deeds.
I know these people exist because I am one of them, and I can find no other rational cause for why such films make it off the drafting table.
The moneypeople in Hollywood know we’ll buy Thor: The Movie because we’ve already bought at least one if not all of the following: Thor: The Comic Book, Thor: The Lunchbox Adornment, Thor: The Inspiration for the helmet adorably worn by what’s-her-name in Adventures in Babysitting,* Thor: the principal character in many of the more charming tales in The Norse Myths by Kevin Crossley-Holland. I know that I can’t imagine a horde of women paying dearly to see a live-action iteration of My Little Pony,** for example, but I can’t immediately explain why my childhood entertainments are still so diverting cum profitable (#interesting).***
*To be fair, we would have ‘bought into’ rather than ‘bought’ Thor as an inspiration, but the thrust of my reasoning is unthwarted thereby. (Aside) Who among you was somehow vindicated by Adventures to see a movie character as enthralled by comics as you were?
**How would that work, anyway? Should we hive-write a script, blogosphere?
***The answer that, well, My Little Pony is stupid is a non-starter. A female friend of mine recently complained about how her boyfriend was ‘obsessed’ with Tron, and she did so to a chorus of slithering eye-rolls. This continued for a period of weeks before it became clear that the (lame-ass) Tron to which she referred was none other than the (um, awesome-ass?) Thor-of-fucking-Asgard, who is more than worthy of an obsessive concern (#right?). The eye-rolling previously mentioned had a double referent, in retrospect. The beau is unfairly considered a nerd for liking Tron too much, but he’s trumped after the fact by how actually out-of-touch his lady is for not knowing that Tron and Thor are different. This is so only in a certain world, however, namely, ours. If you were to ask a non-fan to consider two cinematic worlds and predict which of the two would be more likely to result in an interesting film, i.e., A) A computer programmer learns how to encode himself into a gaming system he designed. In attempting to fight his way out, he grapples with programs of his own devising who have plans of their own. This conflict raises philosophical questions of freedom, determinism, and the nature of thought and action. B) An alien super-being, believed to be a god on Earth, is exiled there due to the wily machinations of his evil brother in this cosmic coming-of-age story. Newfound limitations and the love of an earthling teach him to feel just in time to save Earth, his father, and the realm of his lifelong enemies. Good-naturedly spurious explanations lay a magico-scientific patina over the recurring miracles/events that make up the action and extra-dimensional travel sequences. Ok, so, I couldn’t resist selling Thor a bit there, admittedly, but still . . . of the two, Tron sounds better as a thumbnail, and, that fact notwithstanding, if I were in the pitch-meeting, I’d be terrified of either, frankly. I mean, to be honest, they both sound . . . well . . . stupid (and I probably would go and see a live-action My Little Pony production).
A belief and a fact began to dovetail into each other from the moment I heard that Thor would hit the silver: I believed that the film would be terrible and I knew that I would love it. I’m happy to say that I was wrong on both counts. My belief was unfounded, as the movie was quite good. Conversely, I had assumed that I would love Thor in spite and because of its flaws, with an air of, “sure, it’s a shitty movie, of course it’s a shitty movie(! It’s Thor, for Christ’s sake), but it’s my shitty movie.” I was wrong. Thor is good; and not just good-as-blockbusters-go, which it surely is, but just plain good. Good, but not great, which is to say, not good enough to love on its own merits, but way too good to love for its failings as an object of pity. Branagh keeps us guessing, e.g., the tiresome, “once, there was a time when” speech that sets the cosmic table for the viewer is later revealed to be the smug rambling of an old man whose tendency to speechify (and to bore) is later openly mocked. What we thought was an awkwardly predictable Hollyweird ‘epic opening’ is unpredictably turned on its head. Our first glimpses of Thor show him to be unlikeably arrogant, making uncomfortably grandiose pronouncements with words that sound a bit too big for his mouth. This, in particular, didn’t bode well. I can see young Thor acting like a punk, but he shouldn’t sound like one, right? Beyond that, he’s not quite powerful enough to be sexy from the outset. Yet, all of this serves to make his charmingly believable humanization all the more satisfying. You’ve got to hand it to Branagh, folks. He takes a risky angle: make a character who is powerful yet boring interesting because weak. Maintain the intrigue once he inevitably regains his lost strength. Thor accomplishes this much and more, but it wouldn’t be possible without the strong performance by Hemsworth, who shows arrogance, humor, humility, and dignified charm, as called for, with poise. For his part, Branagh does a good job of employing and toying with the conventions of popular cinema by turns, keeping the audience off-balance with a film that feels playful in the end for all its cosmic melodrama. His most powerful tools to this end are humor and innocent affection. This movie is damned funny and generously heartwarming because rarely-if-ever saccharine despite being persistently tender. Branagh shows a loving eye for tempo, repeatedly allowing a scene to ride just long enough to keep the chuckle going or the smile spreading. It doesn’t hurt that Hemsworth is a dear, that Portman is a doll, that Skarsgard is Skarsgard, and that Kat Dennings is surprisingly hilarious and unsurprisingly adorable. Watch out for Jeremy Renner’s snippet of scene-stealing bad-assery, also.
It ain’t perfect, though. The interplay between the superhumans repeatedly falls flat, and, as a result, Thor appears most comfortably at home in exile. As such, for all its intergalactic splendor, Thor is most sure-footed when Earthbound. This is good news, actually, as it appears that the groundwork for the next installment is firmly in place.


Aannnnd scene. Thanks Lukas, that was rad. Maybe we’ll hear from Lukas next week..

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