If that’s ultimately what you wanted to know, consider my role fulfilled. No need to stay here and listen to the ramblings of a comic-book geek with a Masters in Scriptwriting, said ramblings filled with spoilers and ever so subtle geek-rage. You can enjoy the sun, fail to score with a comely redhead, and play WoW for so long your nuts rot off and a game of Twister ensues.
While you decide, here’s a photo of Thor with his beard. And he’s got facial hair too…
Okay, I’ll assume you care about my opinion then. As I said above, Thor doesn’t suck. Well, technically that’s a lie. The opening thirty minutes is the worst thing I’ve seen in a comic-book film to date. And yes, I’ve seen Kick Ass and sat through Green Hornet in 3D. Every single moment set on Asgard in this film is awful, a dragged out mess of melodrama that could be cut to three minutes of credits without us losing a damn thing.
It’s a reminder of why adaptations work better than translations.
Many reviews have figuratively blown the film by mentioning how Asgard looks straight out of the comic-books, and how faithful everything is, without realizing that said faithfulness is rendered pointless by how boring the scenes involving the ‘majestic’ CGI. The CGI being made the focus just underscores how incredibly pedestrian the ‘King Lear’ sequence is, essentially serving as a prologue for the actual story of Thor on Earth.
Thor’s story begins with the banishment. Every moment prior to that panders to the fanbase who know what all the jargon means. I don’t include myself in that fanbase, because (like Iron Man) Thor is one of those comic-book characters who bores the Hell out of me. Whereas Iron Man is an asshole in the comics, Thor is a self-righteous jerk. Luckily, once on Earth, the film version of Thor gets the same treatment as Tony Stark does – namely ignoring how ghastly his comic-book character frequently is, and instead making said character likable.
Praise there has to go to Chris Hemsworth, who seems far more comfortable playing comic-relief and joviality than a tortured soul. His easy chemistry with Natalie Portman is one of the main reasons the film works, and makes one wish more of this film focused on that rather than Loki’s vague and rather underplayed quest to become the first Nordic God with OCD.
Going back to the worst part of the film (the opening) also underscores the main problem with the film. Namely that there’s no mystery as to Thor’s mental state. I’m aware that the geeks are yelling ‘Of course there isn’t, he’s a God.’ But as I’ve seen the film, I’ll pwn you. Everyone on Earth is doubtful that Thor is good. It’s a sizable plot-point. Heck, even S.H.I.E.L.D join in. So bearing that in mind, why do we get the obnoxious opening section? If everyone doubts Thor’s a God for a good 90% of the film, it seems strange that we’re told without a shadow of a doubt that he is a God, ya know?
Seeing as how the story is slight anyway, stealing the one good idea that The Ultimates had (is Thor crazy?) may have been the right way to go. Especially seeing as how the mainstream don’t know anything about the comic-book, and are being taught by Marvel as they go. And it’s not like the geeks would be that angry, given how Thor – on a good month – would struggle to sell 100,000 issues. Instead, we get to see Thor battling Mr. Freeze’s offspring on Hoth and yelling at an Anthony Hopkins stand-in.
Allow me to segue into discussing Anthony Hopkins, for a moment…
He’s a great actor. I don’t want people to dispute that. But he did this for the money. How do I know this? Because at no stage in this film does he inject even 2% of the gravitas he gave The Mask of Zorro. Let’s not kid ourselves here, Hopkins didn’t phone this in – no, his phone ran out of battery. Instead, he sent Kenneth a Facebook IM and then logged off before Kenneth could respond. Which is fair enough, much as I’d like a good performance from him I can see how he’d shrug it off. Considering Marvel Studios punked Terrence Howard, tried to low-ball Rourke and Jackson, meddled with Iron Man II and went to Joss Whedon to direct The Avengers, I can see that they’d be a frustrating studio to deal with.
Heck, they’re a frustrating studio to watch.
How so? Take the big cameo. Can you picture it? Downplay your expectations by 20,000 leagues. The cameo is sheer pandering, and not even good pandering. For all their talk of ‘faithfulness to the comics’ it’s proof that Marvel Studios are only faithful to the extent they have to be. Hawkeye gets no costume, he gets minimal personality, and he becomes another faceless S.H.I.E.L.D Agent who spouts deadpan snarker. It’s also a cloying cameo in that it has NOTHING to do with the film whatsoever. I’d wager Chris Hemsworth didn’t even know that he was sharing screentime with Renner until he saw the finished film. The cameo looks like it was shot on a soundstage by Joss Whedon four days ago.
Luckily, most of the Earth sequence (the middle section) is rather good.
It even gets Natalie Portman motivated. Sure, you can argue she’s doing it for the money too… but her sweetness is back. There’s no jagged edge to her here, she’s the girl next door again and doing a good job.
In what is obviously a ‘bite me’ to George Lucas, she even musters up chemistry with her lead actor. She even helps the comedic sections work, aided nicely by Chris Hemsworth showing sterling comedic shops in material that Sir Kenneth likely understands better than ‘now Chris, stare at the Frost Giant and show him how big your hammer is.’
The film works best during Thor and Jane’s slowly evolving relationship. Whenever they turn to S.H.I.E.L.D it goes straight to Heck, but at least this is true to how incompetent they are in the comic-books. It sadly struggles with the action, and the background characters (Heimdall, the Warriors 3) aren’t given enough to do. That’s a shame, as Jamie Alexander (Sif) is absolutely fantastic in conveying an entire backstory without saying a single word.
Unfortunately, when it comes to Loki, the film outright struggles. I don’t blame the actor for that, I blame someone (likely at Marvel Studios) not wanting the cackling Loki from the comic-book. Instead, we get a neutered character who resembles Doctor Doom from the Fantastic Four films. There’s no energy to Loki, and no real mischief. He never exudes any sense of life, which is sad because it’d liven up the Asgard scenes if Loki was bouncing around with a giant neon sign saying ‘I’m the villain, bitches’ above his head.
So there you have it.
Thor is both the best, and worst, of the genre. The opening is awful, the middle is mostly excellent, and the end is pure noise. Chris and Natalie share a winning chemistry, but Loki sucks. Agent Coulson is fantastically incompetent, and Rene Russo has less screentime than Hawkeye.