Some Thoughts on Kenneth Branagh’s THOR; Plus Video Blog Review

     April 17, 2011


If you were nervous that Marvel would somehow not be able to bring Thor into the same universe their previous movies occupy, don’t be.  I’m happy to report Thor is not only great, but it kicks open the door to so many other characters.  If audiences respond (which they should), over the next few years, look for many other larger than life characters on movie screens.

But let me back up a second.

A few days ago, on the Paramount lot, I was part of a very small group that got an early look at director Kenneth Branagh’s Thor.  Since my set visit, I’ve known Thor had a great story and it was extremely respectful to the way Jack Kirby and Walter Simonson brought the character to life.  What I was unsure about was the CGI.  Could I believe that Asgard was real?  When Thor throws Mjolnir in battle, would it do the damage I’ve always imagined?  Could Marvel bring Thor into the same universe as Tony Stark and make it work?  Would the movie explain Bifrost, Heimdall and the Rainbow Bridge to average movie goers and make them believe it wasn’t science fiction?  I had so many questions going in, but I’m so happy to say that while I do have some nitpicks with the movie, overall I walked out of the theater extremely happy.  Continued after the jump.

Before going any further, right after the screening ended, Peter (from Slashfilm) and I recorded one of our video blogs on the Paramount lot.  So if you’d like to hear our thoughts, watch the video.  The only thing is…we literally recorded this moments after we saw the film and now that I’ve had a bit of time to think about it, I wish I’d mentioned some of my problems with the film.  And that’s why I’ll continue further down the page…

Since many of you can’t see the movie for almost two weeks and the folks in America can’t see it for three weeks, I really don’t want to talk about anything that would ruin the movie.  So here’s a sort of breakdown on some of my thoughts:

Thor_movie_poster Chris Hemsworth IMAXThe Awesome:

Chris Hemsworth.  When you call your movie Thor, you’d better get someone that looks the part and makes you believe the character could be real.  Huge points to whoever cast Hemsworth as he’s on the same level as Robert Downey Jr. in Iron Man.  When Hemsworth was wielding Mjolnir and fighting against the (edited for people that don’t like spoilers), I was completely sold and smiling from ear to ear.  Thor has one of the best action scenes in any Marvel movie.

Marvel/ Kenneth Branagh/the Screenwriters found a way to connect Thor to the rest of the Marvel universe and make it believable.  In every Marvel movie they ask for one “reach” from the audience.  In Iron Man that someone could build a robot suit and fly around. In The Incredible Hulk, that gamma rays could turn a man into a monster.   With Thor, they’re asking audiences to take their biggest leap yet.  Thankfully, they sold it and if audiences believe, Thor has opened the door to many other characters.

The special effects and the action scenes.  All too often bad CGI/action set pieces takes me out of a film.  So when it’s done right, I want to point it out.  The scenes in Asgard, the battles, the monsters, the Rainbow Bridge and the way characters can transport around the universe, it was all extremely well done and it helped to sell that Thor could be real.  Glad to see Marvel didn’t pinch pennies.  Also, I liked how I could follow all the action as the framing was great.

The Easter Egg after the credits.  Let me be clear: DO NOT LEAVE THE THEATER until after the credits have finished.  Also, while you may have the desire to find out what it is before opening day, do yourself a favor and wait to see it in a theater.  It’s worth it.

The Good:

Thor_movie_image Tom HiddlestonTom Hiddleston as Loki.  All too often, the villain is the weakest part of a movie.  It’s like the writers and filmmakers assume they don’t need a strong villain if they have great action.  If you think about some of your favorite movies, you’ll see they almost always have a kick ass villain.  Zod in Superman 2.  Darth Vader in Star Wars.  Agent Smith in The Matrix.  Kathy Bates in Misery.   Biff Tannen in Back to the Future.  I’m happy to report, Hiddleston plays Loki the way I’ve always imagined, and he’s going to be a great adversary for years to come.

Anthony Hopkins as Odin.  Idris Elba as Heimdall.  Clark Gregg as Agen Phil Coulson.  And the rest of the cast.  While I did have issues with the way certain characters were used, that doesn’t mean I thought they were miscast.  Everyone did great work.

The nods and references to other characters and things in the Marvel universe.  While Iron Man 2 felt like they had a huge check list of things they needed to set up for future Marvel movies, Thor has a few Easter Eggs for the fans, but not so many that it ruins the movie.

The humor.  Lots of great scenes featuring Thor being a fish out of water on Earth.  I think the film will play great in a crowded theater.  I actually can’t wait to see it with a full audience.

The production design and costumes.  Props to Bob Welch (Production Design) and Alexandra Byrne (Costumes) for bringing Asgard to life and also making the classic comic book versions of Thor and Loki wearing their helmets feel believable. Also, as you watch Asgard on the big screen, you will believe what you’re seeing.  Great work.

Thor_movie_poster Jaimie AlexanderThe Bad:

The movie never slows down and it feels like a few scenes are on the cutting room floor.  I can only recall a few scenes where the characters are talking without some urgent need to go do something.  I would have liked to have seen more of Chris Hemsworth and Natalie Portman talking about the universe, or making me feel something between them.  Which brings me to my next point….

I didn’t believe in the relationship between Jane Foster (Portman) and Thor.  With everything so rushed, I believed they were friends, but I never believed Thor would more heaven and earth for her.

Sif and The Warriors Three were underused.  I think Marvel nerds will geek out seeing them on screen, but they feel like they were in the movie to make sure they had more toys to sell rather than to enhance the story.  Perhaps more of their backstory is on the cutting room floor. Also, it would have been good to have Thor have a love on Asgard (Sif) and a love on Earth (Portman).  As it is, neither love story works.

The 3D.  While some post converted 3D has really impressed me (Green Hornet), Thor didn’t fall into this category.  While watching, I never felt like there was a lot of depth.  More and more, I’m getting sick of 3D.  When done right, I’ll admit to thinking it’s more than a novelty, but I can’t tell you to pay the extra money for it.  I think if you see it in a normal theater you’ll be fine.

Final Thoughts

While I do have a few nitpicks, overall I thought Thor was great and everyone involved deserves credit  The fact is, Thor is not an easy transition from comic books to movie screens.  Trying to make the character work in the same universe as Tony Stark is ridiculously difficult.  But they did it.  And I cannot wait to see everyone together in The Avengers.

Thor_movie_image Chris Hemsworth

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