Friday, April 29, 2011

Thor (2011) review

Overall verdict: 8/10

The Good: Well cast despite most being relative unknowns, ups the ante on action, gorgeous set designs, costumes that are faithful to the comic, memorable characters, near perfect casting, well developed main protagonist.

The Bad: bad 3D conversion, abrupt ending, did not maximise potential for something truly epic, truncated in some parts, "Michael Bay style" camera-work


Blockbuster season thunders in with "THOR", the marvel studios live action comic book adaptation based on Norse Mythology. In a sprawling tale of Gods and Monsters, Marvel studio crafts a realistically human story in the vein of the critically acclaimed "Iron Man".

Stripping away years of convoluted continuity and multiple interpretations, the creative team has combined the best of Thor's comic book incarnations to deliver a film that is both easily accessible to the casual watcher and pleasing to the hardcore comic fan. The only ones it might not please are die hard purists of Norse Mythology, for this is not their noble Viking God of thunder. Marvel's Thor is a proud pompous muscle man with a chip on his shoulder. In his eagerness to prove his might, he shattered a truce between his home realm of Asgard and the dreaded Frost Giants. For his actions, Thor is banished to earth in hopes that his exile would teach him humility and the value of life. Lo and behold, it is revealed that this turn of events was just the first step in a grand scheme by Thor’s brother Loki, whose hidden agenda and ambiguous allegiance fuels much of the plot’s intrigue. On earth, Thor is found and befriended by Jane Foster and her science team while his hammer, Mjolnir ends up in the possession of the government agency S.H.I.E.L.D. In order to return to Asgard, and before he can retrieve his hammer, Thor must first prove himself worthy of his power.

Melding magic and science fiction with comedy and drama, the movie's first strength is in its narrative. It has spectacular special effects but never relies solely on that. Behind the top notch computer graphics beats a story about pride before the fall, about themes as basic as sibling jealousy and about some very human “Gods”. Although blessed with skill and power, Thor, Sif, Loki and The Warriors three never act like immortal deities. They are like Childhood friends, like regular people. They get angry, they laugh, they squabble and they each have their own little quirks that make them memorable. If not for the computer generated scenery and stylish costumes, one would easily forget that these are mythological gods. Though it might seem a bit rushed at points and slow at others, the many plot threads are easy to follow and tie up nicely by the end. Thor himself, played by Chris Hemsworth, goes through some well written character development on his journey to reclaim his godhood.

With near perfect casting, the acting is spot on though Natalie Portman and Anthony Hopkins (the two more well known stars) seem under utilised as Jane Foster and Odin respectively. The highlight is definitely Tom Hiddleston who plays Loki like an actor playing an actor. You never know if Loki’s words are truth or more trickery for all the world is Loki’s stage and every of his acts is a performance to advance some scheme.

The sharper ones in the audience would no doubt notice similarities between the Thor and Iron Man movies. Both feature a protagonist who is full of himself until he gets taught a lesson and humbles down, both protagonists have issues with their father, both encounter a threat from within their own ranks and both face off against giant machines in a climatic final battle. Thankfully these similarities are only fleeting. Both Thor and Iron Man also benefit from a good deal of well written humour which in Thor’s case involves the banished deity trying to adapt to human life. Much hilarity ensues.
Humour aside, the most important factor for a summer blockbuster is good action. In that regard, Thor delivers with wild abandon complemented by a remarkable soundtrack by Patrick Doyle. Doyle is no stranger to modern magical mythology movies, having scored the likes of Eragon and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

Like the music, the film embraces its over-the-top comic book roots, as seen in the amazing production design and costumes. But while the action is big and poised to satisfy the adrenaline craving summer blockbuster crowd, director Kenneth Branagh seems to have become enamoured with the “Michael Bay School of Camera-work”. Tight close ups and shaky-cam neuter the otherwise epic battles. Action scenes like the flashback of Odin’s war, or Thor and his friends’ fighting their way through a Frost giant ambush, all lack a sense of scale and scope. Couple that with an ending that feels too abrupt and one gets the feeling that this is not the best that a “Thor” movie could have been, that Marvel is holding out on the audience, saving the best for later.

Will lightning strike the same spot twice? Will marvel pull off another blockbuster as successful as Iron Man? If the abrupt conclusion of Thor is anything to go by, Marvel seems more interested in generating publicity for their 2012 “Avengers” movie. And that is exactly what this movie feels like, a set up for something bigger on the way.
*****************************Review End******************

Entertainment: A-

Story: B
Acting: A-

Characters: A
Music: A-
Replay value: B
"Brains": B-