Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Thor (2011) – Review

Thor is a lot of fun (much like another film in The Avengers’ series Iron Man) – mixing big action set pieces with drama and comedy. The film is surprisingly really funny at times (especially when Thor first arrives on Earth, and really most of the fish-out-of-water Thor on Earth stuff – which is brilliantly done and my favorite part of the film). Director Kenneth Branagh decided to construct the narrative of the film a bit like Shakespeare’s Henry V, which works well given the journey of redemption that Thor must make (Branagh also directed and starred in a film adaptation of the play). The difficulty in structuring this film is that it takes place in two completely different worlds – Asgard and Earth, with different rules and aesthetic looks – Earth being a world of science and Asgard one of magic and Norse mythology. Plus, each competes for screen time, the narrative jumping back and forth. Branagh, for the most part, does a good job of interweaving the two worlds, but at times audience members will be more connected to a story happening in one location over another (for me, I enjoyed the Thor on Earth stuff and his budding relationship with Jane more so than the rival brothers stuff on Asgard), causing scenes in the other world to feel overly long messing with the overall pacing a little. Also, there are a ton of characters, and Branagh tries to keep the film constantly moving forward with lot of action scenes, and thus some of the character development is lacking leaving the film to rely a bit too heavily on the tried-and-true movie relationship clichés that we all know and do not need much to understand. This takes away from the power of the relationships a bit, because we have seen them before. However, Thor is a well fleshed out character and his relationships with Jane, Loki and Odin feel real (though some have wondered why he so easily falls for Jane Foster – but I would equate it to the feeling you have when you first spark with someone, all you want to do is be around them). Branagh’s action set pieces are good, but feel fairly generic (and the battle against the Destroyer is only ok). Rather, the film succeeds more so on its drama and comedy, with the action filling in as cool breaks. A lot of the characters did not have enough screen time (and hopefully there will be a Thor-centric sequel), like The Warriors Three and Heimdall (but, with Branagh wanting the film to continually keep moving and Marvel probably not wanting to have a 3+ hours film, some characters and actors are not given enough time, for me at least). Aesthetically, the film has an interesting look to it. Branagh and crew did a great job creating Asgard and the costumes. Even with a few issues, Thor makes a good addition to The Avengers’ series (my favorite so far).

Technical and acting achievements: Branagh is a very accomplished director when it comes to Shakespearian adaptations, and he brings a lot of that to this film – which is why the relationships that Thor has work so well (and would work even better with more time for development, but given the mold of Iron Man, it makes sense why Thor moves at a fairly brisk pace with seemingly constant action). The score by composer Patrick Doyle gives the film a wonderful epic feel that both accompanies the character of Thor and accentuates the action well. Haris Zambarloukos’s cinematography also gives many of the scenes a big feeling, but he is also able to capture the personal feelings of the characters (which is somewhat rare among bigger action films) – he is definitely an artist to watch in the future. Bo Welch does a great job with the production design. I really like his sets for Jane’s office and the Bifrost rainbow bridge. They built the whole town in New Mexico for the film, and it has sort of a cool fake yet western vibe to it which fit really well. The cast is very good in the film. The supporting players feature great work from Kat Denning (who is really funny in a small, one note role), Ray Stevenson, Josh Dallas (Stevenson and Dallas bring some fun to The Warriors Three), and Idris Elba (who emotes such power and respect, he really needed to be in more and have a bigger role). Natalie Portman is good as Jane, playing a scientist that is more poetic than stuffy, and a good match for Hemsworth’s energy. Tom Hiddleston is very compelling and weaselly (not a word, but I am using it anyway); you sort of know he is the villain when you first see him. He has such tension and hunger in him. Anthony Hopkins plays his role a bit like many of his others – he is strong a forceful, but with some compassion behind his rugged gruff persona. Chris Hemsworth makes Thor completely his (much like Robert Downey Jr. in Iron Man), pulling off the physicality while having a lot of fun with the role. He really is what makes the film special.

Thor is funny and dramatic, making it one of the better action-adventure films in recent years. 7/10

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