The Reel Deel Review – THOR

Going into my favorite movie theater to check out Marvel Studios’ latest superhero film, THOR, I wasn’t sure what to expect (surely it wasn’t the rude box office employee who, when approached, dismissively pointed an index finger at another available co-worker – never bothering to quit yakking to his friend or even look at Shaundra and I). I had followed the production for a while, and remember being excited when I got my first glimpse at Chris Hemsworth (who, at 6’3″, has the stature for the part) as the god of thunder in full regalia. I dug the colorblind – though controversial – casting of Idris Elba as Heimdall, a character who’s super keen senses make him an indispensable member of Thor’s home realm of Asgard. And I was intrigued to see what Kenneth Branagh would bring to the film as director. I felt the choice of such a weighty name to call the shots meant Marvel was taking the film seriously, making sure the material didn’t slide into the oft-reviled realm of camp. All in all, I was hoping the film proved a worthy companion to its Marvel-made predecessors IRON MAN and THE INCREDIBLE HULK. Basically, I didn’t want it to suck.

And the movie didn’t let me down.

I’m a self-professed comic book geek (who, strangely, never read comic books), but Thor was a character I didn’t know much about, so I didn’t go into the film with too many hard and fast “rules” that couldn’t be broken. I knew the very basics, so I was more or less able to experience this film as a “noob.” I have a feeling, though, that even if I was a die-hard Thor fanboy, I would’ve absolutely loved this film.

Here’s a quick, non-spoilery run-down of the story: Thor, son of Odin, king of Asgard, is a cocky, arrogant jerk who, after getting in over his head and destroying a peace pact with another land, gets stripped of his power and cast out of Asgard. He lands on Earth where, before he can regain his power and return home, he must learn how to “get over himself” and be the type of man who will one day rule Asgard. Meanwhile, machinations occur in Asgard to make sure that will never happen.

What I love most about the Marvel films is the building of a shared continuity. In Marvel’s world, their various superheros and villains know of each other, and aspects from previous films carry over into others. Hence, we get references to a pioneering scientist in gamma radiation (the Hulk, for the uninitiated) or one government worker asking another if a strange metallic mechanism is “one of Starks’” – a shout-out to IRON MAN. The same thing isn’t happening across the pond with the Warner Brothers-produced DC Comics movies. Christopher Nolan‘s Batman has no knowledge of Bryan Singer‘s Superman, who, in turn, knows even less about Martin Campbell‘s Green Lantern. It’s a ludicrous way to approach the films, especially when the news hit that Warners is planning a joint Justice League movie for 2013. Reps for both the Batman and Superman franchises have said that their versions of the characters will not appear in the Justice League films, in effect making the upcoming THE DARK NIGHT RISES and MAN OF STEEL movies part of their respective franchises, yet lame ducks when it comes to the overall scheme of things.

But enough about DC (Doesn’t Care). Back to Marvel.

I loved everything about THOR. The sets, the costumes, the plot, the acting – from top to bottom, I found the film to be spectacular. Sure, there were a few effects shots that looked, well, fake – but they didn’t detract from the moviegoing experience at all because the story was so enjoyable. I read another review that complained that the earth-bound portions of the movie felt like filler and that the romantic sub-plot between Thor and Natalie Portman‘s Jane felt forced – but I didn’t find it to be those things at all. In fact, it’s those scenes that are vitally necessary to Thor completing his character arc from a pompass asshole (who can back it up, however) to a man worthy – and thoughtful – enough to rule a kingdom. In our theater, we even had a girl crying during one of the more touching parts between Thor and Jane. I’m not going to say it warrants all that, but the scene was very well handled.

I also dug the handling of Thor’s brother, Loki, god of mischief. Instead of going for the simple “he’s just an evil guy” gimmick, Branagh and the five credited writers (!) employ a layered, nuanced approach, giving Loki emotional, understandable, if not almost-justifiable reasons for his actions. I felt for the guy, and Tom Hiddleston did an amazing job with imbuing his character with equal parts compassion and brewing menace. And yes, in one scene we get to see him in his traditional long-horned helmet (geek moment!).

The dialogue is crisp, the character interplay simply pops (props again to director Branagh) and the action beats deliver big time (I loved the various ways Thor used his mighty hammer, Mjolnir, to dispatch his adversaries). There was one moment of coolness that was so hardcore it felt like the crowd was going to erupt in cheers, but seeing as how we were a (surprisingly) respectful crowd, we didn’t. Quite. But the electricity was there.  And something else that surprised – and impressed – me was the amount of comedy in the film. Nothing overbearing at all, but it was very organic and believable, especially given the main character is a god from another realm who’s stranded in a strange land.

Bottom line – go see the movie. It doesn’t matter if you’re a comic book geek or not; there’s something for everyone in this movie. And I shouldn’t have to tell you this if you’ve seen any of the other Marvel movies, but make sure you stay until the end of the credits.

Just saying. ; )

Reel Deel Rating (out of 5):

Thor

Thor (2011)

Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston

Director: Joss Whedon, Kenneth Branagh

Genre: action, adventure, fantasy

Trailer Thor

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