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“This [Too] is Madness!”

Movie Review: Thor (2011)
Summary: The powerful Thor is cast out of the fantastic realm of Asgard and sent to live amongst humans on Earth.
Spoilers: none

The Marvel comics superhero and legendary warrior, Thor, is the main attraction in the movie bearing his name, in this bluntly and coolly visual presentation about the wise deity, “Odin” (Anthony Hopkins) and his foolish and arrogant son, “Thor” (Chris Hemsworth).

After defying his father’s orders and re-igniting an intergalactic conflict with the mysterious (and inexplicably evil) frost giants, Thor is stripped of his powers and banished to earth. 

On earth, Thor meets “Jane Foster” (Natalie Portman) and begins to take an interest in her. Jane’s teacher, “Professor Andrews” (Stellan Skarsgård) and colleague, “Darcy” (Kat Dennings) begin to discover, along with Jane, that the intensely good-looking and oddly out-of-place man they were at first suspicious of is, in fact, the supposed-mythical hero come down to earth.

The movie is a long-reaching and rich attempt at epic-ness, and it includes the usual thousand-yard stares between villains and heroes, complete with grunts coming from the frost giant creatures with their curiously red eyes. The very elaborate and trinket-y props and effects are more than momentarily impressive, but will at last manage to remind the audience that they are extravagant eye-candy. The world of Asgard, the “eternal realm” where Odin’s kingdom rests, is like an impressive mega-church, with hanging banners, lots of depressing maroon, and structures that look like super-huge pipe organs. You can call it “geek fodder,” but I prefer to call it “just a little too much.”

The plot underneath this legendary figure, who becomes one of earth’s most influential defenders, is one of great substance, which is, unfortunately, set back time and again by the film’s hammy humor that will seldom find its place with audiences. This becomes, thankfully, less of an issue as the movie progresses, but it never goes away. 

The film does a fabulous job at interweaving theoretical science, science fiction, and magic spoken of in the age-old myths. The positively stimulating imagery and space background scenery are made all the more impressive by the film’s changing lighting that makes sitting through the film a visually piercing experience at the movies.

In some ways, Hemsworth’s Thor is a reminder of Brad Pitt’s Achilles in Troy (2004), but Thor doesn’t emote like Pitt. Making impressions with its flashiness only, Thor could be called a superficial film, as Hemworth’s abs add more to the overall affect of the movie than any attempt at scooping up character depth.

But there is the fighting, which is brought to you with as much confidence and strength as inside the heart of the film’s star. And yes, it rocks! This for its weaknesses in other areas. But then there’s the fundamentally predictable nature of the story that we want to have faith in, but can’t get away from...

It’s just too damn easy to stay one step ahead of the story in our minds, where 1) a rejected hero gets sent to earth and makes an impression, 2) falls in love, 3) becomes wiser, and 4) becomes dedicated to defending earth at all costs—and not to forget 5) must stop his corrupt, usurping sibling from taking the throne back home. Then you get those similarities to The Sword and the Stone with Thor’s immovable hammer that gets lots of attention when it falls to earth and no one can move it.

Our main problem is that the film never takes itself seriously enough to succeed. It could have eliminated the “men in black”-style F.B.I. agents, headed up by “Agent Coulson” (Clark Gregg). Such presences are more goofy than governmental in a movie that is supposed to awe you into sidestepping your adherence to everyday realism. We could have used more focus on the conflict in Thor’s family involving his brother, “Loki,” played convincingly by Tom Hiddleston. 

And speaking of being taken seriously, that’s another problem—there is very little stand-up acting that is not overdone. The execution of the dialog is the biggest offender; about half of the movie is riddled with dramatic read-offs that sound like swearing, sweaty wrestlers striking up verbal feuds in the ring.

Other than Idris Elba as “Heimdall,” the gatekeeper, and Colm Feore who plays Thor’s enemy, “King Laufey,” Thor’s fellow combatants are given some mightily ridiculous exchanges. It appears the writers simply didn’t know what to have them say or do, so they figured why not give them silly, inconsequential banter and make them mere narrative placeholders rather than actors like the childish quibbling in Fantastic Four. At one point, a character is heard to say: “This is madness!” exactly as done in the 2007 movie 300.

With better directing, the film could have achieved much more than it did. The maxed-out drama is as heavy as Thor’s hammer, forged in the heart of a star, coming down upon a head. If you can handle the explosive theatrics and mildly lazy script, you should have no problem liking it and finding the excitement worthwhile. As a comic book movie on steroids, it does inspire confidence, hot-headedly setting its goal to provide stellar entertainment (yes, literally).

(JH)

Grade: C- (2 stars)
Rated: PG-13 (for violence and destruction with intense situations)
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Starring: “Thor” (Chris Hemsworth), “Jane Foster” (Natalie Portman), “Loki” (Tom Hiddleston), “Odin” (Anthony Hopkins), “Erik Selvig” (Stellan Skarsgård), “Darcy Lewis” (Kat Dennings), “Agent Coulson” (Clark Gregg), “Heimdall” (Idris Elba), “King Laufey” (Colm Feore), “Volstagg” (Ray Stevenson), “Hogun” (Tadanobu Asano), “Fandral” (Josh Dallas), “Sif” (Jaimie Alexander), “Frigga” (Rene Russo)   
Genre:  Action / Adventure / Drama / Fantasy
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