Wednesday, May 11, 2011
But "Thor" for some reason got really good reviews. I don't know why, but critics were really into this one. Personally I suspect that the critics only gave "Thor" a pass because their darling Shakespearian auteur Kenneth Branagh directed this. Well, whatever your opinion of Kenneth Branagh is, even though he did "Othello" and "Hamlet", the guy also was the bad guy from "Wild Wild West". Just because his name is attached to something doesn't mean its anything better than just another crappy Super Hero movie. And "Thor" really is a just another crappy Super Hero movie. Hey, if you're into Super Heroes, power to ya. But don't expect me to be along for the ride as well.
I came into the theatre hoping for "Iron Man" and left knowing what I'd seen was far closer to "Iron Man 2". Not a good omen for the first of what seems like half a billion Super Hero movies to come. Thank God I don't actually have to see all of those.
First of all, as usual, I must repeat I never read comics unless they're in a newspaper or "Ranma 1/2". So I have no idea what the comic book version of "Thor" is all about or whatever. I can only guess how faithful the adaptation here is, and honestly I don't really care either way. You comic book fans can complain until the world ends (next Saturday) about how they ruined the character of Thor and whatever, but your plight means less to me than those jackasses who are complaining that a Black guy is living in the presumably White Asgard. By the way, to the latter group, I have only thing to say: please fuck off.
What matters to me is that either in the filmmaking or the comics they completely ruined the Norse myths. I need to brush up on my Edith Hamilton, but I recall a dark fatalism that surrounded all of the Germanic Gods. In the final battle of the universe, Ragnarök, the Gods are destined to fall in extremely specific ways while fighting the Giants. Thor, for example, is going to die fighting the Midgardsormr, a giant snake so huge that it can wrap around the entire Earth and nibble on its tail. Throughout everything Thor does he knows he'll kill Midgardsormr then die of the serpent's poison after walking nine - exactly nine - steps. Odin, the Father God, works tirelessly to stop the destruction, giving up an eye for foresight, but its all hopeless. The Giants will win in the end and the world will be destroyed. Naturally Midgardsormr and his brother Fenrir are incredibly awesome monsters, so they can't appear in a mediocre comic book movie. Ragnarok in general would have been a much more awesome idea for a film - but that would have cost the child audience, so Marvel was really screwed here. I say forget all about the Norse myths and you'll enjoy the movie a lot better. Still won't be good, though.
In the movie "Thor" the Norse Gods are actually aliens or something that live in a magical disco kingdom where everybody wears armor borrowed from "Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep". They live on Planet Viking, which is an alternate universe to Earth. Thor is the headstrong son of Odin who wields a huge magic sledgehammer and is basically indestructible in battle. He yearns to prove himself in battle so he invades Asgard's longtime enemy, the Frostgiants. However, because Thor is not very bright, he immediately is caught in the plans of his evil brother, Loki, who hopes to gain the crown. So Thor is banished to Earth where he falls in love with Love Interest, and needs to learn a big lesson in order to use his hammer again, return to Planet Viking, and beat up Loki. Really nothing all that fancy.
As with the story, the CG fight scenes are completely paint-by-numbers and uninspired. Ten years ago these effects would have made this movie a groundbreaking icon of action films. Now... its just CG fighting CG. Seen it. Who cares? At no point during the movie does Thor ever have a credible foe, he's able to slam through giant monsters like they're made out of nothing more than digital graphics... which they are. "Thor" makes a big screaming deal about how dangerous the Frostgiants are and how it took all of Odin's power to defeat them. Then when you actually meet the Frostgiants they're utterly helpless. There's only one group of people on Earth who can be impressed by this movie, and that's children. Not because this movie has a special kind of magic that only children can understand, no. Its just because they haven't seen the other fifty-thousand bland computer generated action movies that have come out in the last ten years.
As a main character, Thor (played by the complete unknown Chris Hemsworth) is okay, I guess. Chris Hemsworth does a good enough role, but I honestly never found the character all that compelling. He starts out as an arrogant jock, and ends as an arrogant jock - but now with a girlfriend. At the very least Chris Hemsworth is seriously good-looking, so if you're sexually attracted to that gender, here's the movie for you. Personally I thought his Viking friends** were more interesting characters, which is unfortunate. A movie where the hero is less interesting than his supporting cast is like a good sunny day ruined by seeing a crappy Super Hero movie - like the day I had.
The biggest problem with the storyline is that Earth really has nothing to do with anything. The problems of "Thor" are a huge cosmic battle between the Gods and the Giants which is being manipulated by Loki. It takes a lot of work to shove in the US government and those S.H.I.E.L.D. guys who have been showing up in every comic book movie lately. Half the reason why Thor spends five minutes fighting Men in Black is so that they can introduce another Super Hero who fights with a bow and arrow - who doesn't do anything. (Also, wasn't Green Arrow a DC hero? I'm confused.) Yeah, Earth is where Thor finds Natalie Portman, but their love plot is easily the least interesting thing going on. All Portman can muster up is some schoolgirl giggling. Forced dull romances into action movies like this is the reason why we boys will learn to hate love stories even into our twenties. I mean, its not like Thor is Anakin Skywalker and Natalie Portman is Padme again, but its still pretty bad. The Earth parts of this movie slow this movie down so badly that I started to wonder if they actually filmed in molasses. But Earth needs to be a central part of the story so that Thor can meet up with the other Marvel heroes and join together in the grand hurricane of mediocrity that will be next year's "Avengers" movie.
At its heart "Thor" is a really silly comic book movie, which is why so much of it is dedicated to comedy. But I wasn't feeling it here. None of the jokes are particularly good. There's one human girl, Darcy, who walks around with the words "COMIC RELIEF" stamped onto her forehead. She exists only to make unbelievably unfunny pop-culture references in what I assume is some kind of half-assed attempt to pander to the youth market. "Ha. ha. She mentioned Facebook in a Super Hero movie. Ha. That speaks to my generation's sensibilities. Ha." Man, if Darcy weren't as pretty as Natalie Portman I'd wish this character would get devoured by Midgardsormr. What did make me laugh was watching Anthony Hopkins overact massively. This movie is just stupid, but at least its aware of it, I guess. Its not ashamed to be stupid. This movie is so desperate for comedy it literally resurrected Shakespeare's Falstaff as a Norse God.
If you must see "Thor", do it in 2D. Not only is that always the cheaper (and usually the better) option, but "Thor" is not actually a 3D movie. Yeah, you have the glasses and the ten-dollar surcharge. Sometimes if you take the glasses off you might have a bit of double-vision, but for the most part wearing the glasses has no effect of any kind. The 3D effect is so weak that you can barely tell its there at all. Save your money, avoid 3D. In fact, if you want to be a really smart consumer, don't see this movie at all.
Thor himself is supposed to go on some great character arc where he learns something important, but I really don't know what he's learned in this movie. Yeah, he fell in love with Love Interest, but does simply finding somebody as hot as you are make you a good person? Somehow after meeting Natalie Portman he's decided for some reason the Frostgiants shouldn't be murdered. I'm glad to see he's less of a jackass, but why is he less of a jackass? Also, why does the main villain, Loki, keep changing his goals every five seconds? First he's just Machiavellian, then all of a sudden he's Hitler? What, was he not evil enough for the producers in the first draft? I'm not all that concerned with this because "Thor" was brilliantly successful in making me not care one bit about any of its characters, so if their character arcs don't make sense, I don't care at all.
But here's the thing: none of this surprised me in any way. The trailers were amazingly faithful to the finished product. Watch the commercials, that's the movie you're going to get. I didn't think that movie would be any good, and it wasn't. Hell, even before the movie started I had to ask myself: "Am I so desperate to see a movie, any movie, that I'm watching fucking "Thor"?" So I wasn't surprised that I started praying to Robert Downey Jr. by the halfway mark for him to appear in this movie and save the day with his general awesomeness. But he never came. God help me, he never came. If nothing else, "Thor" proves to me that I was wrong to doubt Tony Stark's charms in "Iron Man 2", because even at his worst that character is a million times more fun and interesting than anybody in this thing.
Super Hero movies suck. Why the Hell do I keep watching these things? When is "Batman 3" going to arrive and save us from this plague of mediocrity?
Fanwank Corner: When Thor's powers are taken from his in his banishment, Odin says "whoever is worthy may wield the power of Thor". Does that mean that any person with good enough morals can just pick up the magic hammer and become a Super Hero? Because that sounds like an awesome third-act twist to me. Thor fights a giant robot as a mortal knowing he'll probably die. Then he gets his powers back for being heroic. But I have to wonder: what if he got killed by the robot? Then some other character would have needed to take the magic hammer and become Thor, just as long as their pure of heart or whatever. I think "Thor" would have been a much better movie if Thor was killed off and the final battle was fought by some other character taking the hammer. Say Natalie Portman becomes Thor. The humans would have a lot more purpose in this movie if they actually did something in Asgard, I think. It sounds a lot more Super Hero-y if a regular human gains super powers, instead of a spoiled God-prince regaining the powers he's always had. Maybe I'm only talking out of total disinterest in the Thor character, or maybe I'm talking out of annoyance of how Natalie Portman is totally wasted in this film.
* With the exception of Captain America. Because Chris Evans vs. Nazis sounds fucking awesome. Chris Evans was the best part of "the Losers", and I'm actually interested.
** One of the Viking buddies is this girl Sif played by Jaimie Alexander. Jaimie proves herself in this movie to have been born to play Wonder Woman some day. If it turns out that Jaimie Alexander actually is an Amazon Princess secretly living in human society, I would not be surprised at all. Hollywood, get on that.