Saturday, November 9, 2013

Thor 2

The story I'm often told about Marvel superheroes is that they manage to walk the line so well between real human problems and fun crimefighting.  Spiderman is a lonely nerd living paycheck to paycheck while also beating up Doctor Octopus.  Iron Man is an arrogant showboating alcoholic but also beats up... whoever his villains are.  And the X-Men are all closeted homosexuals.  So where exactly does Thor fit in?  He's a fabulously handsome, indestructible cosmic prince whose main problem in life seems to be that his girlfriend lives on another planet and long-distance relationships are hard.  Why am I trying to bring humanization to a character that is literally a GOD?  Thor has earned nothing for his powers, they over no cost, he has no psychology that pushes him forward to fight evil, he's just a guy with a lightning bolt.  He is probably the blandest and most thoroughly uninteresting character in the Marvel cinematic universe - other than his girlfriend, a small piece of wood with a picture of Natalie Portman nailed to the front.  I don't really know how Thor acts in the comics, and I'm guessing somewhere there are several decades worth of fascinating stories involving the guy, but that's not what we have on screen.

Loki is a star, Loki is a masterpiece.  He's a shapeshifting schemer who is always nine steps ahead of his enemies.  You never really know what angle he's playing, which adds to the overall excitement.  That he's charming, witting, just a wonderfully-dickish troll just makes him all the more fun to watch.  Yeah, maybe he tried to wipe out the human race one or two times and that is pretty awful.  But when Earth is fill with such people at the Natalie Portman 2x4 and her disgustingly annoying comic relief friends, you wonder if maybe we deserve destruction.  In fact, screw the "Thor" business, this movie is now called "Loki 2".  Forget the Marvel Universe, I have a new title to offer:  "The Tony Stark and Loki Liesmith Show + Friends".

As for the movie, its really uneven.  The mood seems to be closer towards pulp high fantasy that the Marvel Universe is moving towards, its closer to Flash Gordon than a superhero movie.  Though occasionally the special effects and scenery screams Star Wars Prequel to me.  Loki and Thor working off each other are really the movie's soul, but they don't spend enough time together.  Some characters work, most don't.  The plot is very choppy, its got a very slow beginning, and very briefly picks up speed, but never takes off.  You got your action fix, you got your colors, you got your cheap laughs, and that's it.

I really need to emphasize how remarkably awful Natalie Portman's character is in these movies.  Most people point straight to Kat Dennings when they think of a bad female, and don't get me wrong:  KAT DENNINGS IS AWFUL IN THIS MOVIE*.  I am not disputing that fact.  That character is one of the worst comic reliefs to exist outside of an Adam Sandler movie, and the screenwriters should be ashamed.  But where their real shame should lie is in the character of Jane Foster (who might also be Tarzan's girlfriend, I'm not sure).  I can't say Natalie Portman does a bad job, because given the material, I cannot imagine an actress who could have elevated the role into something even vaguely resembling human.  But I also cannot imagine an actress doing a worse job.  Its such a badly-written awful AWFUL part that I cannot imagine anybody giving a different performance.  You put a dude in Jane Foster's shoes, and it will be just as bad and bizarre.

And somehow or another, Jane Foster has gotten worse over the course of these years.  In the first movie she had nothing at all to do but swoon over Thor, now she doesn't even swoon, she does nothing.  Tragically, of course, this character is now the very center of "Thor 2", being love interest and McGuffin at the same time.  Early on she gets teleported by totally random chance into a secret Asgard cave holding the Aether, this ancient evil magic hidden by the Norse Gods which can destroy the universe.  So Jane is now getting poisoned by this substance, slowly turning evil, but still manages to posses no shred of personality or motivation or even independent thought.  This character is supposed to be an astrophysicist but her scientific knowledge seems to extend only towards holding a little gizmo that beeps when the dimensions start to connect.  She's a walking husk of a human, an empty void of bad screenwriting that the audience must somehow ignore.

In the first half of the movie Thor mopes his way through Asgard, rejecting meed and wenches for this bland creature.  And I cannot possibly figure out why.  He's got Jamie Alexander like five feet away, a fellow warrior and Asgardian who seems to have stronger chemistry with him, but ignores her for no reason.  When Thor meets Jane again, you get no sense he's legitimately happy or has come alive from finding this missing piece in his life.  Instead Natalie Portman engages in the second-most awkward romance scenes of her career.  I'm sorry but when two wooden characters with no chemistry badly lock lips in front of gorgeously crafted fantasy sets, which look exactly like Naboo, I see two words written in my brain, written in bold font and blood-red ink.  "EPISODE II."  YOU REMADE THE FUCKING "ATTACK OF THE CLONES", MARVEL.

I can't believe I'm getting Nam flashbacks of a movie eleven years old.

By the way, Jamie Alexander's character is just as pointless and useless in this movie as she was before, but maybe she can find a way to fold her experience in these Thor movies into finally becoming Wonderwoman**.  So are Thor's fascinating cast of Viking hero friends, who are again underused and mainly forgotten.  Early on the movie, Thor drops off his Token Asian Friend into some other dimension, who then disappears forever, without explanation.  Why was he abandoned?  Did anybody actually care about Asian Viking Guy?  Idris Elba is in this movie, but he's not in the climax despite being the most badass actor walking the planet these days.  Why are Kat Dennings and Padme essential to saving the universe, but Wonderwoman and Idris Elba are not?

But nobody really cares about any of that, do they?  They went to see this movie to see Loki play Hannibal Lecter, and that's what you got here.  There actually are a race of extremely one-dimensional Dark Elves from before the birth of the universe who serve as the main villains, but they are not even worth commenting upon, its Loki we want.  We want Loki to clown it up.  We want Loki to pull off an amazing scheme and somehow come out on top here.  Thor can smash like a fool, Loki can really make the plot happen.  Its funny how I always thought this character was a punk, but somehow when he showed up in this terribly-bland movie, suddenly I realized I've always loved Loki.  He's my boy.  One of these days he'll give birth to a giant snake the size of the entire Earth, and then my life will be complete.  Its just a shame that well... the rest of the movie happened.

I do have to give the movie some credit for actually making some fun action scenes.  There's a whole sky battle over Asgard involving Star Wars attack fighters and flying longships.  I do like how the movie quite ashamedly mixes up laser weapons and medieval blades, even when strategically that makes absolutely no sense, and goes very poorly for the Disco Space Vikings.  Then of course, the final climax takes place in boring grey England, again symbolizing how the wonderful space opera possibilities of Thor are endlessly ruined by its needless tether to our terrestrial orb.  I want to see Brian Blessed lead an armada of winged-men against Ming the Merciless's battle cruiser, not Greenwich!  This movie needs to be more ridiculous, more cheesy, more fun.  "Guardians of the Galaxy" next year might actually prove to be a work of genius if it could just get the style right, as long as not a second of it takes place on Earth or Kat Dennings' face.

Ultimately I can't really decide if "Thor 2" is really an improvement over "Thor 1".  The originally almost seems more earnest and simple, not quite as overwhelmed by bloat and nonsense as this film.  Yeah, you'll get your laughs occasionally, you might get some excitement, but its just badly-made.  And I wouldn't have been half as angry during this review if not for the fact that the horrible pacing and ruined characters were apparent to even a six-year-old.  Halfway through this movie my baby brother, who I took to the movies just for a fun superhero fantasy experience, turned to me and asked "can we go home now?"  It bored a first-grader, what will it do to regular audiences?  Loki alone makes the movie watchable, but this is not the follow-up to "The Avengers" and "Iron Man 3" that I was hoping for.

* "2 Broke Girls", by the way, might be the worst show on television right now.  I have no idea who the hell the fanbase is for this show, or this actress.    The whole show must be some kind of ratings Ponzi Scheme.

** I said this before in my first Thor review, by Jamie Alexander IS Wonderwoman.  She actually is an Amazon Warrior Princess walking the Earth studying human civilization, not an actress.  So if Warner Bros somehow manage to miss their chance while the truly perfect actress for the role ages into obscurity, it would be a terrible crime.


  1. I didn't find it bad so much as extremely boring. Except for any scenes including both Thor and Loki, I didn't have much fun watching it. Almost fell asleep once or twice. The best scene in the entire film was the one during the credits setting up a future Marvel movie (not going to say which one in case anyone's reading this and doesn't want to see spoilers).

    1. That last scene was amazing. Actually there were two scenes that made this movie get a Mediocre Rating from me (SPOILERS):

      1. Loki's final reveal of his ultimate gambit. I knew it was coming since his death was just a little too tidy for a trickster God.

      2. The Doctor Who sequence with Benicio del Toro playing the bad guy from the Double Dragon movie. That looked like a lot of fun.