Sunday, May 8, 2011

Movie Review: Thor

Thor is a better movie than it is a superhero movie. It's still a fine superhero movie, but it stops short of being amazing or astonishing.

In fact, there's a sense in which Thor goes out of its way not to astonish. It expends a great deal of thought and effort towards grounding its ideas and setting. This is ultimately a movie whose primary function is to fold Thor into the world established in Iron Man. And, to its credit, it accomplishes this goal gloriously. It manages to adapt a huge swath of Lee and Kirby's Asgard. The Warriors Three, Heimdall, and Sif are all featured - quite prominently, in fact - in the film.

But it always feels as though these things are being folded into the existing world of Tony Stark, into a world of science and reason. In comics, Thor exists by rules written for Thor, and the greater shared Universe allows the various laws of physics and logic to clash. While we loved the crossovers and cameos, these should have felt grounded in the logic of Thor's world for his movie.

The character work here was very strong. Branagh feels right at home playing with Norse gods, and the dialogue works extremely well. The script drops the absurdity of the "thee's", "thou's", and "verily's", while the actors convey the sense these terms were always meant to impart. Clearly, a great deal of thought and attention to detail went into this, and it shows.

And yet, it's difficult not to feel a sense of disappointment. It was a good movie, but Thor spent a greater portion of the film powerless than Kal-El did in Superman II. We only caught a glimpse of Thor as a superhero: a single moment towards the end.

Despite the fact that Thor's origin is no more complex, the movie was hindered by the same issues that plague all origin movies: too much time spent grounding the magic and majesty they should be celebrating.

Thor comes close to Iron Man, but falls a bit short. If Iron Man's a four star film, than Thor is three and three-fourths. However, we're going to bump that to four. Why? Because of what comes after the credits. You thought the teaser at the end of Iron Man was good?


Jesse said...

This is a very good example of how I massively disagree with you, although not without respecting your opinion a great deal. You completely deserve to wear your comic book purist badges, so I hope that you've been issued one. I say this because what you want in a comic book movie is for the pages of the comic book to start moving and look like real people. I think that it is not only necessary but even desirable to change certain elements when changing media, comics to movies being a fairly major transition and therefore a fairly major change. It is one thing to want batarangs and a batcave. I am not going to acerbically call you a "purist" for doing that. But Thor is quite another matter. The fact that there is a Norse god running around the Marvel universe following his own logic and not making any sense at all with anything else is not only widely considered one of the less accessible elements of the universe, but often also one of the silliest. Obviously there are many who like that there, or get used to it, but it's hard to argue that it isn't silly. It is an example of a universe element that was stuck on, and one of the messiest parts of any crossover. I'm not saying I don't like that stuff, but when building the universe from the ground up, especially for a series of movies, they have the opportunity to make everything actually fit the same logic. I would go a step further and say they have the duty to make it all work together in a way that doesn't require anyone being an apologist, or having to say "yeah, good ol' Marvel, that's just how they are!" Wanting it to not make sense, wanting it even to be silly, just so that they don't in any way violate the cannon of the comic, is being a comic book purist to the point that it is actually a flaw. That's what I think.

Erin Snyder said...

Well, yeah, that's pretty much what's going on here.

Although I'm mainly just a purist when it comes to tone. I didn't mind them entirely revamping the Blake identity or turning Foster into a theoretical physicist, for example, and I think the changes to Loki were brilliant.