Saturday, June 11, 2011

Movie – Thor (2011)

Thor is the first of two movies this summer that Marvel is releasing that will eventually lead up to their huge 2012 Avengers movie.  This film introduces the character of Thor (Chris Hemsworth) to movie audiences.  Other key characters are Jane Foster, an astrophysicist played by Natalie Portman; Odin, the king of the Asgardians played by Anthony Hopkins; Loki, the brother of Thor played by Tom Hiddleston; Erik Selvig, another astrophysicist played by Stellan Skarsgard; Darcy Lewis, an intern played by Kat Dennings; and Agent Coulson, the continuity character from the other Avengers-related movies played by Clark Gregg. 

The biggest challenge that the movie makers had was to take the comic book character of Thor, who is very much integrated into mythology, magic, gods, and goddesses, and make him a character that would be able to integrate into the much more technologically oriented Marvel movie universe that had been established in Iron Man (2008), The Incredible Hulk (2008), and Iron Man 2 (2010).  [Note – the X-Men, Spider-Man, and Fantastic Four movies are not owned by Marvel and they are not part of the Marvel movie continuity.]

They do a decent job of overcoming this challenge by making the characters not gods, but members of a technologically superior alien race.  The famous Arthur C. Clarke quote, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic” was used more than once.  An example: the Bifrost Bridge of mythology that connects Asgard (home of these characters) to Midgard (Earth) is now an Einstein-Rosen bridge (wormhole) that the Asgardians’ technology allows them to control.

The basic premise of the movie would be familiar to anyone who has seen a little Shakespeare.  A mighty king (Odin) has two sons (Thor and Loki), only one of whom can inherit the throne.  Thor is the presumptive heir, but he is an arrogant, selfish man who acts before he thinks.  To teach Thor a lesson Odin “casts him out” to Earth.  Odin sends Thor’s weapon – his hammer – to Earth, too, but it can only be lifted by Thor if and when he becomes worthy of it again.  These events open the way for Loki to possibly assume power.

The events of this movie, plus a scene after the credits, present the Asgardian characters and technology not only as players in this movie, but in the Captain America and Avengers movies that are still to come.  Saying any more about this would be spoilers.  Make sure you stay through the credits for the scene that appears after them, though.

Anyone looking for some male eye candy will find all they could hope for in newcomer Chris Hemsworth.  He’s tall, handsome, and bulked up considerably for the role.  There is at least one extended scene where they have him walking around shirtless.  Natalie Portman said that Kat Dennings used to say the naughtiest things to her concerning Hemsworth’s physique while they were filming.  He certainly looks the part of the God of Thunder.  As for his performance, that is a little more on the uneven side.

He does a decent job playing the arrogant Thor, but he seems like he’s playing more the boy next door, rather than a humbled god when he turns nice.  The transition between arrogant and nice happens so quickly that it is not believable, but this is more a flaw in the writing that in Hemsworth’s performance.

The other thing that was little off-putting is that the filmmakers went politically correct and inserted one token black Asgardian, one token Asian Asgardian, and one token tough female Asgardian.  All three are supporting characters to Thor and their races/genders are irrelevant to the story, so the only reason to insert them is to pander to the people who complained about The Lord of the Rings movies not having any minority characters in them.

Overall, this is your standard big budget summer action movie.  There’s plenty of fights, lots of cgi, and some sex appeal.  Most important, it does a good job of introducing these characters, who will be important to the other movies to come.  You may want to see the movie if only for that reason.

Chip’s Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

           DVD                      Blu-ray

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