Tuesday, May 8, 2012

DVD Review: Thor, or How Sibling Rivalry Can Really Go Bad

Finally got around to viewing Thor (2011) which is the last film I needed to see before seeing The Avengers (2012). What can I say. It's OK. Not great. Not horrible. Just OK. Kind of like a bowl of lukewarm porridge. I felt almost exactly the same way after viewing Captain America: The First Avenger (2011). Oh well. Ho-hum.

By the way, this review contains a ton of spoilers. I figured it can't hurt that much, since the film's been out awhile and anyone interested in The Avengers movie must have seen it a bunch of times by now. Just warning you. Proceed at your own risk.

I know the film makers tried to successfully merge the doings in Asgard with those on Midgard (Earth) but it was always very jarring to go from one universe to another. Of course, you could say that was on purpose, since the Asgardian realm is so much different than plain ol' planet Earth, but after reading some of the film's trivia at IMDB, I saw that the film's look and feel were supposed to successfully merge the two worlds. Oh well.

I know Natalie Portman wanted to be in this film, and it's not exactly like her appearances in the various Star Wars movies were so high brow, but I felt her talent was rather wasted here. On the other hand, Anthony Hopkins played Odin and he's practically the nexus of all wonderful and classical acting experience in the universe embodied as a man. Marlon Brando played Jor-El in the first Superman film (1978) starring Christopher Reeve, so I guess I don't really have much of a point here. Just sayin'.

I know there had to be some way of explaining Thor, Asgard, Bifrost, and everything else without saying it's out and out magic, but it was a little hard to buy that the "Rainbow Bridge" that leads from Asgard to Earth was really something called an Einstein-Rosen Bridge, AKA a "wormhole." I guess you can call the Asgardians, Frost Giants and the like all super-dimensional beings who exist in domains outside of normal time-space...except Thor said you could see them all using the Hubble telescope. So Asgard is just something that exists in normal space, out there somewhere.

I think I like "super-dimensional" better.

I know everyone tried really hard, but the characterization wasn't all that great. Natalie Portman as astrophysicist Jane Foster was played like a dippy school girl with a crush on the high school football quarterback. I liked Chris Hemsworth. I think he looked the part. I just wasn't amazingly impressed with his performance, and I really wanted to be.

Clint Barton (played by Jeremy Renner). He has a brief appearance in the film as a SHIELD sniper who prefers a bow to a high-powered rifle and scope. It explains (sort of) how he'll end up in the Avengers but Barton was always a bad boy in the comic books, right on the edge of being a criminal and heading toward prison (he first appeared as a pawn of the communist agent the Black Widow in the early 1960s, manipulated into attacking Iron Man). Hard to believe he starts out as a government agent rather than a well-meaning but easily conned rogue.

Sif (played by Jaimie Alexander). Nada. She didn't even look like a goddess. Heck, she didn't even look convincingly like a mortal female warrior. I just didn't get the feeling she could kick anyone's ass. She wasn't regal. She wasn't a goddess.

I know Thor is supposed to be the most bad ass god of them all, but it seemed as if he was about a thousand times more powerful than any other Asgardian around him. In the initial fight sequence in Jotunheim, the other gods including Loki seemed no more powerful than some really tough human martial arts/sword and sorcery types, while Thor flew around like Superman, smashing everything in sight. You'd think if everyone in Asgard was considered a "god" and was nearly immortal (Odin seems to age so they can't *really* be immortal), the "warriors three," Loki, and Sif would have been closer to Thor's own abilities (especially Loki, since he fights Thor to a stand still in the film's climax).

Agent Coulson (played by Clark Gregg) was an asshole. In the first two Iron Man films, he was sort of likable if not entirely competent, but in Thor, he was an absolute jerk, especially when taking away all of Jane Foster's (and her fellow scientists) toys. Also, I always had the impression that SHIELD knew exactly who they were recruiting for the Avengers, but Coulson had no idea how Thor was connected to the hammer and he thought Thor was some sort of "Soldier of Fortune" merc. Coulson got on my nerves fairly early and stayed there throughout the film. At least he evoked an emotion in me. Most of the other characters didn't.

I know that in the 21st century, it would be considered poor form to create an entire race of white people, but I was a little surprised to see Japanese actor Tadanobu Asano playing Hogun and African-British actor Idris Elba playing Heimdall. The Asgardian legends are Nordic legends, so I thought I'd see a lot more blonds in Asgard. Of course, if we reverse causality (which we have to here) and say the Nordic people observing the Asgardians fighting the Frost Giants on Earth mistook these super-dimensional beings for gods, then it makes sense that they'd recreate the gods of Asgard in their own image, depicting them in their legends as racially unmixed (blond hair, blue eyes, all white). That means in real (movie) life, Asgardians could look like just about anyone, as long as the men were buff and the women were beautiful.

The one thing I didn't really anticipate and did like in the film was Loki's motivation. In the beginning, he wasn't such a bad guy. Sure, he was jealous of Thor, but I can see why he'd believe Odin favored Thor at Loki's expense. Loki liked to get into a bit of mischief every now and then (and he is the god of mischief after all) but nothing serious. He really did love his parents and wanted to be a good king of Asgard (as opposed to Thor who started out as an arrogant prick). Discovering that he was "adopted" and a Frost Giant to boot, really reset his clock. Adopted kids, especially those who are adults before they are told they're adopted (or find out by accident as in Loki's case) almost always are shocked and sometimes pissed off that mommy and daddy didn't tell them the truth. It just added to Loki's complexity and his desire to take Thor down a peg...actually a lot of pegs, since he tried to kill his older brother.

In the end, Thor has to destroy Bifrost to keep Loki from committing genocide, shattering the link between him and Jane. Loki is lost when he deliberately lets himself fall into space. No apparent connection to Thor's return to Earth or Loki's return as the villain in The Avengers is apparent (save for the "real" ending after the credits when we get a brief glimpse of Loki in some SHIELD labyrinth).

I'm glad I saw the movie if only because it's a set up for The Avengers film and to fill in any gaps in my knowledge base. That said, there are better films out there I could wasted a couple of hours on. I just hope The Avengers movie doesn't leave me feeling as "blah."

Oh well.

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