Monday, May 9, 2011

"Thor" review: definitely much better than expected!

"Thor" is a movie I've been a little skeptical about going all the way back to Comic-Con of last year. After watching the 10 minutes of footage they showed us I knew right away there would be no desire to see it in the View Master quality 3D conversion. Yuck! The costumes, sets and worlds of Asgard looked spectacular. But nothing really reeled me in that this was going to be great. With each new trailer or broadcast spot I found myself continuing to question whether the movie would work.

Flash forward to last Friday night. My skepticism had waned a bit after reading reviews from the Australian premiere just a couple of weeks ago, and those were very positive. had rated the movie at 80%. But once the domestic reviews began flowing in with so many of them wonderfully surprised that the movie was actually good, I put aside any concerns and went in with a fresh slate. And I am happy to announce that the movie is indeed spectacular!!

First up I want to say that Kenneth Branagh was absolutely the best choice as director of this movie. By bringing his Shakespearean sensibilities on board, Marvel has given us another spot-on rendering of one of their top-tier heros. Chris Hemsworth absolutely nails the role of Thor, playing the God of Thunder with the right amount of bravado, honor and perfectly placed humor. Tom Hiddleston's Loki could have been an over the top caricature with some high pitched Riddler-like voice as he is sometimes portrayed in the comics. Instead Hiddleston not only give us the evil side of Thor's brother but the angst of learning his birthright. Anthony Hopkins as Odin is also perfectly cast as well. These three are the core of Branagh's almost period-like symphony that is only brought down to Earth in tone when S.H.I.E.L.D., led by Clark Gregg's agent Phil Coulson, finds Thor's fallen hammer as he did in the after credits-scene from "Iron Man 2".

On the human side, Natalie Portman and Stellan Skarsgård are the scientists trying to understand strange phenomenon in the skies over a small New Mexico town. Kat Dennings, last scene in "Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist" brings the right amount of Facebook generation humor to this trio who are about to find a war of the gods brewing over their community.

The CG effects are really well done, especially in depicting Asgard's beauty and a couple of incredible battle sequences that had me leaning forward in my chair with amazement and excitement. The rainbow bridge of Asgard is wonderfully re-imagined as not a rainbow at all but a shimmering multi-colored raised pathway which leads to the other eight realms. Thor's hammer spins wildly at times during battle as it does in the comics and The Destroyer's look is a transposed exactly from the page.

Out of the Marvel stable I can't really say that "Thor" overtakes movies like "Iron Man" or "The Incredible Hulk". The only slightly off–kilter moment of the film comes when Thor's friends, on a hunt for their Earth-exiled companion, arrive at this little New Mexico town in full Asgardian garb. The mixing of our reality and the one anchored firmly in the heavens is a tough match during this particular sequence. I know some people who would feel that the movie just failed completely at this point. I on the other hand just pushed myself a little into just going with it and things were fine from there. My big concern is how will Thor and characters like Iron Man mix it up in "The Avengers"? In their proper place amongst the Nine Realms, the costume design is wonderfully rendered, especially Thor's which completely and perfectly echoes the more current comic book incarnation of black, grey and red.

Is "Thor" perfect? On a positive note I will say that it does present the God of Thunder in a really spectacular incarnation that's sure to have some major box office legs over the summer. You should definitely see for yourself what began with some trepidation has become a great ride!


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