Friday, May 20, 2011

Man on Film: Thor

As I started to assess what lay ahead of me in my attempt to catch up here, I was bowled over by how far behind I've fallen. Some of this is related to baseball. Some the added distraction that my new iPhone has brought to my life. Regardless my attention has been drawn elsewhere over the past month or two.

In my attempt to get back up to speed, I'll start with the easiest film for me to review: Thor.

To sum it up in a word?

Unimpressed.

As is often the case for the first outing in a superhero franchise, much of the first hour is spent setting up that hero's origin. In some instances, like Spider-Man or Iron Man, this is the best part of the film, after which the hero is clumsily pitted against his foe who makes an appearance in the first act but whose true, evil nature is merely alluded to through foreshadowing. While the conflict with the villain is actually set up pretty well in this film, Thor's origin story is neither compelling nor entertaining.

The screenplay, credited to three scribes--Ashley Edward Miller, Zack Stentz (the writing partners who brought you Agent Cody Banks and six episodes of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles), and Don Payne (one of the two credited screenwriters of Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer)--starts off with Thor crashing down to the New Mexican desert in the midst of an aurora. After a ten-minute teaser, the film takes a leap back to Thor's home planet, Asgard. For what felt like an hour. All of this time is spent showing the young Norse God to be the equivalent of the dumb fucking jock who wants to crush everything and who everybody hated in high school (unless, of course, you were that dumb fucking jock). Not only is Thor an ill-mannered, spoiled rich jock, but he is gifted with all of the entitlement issues and egotism of J.D. McCoy, the pissant quarterback who unseats Matt Saracen in the third season of Friday Night Lights.

Not only is the Thor we get to know for the first 90 minutes of the film all of these things, but the set-up of the origin of Thor happens to take place in a place that looks, well, ridiculous. Asgard looked like shit. Take all of the things that you hated about the "sets" in the Star Wars prequels and lump them together. That's Asgard. 45 minutes of film are shot in green screen and the backgrounds are added later. Maybe I'm being excessively purist, but the complete and utter lack of anything real for that long is simply exhausting.

When the audience is finally granted exit from the puerile happenings in Asgard, the next 45 minutes is some amalgamation of Crocodile Dundee, Project X, and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat with a dash of Donnie Darko-wormholery sprinkled in. By the time Thor has discovered the error of his ways and redemptively reinvented himself, it is hard to believe that a director with as much storytelling skill as Kenneth Branagh was at the helm for this mess of a movie. They shoe-horned a love story into the film while only giving themselves 60% of a film to lay the groundwork for it. Then the audience is supposed to believe that Thor and Jane Foster (Natalie Portman, whose post-Black Swan releases have really been cashing in on that Oscar that she had to have thought she was going to get) fell in love after having spent part of three days together.

These films aren't supposed to be flawless. If anyone understands that, it's me. It just seems that they got almost nothing correct here. For starters, is there anyone who would have been better suited to play Thor than Alexander Skarsgard? Hell, they even cast his father in the film. Instead, they get some Australian soap star, probably to appeal to the Crocodile Dundee demographic. Then the film is constructed in such a way that it is hard to actually give a damn about the protagonist until the 90 minute mark. Everything that happens in any of the worlds other than Earth looks stupid and will only look worse as more time passes and the effects look more and more ridiculous. And I haven't even touched the anticlimactic climax of the film.

What else is there to say? Thor is a lackluster superhero flick that fails to engage until it is far too late.

2 comments:

Young Man Duggan said...

You listed the previous works of the screenwriters, and it shouldn't come as any surprise that the minds behind "Agent Cody Banks", "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer", et. al blew ass.

Josh "Old Man" Duggan said...

Indeed.

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