Sunday, May 15, 2011
I enjoyed the ladies of Thor
I'm a little late to the party on this film, which came out in the U.S. last week. Yet last week was also the week that My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic ended its first season, and I decided I'd rather be timely on something that was over than something that would be in theaters for quite awhile. The perils of forcing/limiting myself to one post a week, I suppose. I wish I could do more. (I finished the first Portal video game this week and would love to talk about that too. Maybe at a later point.)
Anyway, given that I'm surely not the only person to wait to see a film until its second weekend in the theaters, I'll report back saying I genuinely enjoyed the new Marvel Comics movie Thor. Now, I've read quite a few comics with Marvel's version of the character but very, very few comics where he's the star, something I hope to remedy when I feel comfortable buying new books and comic book trades again (I have about 150 books to read and need to pay penance. No, that's not an exaggeration). So I knew the basics of Marvel Thor's powers and comic-book mythology surrounding him but very little about the specifics, and while I consider myself a comic fan I came to it as an outside observer, I suppose. (I also don't know much about the original Norse tales, for the record, but that may be for someone else to analyze.)
What I'm trying to say is, with few preconceived expectations, the movie is really fun. I know some people had trouble with the first thirty minutes, which largely takes place in Asgard. I don't quite understand this. The CGI renderings of Asgard alone are really impressive (I watched the movie in 2-D), and if they don't replicate Jack Kirby's drawings exactly they have enough of the feel. Plus, I like sparkly rainbow bridges, battles with Frost Giants and Anthony Hopkins' acting as the All-Father. Kenneth Branagh's directing makes these scenes shine.
I also like the beginning because it's a setup for Thor's (Chris Hemsworth) transformation from an arrogant man (or is it god?) into one who is genuinely good. I know some people are turned off by Tony Stark's arrogance in the Iron Man movies, which doesn't go away even after his transformation into a superhero. I think those who had an issue with Tony Stark will find Thor a lot more palatable. He comes off as genuinely interested in people and kind, especially when he smiles.
But I'm getting a bit ahead of myself. Critics seem to have had better things to say about the rest of the movie, where Thor is banished to earth and spends a lot of time fighting hospital staff and acting like what everyone else in the movie thinks is a "crazy homeless person." There is a lot that's awesome about this part. People can debate over whether or not Natalie Portman makes a convincing astrophysicist, but I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised at the movie 1.) creating a scientific team of two women (Portman and Kat Dennings) and one older man (Stellan Skarsgard) and 2.) not having that older man be in charge.
This may be the time to say what I've been trying to say for at least five paragraphs: I really liked the female characters in this movie. I won't say it was so great it completely blew me away or anything like that, but in terms of that it was a solid movie. Portman's Jane Foster may not be my favorite superhero girlfriend, but she's up there. She's charming and funny and clearly feels deeply for Thor even though the movie itself is low on angst. She doesn't fight, but she doesn't have to be rescued, either, which is actually really refreshing. Her assistant Darcy, who also doesn't need to be rescued, provides a lot comic moments in the film, too.
And if you want women battling, there's Lady Sif (Jamie Alexander). Sif doesn't have a lot of fighting scenes, but she has just as many as the Warriors Three, Asgardian male warriors. In fact, while I'm not sure if it's this way in the comics, the movie goes out of its way to make Sif an equal to the Warriors Three, both in her fighting and her attitude.
An aside, one of the Warriors Three (Tadanobu Asano as Hogun) is Asian, and Heimdall (Idris Elba) is black. I have no idea why a bunch of jerks got upset about one and not the other. I have a few theories but it doesn't really matter. Someone always takes the opportunity to act like a complete and total jerk in this situation, whether it's Michael Clarke Duncan as the Kingpin, Jessica Alba as the Invisible Woman or Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury (even if that has a reasoning in the comics), and they should knock it off. I mean, it's just unconscionable, especially because few of the same people who are upset about this were upset about Jubilee being played by a white girl in the Generation X movie (yet they'll always call upon that false equivalency, of course). Asano and Elba are both really good in their small roles and it would be better if the background characters were more diverse, anyway.
I guess if I have any complaint about the movie is that I don't have a whole lot to say about Loki. The plotline of the movie is good, but Tom Hiddleston and the character don't leave a strong impression. That's not to say I hated the character, but he seems rather small scale for a God and pales compared to other Marvel supervillains.
Still, I'd recommend it. Kenneth Branagh did a very good job. The sets are awesome, the main character is likable and the female characters are solid. See it at one point, even if you missed this weekend or the first it will still be just as fun.