Wednesday, 2 May 2012

2 Weeks of Movies - Thor

Thor - 6/10

(quite a lot of spoilers!)

Appropriately enough, considering all the Avengers buzz, my next film is Thor. My response and my husband’s were divided on this one. He really didn’t like it; I thought it was fairly enjoyable, though the way the plot unravelled was a little disappointing.

The standard thing to do with superheroes is to start off with their origin story. Makes sense, especially for those with a particularly good origin story, like Spiderman. Unfortunately, the origin story can sometimes turn out to be the most interesting thing about the superhero, so that future outings with him or her fall a bit flat. Like Ironman. Like, well, everyone except the X-Men, really. Some superheroes even have a whole TV series built around their origin (Superman – Smallville, though I’ve actually never watched it). So tackling the origin story of Thor seems like a good move, and in fact, his origin story does happen to be a very good one. However, what we actually got was a bit of a muddle. The first half of the film was Norsey goodness, in Asgard (which looked FANTASTIC by the way), fighting Frost Giants, being blustery and prideful and generally like a good Viking god. Which was apparently bad... BAD Thor for wanting war. The last thing the king of the Viking gods wants is war. What are you thinking Thor? But anyway, this bit of the film was really very good.

Then Thor got cast out to Earth, and it sort of went downhill a bit from there. Which is a shame because this has the potential to be a really compelling story. Thor, aware of who he is but unable to do anything about it, powerless as a normal human, has to somehow find a place for himself in the world. Good stuff. Didn’t quite translate. What we actually got was a little too much Natalie Portman, and Thor making amusing mistakes because of not knowing how to interact socially in our world. Then a pointless bit with the hammer that felt like it was just there to shoe-horn SHIELD in. A surprisingly emotional bit where Loki visits and Thor begs to come home almost saved it, but then it meandered into more pointlessness. Thor was basically without powers for about one day (which is all it took to fall in love with Natalie Portman, despite there not being much chemistry there), and then straight back to Asgard again for the final fight. Earth was essentially meaningless except as a minor plot point. Doesn’t this miss the point a bit? It didn’t really feel like a superhero film; it felt like a fantasy/sci-fi focused on Norse-gods-as-aliens. I think I would have liked it better if it had just embraced this completely.

Apart from the slightly wonky plotting of the second half, I did enjoy the film. I thought the acting was very good, especially Thor and Loki. Costumes, effects and sets were amazing, and I loved the visualisation of Asgard. This could all have been a bit Flash-Gordon cheesy, but it actually wasn’t. The directing was good, the music was good, everything worked except the plot and the pacing. It did suffer a little, however, from the often inevitable too-much-sympathy-for-the-villain syndrome that these kinds of films produce. I liked Loki better than Thor. Sorry. Couldn’t help rooting for him. I wonder if that will be a problem for me in Avengers? I’ll have to wait and see.

So, while I wouldn’t say this was a bad film, I also wouldn’t say it’s one of the best of the superhero bunch. It would really be worth watching for the Asgard scenes alone, but thankfully there are a lot of other things that pull it up too. I do feel that it was really only the plot and pacing that let it down, mainly because of the need to cover an origin story in a couple of hours, which was perhaps better suited to serialisation. Thor’s acceptance-redemption-recovery arc needed to be slower and more believable. The director also clearly struggled with the need to include SHIELD to set up Avengers. That part really just shouldn’t have been there. If a second Thor film does get made, I’ll be interested to see what it has to offer now that his origin has been established. With the right story, I have a feeling it could be amazing.

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