Sunday, May 8, 2011

Thor review... expect to be delighted

For months I have been hesitant towards Thor.  I didn't know what to expect out of an unknown lead (Chris Hemsworth) and a Shakespearean actor turned director (Kenneth Branagh).  Sure there were Oscar winners in the film (Natalie Portman and Anthony Hopkins), but that doesn't guarantee a good film.  So the Summer movie season has kicked off in full swing.  I skipped on Fast Five last week and watched Thor instead, let's get it started in here.

What I liked about the movie:
The Storytelling, director
Branagh is a wonderful actor.  His work has been solid for well over a decade... as an actor.  Why elect him to direct a big budget Summer film?  Well, here's my two cents.  He was perfect in his storytelling.  He understood how to divide the story between Asgard and Earth.  He made Asgard a grand, mythical place while keeping it believable.  The parts on Earth were tastefully done and grounded in reality.  It was just the right tone and pacing necessary for a something as mythical as Thor.  He knew how to direct Hemsworth, and in turn got a wonderful performance out of him.  The editing was solid as well.  The only thing I would critic Branagh for was his lighting, which I'll explain later.

The acting
Hemsworth gives a wonderful performance.  He has a commanding presence, a swagger if you will.  While in Asgard, he is a cocky, arrogant man who feels entitled to his father's throne.  When he is banished to Earth, he plays the "fish out of water" very sincerely.  It's always a risk casting a relative unknown for a movie of this size and scope, but this was perfect casting.  Hemsworth got so unbelievable big for this movie, he was physically believable as Thor.  The long hair and beard were spot on to what I felt Thor should look like on the big screen.  The accent was perfect as well.  Because we're dealing with the Norse God of Thunder, there has to be a sense of grandeur, and Hemsworth nailed it.  

Thor's father, Odin, is played by the masterful Anthony Hopkins.  He is the stern father figure we would expect Odin to be, but has a sensibility that any good father must posses.  The primary villain in the film is Thor's half-brother Loki, played by Tom Hiddleston.  Hiddleston nails it!  I loved his performance in this film.  He is vengeful and sinister.  The only thing I didn't like was the "turn".  We get to see Loki's motivation for turning on his family, but it would have been nice to dig deeper; especially considering it has been officially announced that Loki will be the primary villain for The Avengers film. 

Natalie Portman does well as an astrophysicist.  She plays the character as genuinely as we would hope.  Her side kick is played by Kat Dennings; who despite all the hate online, I thought was blessed with some of the best one-liners in the film.  Portman's mentor is played by the great Stellan Skarsgard who did great with what little screen time he had.

The Visual Effects
This is a Marvel film, so we shouldn't expect any less out of a big, blockbuster film.  The visual effects both on Asgard as well as on Earth were awesome.  I couldn't tell where some of the special effects blended with the practical effects, and that's what we really want as an audience, we shouldn't be able to tell.  Thumbs up to Marvel for spending the money necessary to make the worlds look real. 

What I didn't like about the movie:
The lighting, cinematography
This was a major, major issue for me.  I endlessly complain about 3D (I saw it in 2D mind you), but the lighting in this film was so bad it was unbearable at times.  All the scenes featuring our hero on "Jotunheim" were so dark and difficult to see.  I don't know if this was a poor print at the theater I went to or if it were intended that way, but nonetheless, it was tough to watch and understand what was happening.

The verdict:
Satisfying to all
I thoroughly enjoyed the movie.  Goes to show you, yet again, never judge a film by its trailer.  I was not impressed with the trailers leading up to the release of this film, but gave it a chance and enjoyed myself.  I will say it is very kid friendly at times, a darker version would be nice, but then again I'm a 30 year old man, not a 12 year old child.  I think Marvel realized they spent too much time during Iron Man 2 setting up The Avengers, they didn't do that so much in this film.  But they did set up the villain.  Loki and his powers should be a worthy opponent of the superhero team. 

Hiddleston did very well and has made me a fan.  Good job to everyone involved, I really liked Thor and would recommend it to anyone who wants to see a good action film to kick off the Summer season!

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