Thursday, May 26, 2011

“Thor” – Are we there yet?

And so it begins – the summer of the superhero. Thor is the first real movie of the summer movie season and the first of four superhero movies to be released in the next three months (the others being X-Men: First Class, The Green Lantern, and Captain America). If we throw in other recent 2011 films, The Green Hornet, Sucker Punch, and I am Number Four, I have to believe this year has the heaviest load of heroes this side of a New York City deli. Now, I’m not complaining, but it seems like we’ve got a superhero bubble that’s going to burst and take half the movie industry with it. We all know that Marvel has been building toward an Avengers movie (May, 2012) by releasing a movie for each of its characters (Thor, Ironman, The Incredible Hulk, and Captain America) and I’ve recently learned that DC Comics is going to try the same thing with the Justice League (way too many characters to name). My fear is that The Avengers is going to be a complete letdown and everyone will be done with superhero movies for a long time. While nobody will complain about not having an Aquaman or Wonderwoman film, it could also drive away Batman and Superman and we’d be back to the days of shitty films like The Spirit. What I’m getting at with all of this rambling is that we’ve got so many of these films that they’re all starting to feel exactly the same and their quality has really taken a turn for the worse. Thor is a prime example of a movie that probably didn’t need to exist and is more like a rest stop in Wyoming rather than Yellowstone Park itself – there might be a pretty little stream, but all we care about seeing is Old Faithful.

In order to create The Avengers, the filmmakers insist that they give the origin story for each of the members. Let’s not pretend that this is for any reason other than making money because Ironman is the only character who has even been told about the so-called Avengers initiative. The only reason we even know of a connection to Thor and the Hulk is due to the scene after the credits of both films featuring Nick Fury of S.H.I.E.L.D. Without those scenes, they’re just loud movies with little to no story about comic book heroes that nobody outside of their mom’s basement even knows about.

Unlike The Incredible Hulk, Thor at least tries to incorporate some sort of story to keep the audience engaged. Unfortunately, the story consists of several shitty ideas that all stuck to the wall, much to the dismay of the screenwriters. The film starts off with Anthony Hopkins (Odin) narrating a bunch of Norse myths and quickly establishing that he is, in fact, really old. He has kept the nine realms, aka The Universe, in peace for a thousand years and is going to pass the crown of Asgard to his son, Thor (Chris Hemsworth). Odin’s other son, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is jealous of Thor and has enacted a plan to take the crown for himself. This is simple enough and would have made for a decent story, but these are Hollywood screenwriters we’re talking about here. While Thor is busy hacking frost giants to pieces (don’t ask), Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) is driving around the New Mexico desert trying to prove that wormholes exist. Odin finds out that Thor has broken the peace, banishes him from Asgard, and Jane hits Thor with her truck. Wait, there’s more. Thor’s hammer lands nearby and a bunch of drunk guys and Stan Lee perform the largest circle jerk in movie history – by pulling on Thor’s hammer. Seriously, they’re all standing in a circle around the hammer, taking turns trying to yank it from the mud until it comes for (and I’m quoting Odin here) “whoever is worthy.” I know I just made that sound extremely dirty, but I made up exactly none of it.

Thankfully, the S.H.I.E.L.D. guy from the other films (Clark Gregg) chases off the crowd and establishes the connection with the post-credits scene from Ironman 2. Thor shows up to claim his hammer and beats up everyone guarding it, only to find that he cannot claim it either. We actually see him realize that he’s been a spoiled douche and the rest of the film falls into standard hero format. Girl falls for hero, hero reclaims his powers, hero defeats villain. You might think that I have just spoiled this film for you, but much like the others, the only scene that matters is the post-credits scene. Had the screenwriters done something interesting, like keep Thor on Earth in mortal form, it would have made the upcoming Avengers film much more interesting. Instead, we’re wondering how any team with the king of the Universe, who happens to be immortal with nearly unlimited powers, can possibly be challenged.

I know I haven’t talked much about anything other than plot, but this movie doesn’t have anything else to talk about. The special effects are on par with the other films, though they do incorporate a lot of gaudy costumes and CGI heavy landscapes that do nothing to improve the film. I honestly can’t remember if there was any music and I’m barely sure there was dialogue. None of the actors stand out, good or bad, and none of the characters were developed beyond their names, so you really don’t care that they were even there. Considering Kenneth Branagh directed this film, it wouldn’t surprise me if he lost interest when he realized it had nothing to do with Shakespeare. What we’re left with is another ho-hum movie on the path to what is hopefully Mount Rushmore and not Kansas’ big ball of twine.

Rating: Ask for seven dollars back. While better than The Incredible Hulk, it’s still just uninspired foreplay for the main event.

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