A few days ago I said that the first Iron Man movie was my favorite. But then last night we watched Thor, and I must revise. I’ve just decided that Thor is my favorite. Robert Downey Jr. is probably my favorite actor of the whole bunch, but overall, Thor is my favorite movie. And I’m going to tell you why.
With Iron Man, it’s all about science and technology. With Hulk, it’s all about science and technology run amok. But with Thor…it’s magic! And I like magic. As far as I’m concerned, magic in a movie is almost always a good thing — well, maybe except for the Harry Potter series, where I feel, at least towards the end, that the magic becomes a crutch, a convenient plot device that essentially saps any true drama from the story because all Harry needs to do is wave his wand and shout ‘’Abracadabra!’ and whatever is troubling him shall be instantly vanquished.
But that’s another matter entirely. I came here to talk about Thor. And I feel like I’m going to be gushing through this entire post, because I love this movie so much. I’m trying to think of something bad to say about it, even a little bit bad, and …well, okay. We could’ve had more scenes with Chris Hemsworth with his shirt off. Yeah! There you go. Something bad about the movie: not enough Chris Hemsworth with his shirt off.
Okay, now that that’s out of the way, what can we say good about the move? Well, I mentioned the magic, and of course that includes the magical world of Asgard, and also the realm of the Frost Giants, which were all excellently depicted. There are a ton of end credits for artists and designers, and I think each and every one earned their paychecks on this one. I don’t know how much of what we were seeing was “real,” how much was CGI, how much was simply “art,” but it all looked fabulous and it all worked.
I especially liked the Rainbow Bridge. In the comics, the Rainbow Bridge is an actual rainbow (a la My Little Pony), and if they had done a canon rendition, it would have just been tacky. It wouldn’t have fit with the majestic sweep of the rest of the scenery. But the multi-colored crystal highway was perfect! Understated, gorgeous, yet true to the original concept; it got the point across.
So the magical places were well done, but you know what? I even liked the design of the small New Mexico town where Jane and company do business. There was a real “mid century modern” feel to the place, and I happen to be a big fan of mid-century modern. It looked shabby, yet incredibly hip.
But even better than the sets…how about that casting? Anthony Hopkins as Odin? C’mon! Could they have done better? I mean, Ian McKellen is already taken for Gandalf, and Laurence Olivier has been dead these many years. But Hopkins lends the exact amount of royal dignity to the role.
Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston as Thor and Loki are so obviously perfect in these roles that it goes without saying. But what really blew me away were the kid actors who portrayed them as children. Could they have possibly gotten any two kids who looked more like their adult counterparts?
As far as I have read in the Thor comic books, I have not yet met Sif or The Warriors Three. So I can’t speak about the casting of these roles, but Russ tells me they were pretty much right on. He says he would have liked to see Hogun looking a little less Asian and more like a Mongolian, and that Volstagg is supposed to be much larger, but other than that, he feels they did a good job.
Once again we have that strong female character. In fact, Sif is a stronger female character than any I’ve met so far, either in the Marvel movies, or in my comic reading. Is she a tougher chick than Black Widow? I mean, if Sif and Black Widow got in a fight, who would win? I would go with Sif. I’m not sure, but I think she must have some magical aspect to her strength and courage. True, Black Widow is a highly trained professional, but she doesn’t have the air of Asgard in her lungs. Now, maybe I’m wrong about this, but that’s just how I see this at the moment.
Speaking of female characters, I’m not getting out of here without mentioning something about Jane Foster. I don’t know if she’s my favorite female Marvel character ever, but this Jane is by far more interesting than the Jane Foster of the comic books. The little I’ve seen of Jane Foster in the comics, she’s all about being a nurse and being secretly in love with both Dr. Blake AND Thor (of course not realizing that they are one in the same.) But Jane in the movie is smart, she has a career, she has goals and dreams. She’s committed to her work, and I always admire that in any character (in fact in any person). She has flaws (her driving skills are autrocious) and…and…
And you know what? Actually, it just occurred to me that she’s not really as well-developed as a character as I would like her to be. I wonder if we’re going to see her in The Avengers? I certainly imagine we’ll see her again in Thor 2, due out at Thanksgiving, 2013. Hopefully, we’ll get more insight on Jane Foster, at least in Thor 2.
Okay. I just realized something “bad” I can say about the movie. I thought the “love story” between Thor and Jane was not as developed as it could have been. But then everything happens so fast, there’s hardly any time for a connection to develop. I mean, I can understand why Jane is so taken with Thor (even before she knows he’s a Norse god), but what exactly does he see in her? Well, she’s attractive, to be sure, and maybe he also admires her dedication to her work. Or maybe it’s just that having lived in Asgard all his life, he’s tired of those Asgardian women, and an Earth woman looks mighty appealing to him, since she is different and “exotic.” But then why didn’t he go for Jane’s assistant, Darcy? She was just as cute, if you ask me. And she also had some better, funnier lines. (“I am not dying for six college credits!”)
Okay, I had to bring that up. Funny. Humor. Yes. This movie is funny, it has its moments of humor, and it all works. The humor does not detract from the extremely serious storyline, but does tend to make the characters more real, and more likeable. Of course, there is a good deal of humor in the “fish out of water” jokes that come from Thor adjusting to life in this new realm (“This drink! I like it! More!” SMASH!!!). And as I mentioned, Darcy has some pretty good lines too. A light feeling of amusement permeates the entire movie.
Of course, there are plenty of moments that are not funny at all. Lots of serious stuff going on here, battles, betrayals, and sibling rivalry gone out of control. The story is just…EPIC. As Russ says, almost Shakespearian. No wait, let’s drop the “almost.” This story of kingdoms, families, love and war is worthy of the most noble presentation. And that’s exactly what director Kenneth Branagh gives it. Branagh, of course, is really big on the Bard, having directed and starred in screen adaptaptions of Hamlet, Henry V, Othello and Much Ado About Nothing. The man knows his Shakespeare. And I think his familiarity with that classic bit of literature that really helped to infuse Thor with all the grandeur it deserves.
So, Marvel Entertainment has some fabulous casting directors, choosing the very best actors for their films, but let’s not overlook the fact that they also seem to chose the perfect director for each of their projects.
Which leads us finally to a word about Whedon as director of the upcoming Avengers film. As big-time fans of the Buffy and Angel TV shows, Russ and I have come to trust Joss Whedon to put his quirky stamp of action, drama, suspense and humor on everything he touches. The buzz on The Avengers is good, and we do not anticipate anything in the way of disappointment. Favreau delivered with Iron Man, Branagh gave us the best possible Thor, and Whedon should be able to put it all together in one nice neat and delightful package with The Avengers.