Science fiction and fantasy
directed by Kenneth Branagh
Up in Asgard Thor has a crew of Lord of the Rings-style warriors to back him up and quaff ale in his halls when it's over. Their dialogue is hilarious, but more because it's ham Viking than for any particular wit. There's also an amusing contrast between Thor's exalted position in Asgard and the way he is treated on Earth. He falls in with astrophysicist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and her friends, who are trying to puzzle out the mysterious meteorological effects that take place whenever Thor and his kind appear. But the agents of SHIELD turn up and throw a spanner in the works. Led by Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg), they insist on treating anything to do with Thor as top secret, and they don't want to allow anyone else anywhere near it. Naturally Jane disagrees, but what can she do in the face of a well-funded organisation with its hordes of black-suited agents with guns?
Thor blunders around in New Mexico, making a fool of himself, finding friends and getting into trouble. But although he's exiled he hasn't been forgotten by Asgard. Someone has decided that exile isn't enough and Thor must be destroyed.
It's a short and simple film which is quite predictable and shallow. I don't think there are many surprises, even for people who don't know Norse legend intimately, once the main characters have been introduced. The main reason for this shallowness is apparent when you watch the deleted scenes, which add a certain depth to the relationships in the story, particularly between Thor and Loki. These scenes were mainly cut for reasons of pacing, but it was a bad call. That's not to say their inclusion would turn this into a masterpiece, but the film would have been better if most of them had been left in. Instead the director has assumed that audiences are too stupid and impatient to sit through anything that doesn't involve fighting, snogging, or special effects. It's insulting.
One saving grace is that the battle scenes don't go on immoderately long either, getting to the point as quickly as everything else. But Thor is like a movie told in outline, a series of flashy set pieces with no nuance. We hardly learn anything about Jane, and whilst it's easy to see why she's impressed by the god of thunder, who after all looks pretty impressive, it's less clear why he would be more than superficially interested in her. He doesn't come across as the kind of character who values brains over brawn or beauty, after all. Loki has the potential to be a more interesting character, but it's an opportunity squandered in sly looks and kneel-before-me's. Next time I'll be ignoring my inner magpie and giving glossy movies like this one a wide berth.
24th October 2011
If you like this, try:Avengers Assemble by Joss Whedon
Marvel superheroes team up to save the world from Loki and his exceptionally bad taste in headgear.
Captain America: The First Avenger by Joe Johnston
In the forties a secret plan to boost the war effort results in the creation of a superhero. But can one person really make a difference?
Iron Man by Jon Favreau
An arms manufacturer has a change of heart and builds a suit to help him fight injustice in the world.