Friday, May 20, 2011


The superhero movie fashion continues...

Cranking through the list of their major characters as a preparation for the Avengers movie (with lesser Avengers popping up to fan service effect - here, "Agent Barton" spends a couple of minutes on-screen with a bow, just to confuse the non-geeks) and just because, the Marvel films people run head-first into the difficult one. Most superhero movies can be presented as slightly over-exuberant technothrillers, but, well, what the heck can you do with Thor?

Throw a posh British Shakespearean director at it, maybe? Just for Odin's sake don't try to make the original '60s costume work on screen. Which is presumably how Walt and Louise Simonson earn themselves credit mentions alongside the '60s Marvel names, having given the (Marvel) God of Thunder his vaguely plausible suit of armour and his beard. Still, it's all about dropping a clunky modern-fantasy reading of Norse myth into the modern world, and there's only so much anyone can do with that - the script tries a bit of waffle about magic being sufficiently advanced science, but that really doesn't survive a moment's scrutiny - this is sufficiently advanced science that can generate immovable objects, execute conditional operations based on moral judgements made from beyond line of sight, and operate at the mutter of a patriarchal guy in an eye-patch several light-years away. Oh well, at least they didn't try any mumbles about nanotech.

And let's be fair, from a geeky point of view - the visual realisation of a lot of stuff from the comics is really pretty good. The movie also moves fast enough to stop anyone worrying about the obvious glaring logical holes so long as it lasts. (What language do the Asgardians speak? Does Bifrost have a Tardis translation circuit? How old are Thor and Loki? How did they get into human myth if they were born after regular contact between the Nine Worlds ended?) The Casket of Ancient Winters is reduced to a canister of pure distilled Maguffin, though, doing nothing except sit there glowing blue and being important for as long as it's needed; one wonders if early script drafts did more with it, but I wouldn't even bet on that. The visual design for much of Asgard is certainly fun, especially in 3-D - a garish high-fantasy cityscape, rendered with a bit of budget. Bifrost, though, looks like a bad '80s home computer visual effect given unwarranted solidity

The cast is over-qualified, of course, even given that it has some relative newcomers - Chris Hemsworth has fully adequate charm and charisma as well as the body for the lead role, and Tom Hiddleston brings ice-blue eyes and icy elegance to Loki, aided by good direction and costume design which recalls his horned helmet from the comics without getting goofy. (The film has a relatively complex treatment of that character, actually, even if the psychology is a bit Hollywood-routine.) Anthony Hopkins does dignified, Natalie Portman does her best with the career-upgraded Jane Foster, and Idris Elba gives Heimdall plenty of deific dignity. They're fun to watch, but they can never quite suppress the impression that this film exists because the comic exists, and not because it has any great claims to interest in its own right. Still, we get that fight scene between Thor and Loki...

1 comment:

William H. Stoddard said...

This may seem a bit perverse, but I actually thought the Thor/Loki fight scene was the dullest of the several fight scenes and one of the dullest parts of the movie. I'm not sure why. Perhaps because it was so over the top that my disbelief suspension was too strained for comfort. The earlier fights seemed more dramatic somehow.