Friday, May 6, 2011

Thor (Kenneth Branagh 2011)

* Thor rides a horse. I'd like to think there was serious discussion about having him in a cart drawn by goats as is traditional and is even in the comics (at least sometimes).

* But that gets to another point. Supposedly Marvel is able to finance its movies all by itself but if so then why is it trying to ape the most conventional Hollywood approach? The bombast, predictable "twists", clunky exposition, streamlined narrative are the hallmarks of studios relying too much on test audiences and Robert McKee. Marvel had a chance to make fresher movies and it certainly has the talent available. (Bendis is in the end credits - can you imagine if he'd done some of the dialogue?) For example that long exposition at the start (seriously, professional writers came up with this?) mentions only the frost giants and not any of the other mythological races such as dwarves because the giants are the only ones who will figure in the rest of the film. Background, texture, characterization, even plain old entertainment just goes out the window. Similarly Thor falls for Jane simply because she's the only woman around (other than the assistant). Why not have some really short scene where she shows courage or ingenuity or something that catches his attention? Why not have her in the drinking contest with Thor? As it is she's little more than another damsel in distress.

* Still, most of whatever substance the film might have (and there's not too much) comes from a surprisingly effective cast. Particularly Tom Hiddleston as Loki has a role that could easily be just another quasi-insane bad guy and is more or less written that way. Hiddleston manages to convey that Loki does have legitimate reasons, murderous and immoral sure but still plausible almost like Richard III in Asgard. Perhaps Branagh's experience helped here because otherwise he's a fairly undistinguished director.

* Staying through the credits appears to reveal what the Avengers movie will be about - Loki and the Cosmic Cube. Loki of course is the conventional choice but the Cube seems more odd except that the movie will need a threat large enough to draw all those characters together. As it stands it looks like almost all the running time will be devoted to how they become a group considering that one currently has no way to get to Earth, another is serving in SHIELD, one is being hunted, one is running a large corporation, another presumably frozen in ice and none of them know each other.

* The Hawkeye cameo is a nice touch though probably 90% of the audience won't have any idea about the point and think it's just peculiar. Note that Renner isn't in the credits.

* Wouldn't it have been cool if the final credit "Thor will return in The Avengers" said "Thor will return in Goldeneye" and then "Goldeneye" gets scratched out and replaced by "The Avengers"? But then this is a film that needs much more humor and lightness than it gets.

* Like so many costume and mythological films the characters too often seem to be standing around waiting for the camera to turn on them. Does the frost giant king simply sit on his throne with other giants standing at attention? Does Loki just stand on his balcony with a staff staring over Asgard? This goes back to the earlier point that writers who pay too much attention to McKee and producers who want the simplest possible film are deliberately trying to avoid detail and background. But it just feels weird. As wretched as Avatar is it didn't share these faults and you'd think somebody would learn from its success.

* The Avengers movie really needs a scene where Odin and Nick Fury discuss eye patches.