Thursday, May 26, 2011

‘Thor’– Epic Adventure!

You would think that director Kenneth Branagh, most notably a Shakespearean actor and director, would be out of his element in the superhero adventure ‘Thor’; but his background lends itself nicely to the much textured scenes of grandeur, pride, family and honor. The pedigree of Branagh is very apparent throughout the film as it bounces expertly from the heavenly realm of Asgard to the dusty planet of Earth.

‘Thor’, played by Australian Chris Hemswoth, is the fallen god of thunder from Asgard, exiled by his father Odin, played with godlike grandeur by Anthony Hopkins, to teach his son humility. But first, flashback to the year 965 AD, the Frost Giants (their leader Laufrey played with menace by Colm Feore) have descended on Norway and are driven away by Odin and the gods of Asgard. Peace has reigned for eons. In present time, when we first meet Thor, he is vainly strutting through the halls of Asgard, long blonde hair flowing outward, his fist pumping into the air clutching his mighty hammer; he is more rock star than god! In vain arrogance, Thor leads an ill fated raid to the land of the Frost Giants in an attempt to rid the realm of Laufrey. This little excursion not only upsets the fragile peace that Odin secured many years ago, but forces his father to exile Thor from Asgard.

Hemsworth is very appealing as the brat god from Asgard whose exile is intended to teach him a life lesson and make him a better future king. Along the way, his half brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) conspires to rid the realm of Thor, thus securing the crown for himself. On earth, Thor is thrust into the arms of the brilliant astrophysicist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), her colleague Dr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard) and their wise acre assistant Darcy ( the hilarious Kat Dennings). And like every other Marvel Comics movie, the dark agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. are always present in the form of Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) last seen in the ‘Iron Man’ movies.

‘Thor’ is filled with stunning visuals (it is available in 3D, I went to the 2D version) and fantastic battle scenes. The best of which is a particularly eye popping battle on an icy field in the land of the Frost Giants. Another stunning scene involves the battle on top of the rainbow light bridge between Thor and his half-brother Loki. Branagh has filled the movie with one great visual after another; in one scene I really loved the image of Thor, dressed in human clothing, walking down a dusty New Mexico street, a godlike cowboy heading for the final shoot-out.

In as much as I love just about anything Natalie Portman is in, I was a bit disappointed in the lack of chemistry between Portman and Hemsworth. Like any romantic plot or even sub plot, chemistry between the two actors is important to lend creditability to scenes (see my ‘Water for Elephants review, while a great story, there was no chemistry); I am hoping that they can find the spark in the inevitable sequel.

There are a lot of ‘comic book’ movies coming out, many of which I am very excited for (‘Green Lantern’!) and it is no secret that the Marvel Comics based movies are much better than the DC Comics counter parts (the newer Batman movies are exempt!). The reason being, Marvel tends to focus on adult stories with real life themes, while the DC Universe is more ‘comic book’ in nature, playing to an easier read so to speak. Which for ‘Thor’ is quite a feat considering that it is one of the lesser known heroes in the Marvel Universe; this is a 3 star effort worth the trip to the big screen!

For my Redbox pick, let’s keep in the vein of Natalie Portman and go get ‘No Strings Attached’, the surprisingly funny romantic comedy that includes Ashton Kutcher. Yes, I liked something with Ashton Kutcher in it. Portman is the busy doctor Emma who once had a childhood friend named Adam (Kutcher); meeting up later in life, the two strike up a ‘No Strings Attached’ relationship. But can you have sex without falling in love? That’s the question of this very well done adult romantic comedy. A 3 star effort worth your slim $1 at Redbox!

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