Sunday, May 29, 2011

Thor Movie

Went and saw the Thor movie on Mother's Day. With wife, brother and mother! We all enjoyed the movie for the most part. I think it was a good movie, that could've been great. The acting, especially of Thor and Loki were superb and fit their roles very well.. I liked the guy playing Fandral, the several quick scenes managed to capture his swashbuckling attitude and he comes off more memorable than the other warriors three. A little more work to get the scope and scale of The Lord of the Rings and the movie could have transcended good to great. Right now, it's around the same level of The Shadow movie or the FF movies. It did some things better, some things worse. Definitely better than Daredevil or X-Men though.
The story of the movie presents the Norse gods and their foes as alien beings, not true gods. What was construed as magic is really just super advanced science. After a few Frost Giants are caught skulking through the Asgardian equivalent of the warehouse at the end of Raiders, Thor is eager to take battle to them despite a long-standing peace treaty between them and the Asgardians. Balked by his father, he leads a small group into the world of the Frost Giants and almost gets them all killed. Enraged, his father Odin strips him of his powers and banishes him to Earth to learn humility. Almost immediately Odin falls into a coma like state called "Odin sleep" and Loki takes the crown and schemes to keep Thor on Earth. On Earth, Thor meets up with Jane Foster and a few other scientists in a small town in New Mexico and runs afoul of SHIELD agents who take possession of his hammer which no one can lift and is played off in terms of the sword Excalibur.
Going in to the movie, it generated some controversy buzz over the casting of Idris Elba, an African American actor as the Norse god Heimdall. While he does a fine job, it's stupid stunt casting. It's an adaptation of a comic which is based on Nordic myths. Is he black in the comics (or Hogun an Asian)? In the mythology, is it likely the Norse would create a black god and then give him the name "White God"? Would you want a blond, blue-eyed caucasian playing an Egyptian or Indian god with no make-up to make him look like the ethnicity of the character he's playing? It's stupid and pandering casting. There are several characters created for the movie that could have been black such as any of Jane Foster's crew, a new SHIELD agent in charge of retrieving the hammer. That said, I like the scenes with Heimdell in them, especially the interplay between him and Loki considering that come Ragnarok, they are fated to slay each other.
In fact, in talking about race, they are in New Mexico but we see no Native Americans, no Hispanics. The town is little more than a set piece with absolutely no character, chosen because it's remote but otherwise has no identity or story purpose and is apparently all white. Making the choices to make a couple of Norse gods racial minorities even more tokenism.

- Frost Giants. Seemed to change sizes from scene to scene. Some were no larger than the humans, others around eight or ten feet tall, but no explanation on discrepancies.
- Warriors Three: Not really enough effort to give them distinctive looks beyond their faces. Fandral should be in green and leathers, Volstagg in loud and brash colors, Hogun all dark and regal. Kirby was great at giving totally creative designs for his characters, here most characters look like they are all wearing the same basic armor. Even Loki. He has the helmet but otherwise looks much like the others.
-Climactic Battles: Not so climactic. After all the build-up, Thor takes out the Destroyer rather easily and quickly  (and they managed to evacuate the town very quickly). Loki vs Thor in final battle doesn't seem much like a match-up. Maybe if we saw him use other powers other than illusion and the spear. After all, Loki was a shape-changer and god of fire as well. What were the Warriors Three and Sif doing once they got back to Asgard? Should have been a full on Frost Giant invasion and seen gods right and left fighting with Thor and Loki in the middle of it all. As it is, it pales in comparison to the earlier foray into the land of the Frost Giants. It feels that somewhere along the way, the budget was exceeded and many things got rushed and glossed over during the second half of the movie.
-Romance with Jane Foster: Just seemed to come from nowhere. The movie ends with them pining for each other, but really the story doesn't develop an actual romance between them or even a relationship beyond an alliance due to overlapping goals.There's no real chemistry between them as a couple as opposed to Thor and Sif. Are we supposed to just simply accept that since they are the leads, they are supposed to be a couple, that the writer and director don't have to do any work?
-Dismissing magic and myth as superstition of primitive people. It takes away a bit of the scope and grandeur of the comic character. Magic is actually treated contradictory. Thor claims to the Asgardians, what we call science and magic are the same. Yet, Loki is also referred to as using magic, implying that magic then is not the same, that there is a distinction between his abilities and others. Also by ridding themselves of magic, they pretty much rid themselves of the one thing that distinguishes Kirby's treatment of Thor and the Asgardians from his work on The New Gods, The Eternals or Starlin's Kirby riffs with Thanos and the Titans. His work on Thor had a culture that developed science AND magic (which isn't the same as claiming they are the same), the others are of races and beings so advanced that their science was indistinguishable from magic to more primitive races.
-Loki's story is some of the best parts of the movie but it's also inherently flawed, a huge contradiction. A lot of effort is made to dismiss the myth aspects of the Asgardians, to call attention to the fact these beings are who the myths are based on, though some details are not the same, that the myths are simply tall tales, such as the story of Odin losing his eye. However, some of the myths describe Loki as being of the giants and not Asgardian. The myths tell us that Loki starts off as a god of mischief, but grows increasingly dangerous and evil and will in the future betray Asgard and that this should be common knowledge to the gods. To accept that the myths are simply stories written centuries ago about these real beings manage to get so much wrong but accurately get secret details concerning Loki as well as predict his future behavior is a sking the audience to buy a huge coincidence that he just happens to follow the same path told about him in the stories and for some of the same motivations. On the other hand, there would be no contradiction if that part of the story occurred during the times of the vikings and thus became the basis of the myths, and in the present day he's a known villain to the Asgardians.

Has me looking forward to the Green Lantern movie. Which is interesting, because at one time I would have said the hardest movies to do would be Thor, Green Lantern and Fantastic Four.What we're seeing now is that the special effects and capabilities are there to do these movies. We just need directors that actually trust the source material and deliver decent scripts and stories now.