So I went to an “all-media” screening of Thor Tuesday evening in New York City. 3D … IMAX … the whole nine yards. Unless you’re been living in an ice cave on Jotunheim, you probably know by now reviews have been solidly positive.
Newsarama will have its own review soon enough, but today, freed from the restraints of having to come up with a cohesive review narrative, I give you 15 random thoughts on the big screen Thor.
I suppose you should assume some spoilers from this point forward, thought I don’t think I’m revealing anything too specific about the plot.
· First of all, Thor is good … real good, in fact. The reviews largely have been spot-on. Whether that translates to big domestic box office (we’ll get to that later) remains to be seen, but it should have solid life in its post-theatrical home video life and more than does its job keeping the Avengers train moving.
· Chris (Thor) Hemsworth is crazy charismatic. Count me among the skeptical that any actor could pull of even an approximation of the comic book Thor, but he I’d actually rate him a “truer” Thor than Robert Downey Jr. was a “true” Tony Stark.
It would have been easy to play an arrogant god as a one-note caricature rather than a fleshed-out character, but the key to pulling it off is Hemsworth’s (and the screenwriter’s) decision to have Thor really enjoy being Thor.
We’ll get into that some more too in a few moments ...· Chris Hemsworth and Natalie (Jane Foster) Portman have crazy chemistry.
They’re an usual pair because Hemsworth could quite literally crush her in certain circumstances (which good taste will prevent me from detailing here), but they work together on-screen, mostly because they’re allowed to simply bask in one another’s company romantic comedy-style, without the screenwriters throwing in some unnecessary romantic obstacle that usually hinders rather then helps the “romcom” genre.
· And I know I'm a little late to the party on this one, but man, Natalie Portman being allowed to actually enjoy herself here just serves to remind how leaden George Lucas inexplicably made her in the Star Wars prequels.
· I like actor Clark Gregg, and I get Agent Coulson’s role in the Avengers movies is to serve as a straight man to the larger-then-life superheroes around him, but his performances are bordering on monotone.
Screenwriters, let the guy show an emotion.
· I find it remarkable that an entirely different production team could match the “tone” of the first Iron Man so closely, but the Thor screenwriters and director Kenneth Branagh managed to pull it off.
If this is a “formula” Marvel is able to replicate for Captain America, Avengers and even productions at other studios like the rebooted Fantastic Four at Fox and Sony’s The Amazing Spider-Man, they’ve got something on their hands here.
· So on that note, I think I’ve discovered the secret key to a good superhero movie.
I’m semi-serious here…
Remember earlier I said the key to enjoying Hemsworth as Thor is the fact that Thor clearly enjoys being Thor.
Think about what made Iron Man such a surprise revelation – it was because Robert Downey Jr. clearly relished not only being Tony Stark, but becoming Iron Man.
In Iron Man 2, both become a burden, and while the sequel was as solid a technical production as the first, it clearly didn’t have the same spark or chemistry, and I think that was as big a factor as any.
Now there is little doubt angst is the engine that drives serial comic book storytelling – Spider-Man wouldn’t exist without it - but maybe it just doesn’t translate well to 120-minute cinema?
Comic books are also about power fantasy, and I suspect moviegoers inclined to indulge the fantasy for $10 bucks want to see the big screen embodiment of their childhood heroes indulge it as well.
Think about the superhero films that were perhaps technically proficient but have fallen flat. Wolverine, Daredevil, the Punisher, X-Men: The Last Stand, Spider-Man 3, and even Superman Returns to a degree.
Where’s the simple joy? Where’s the cool?
Now I know Christopher Nolan’s Batman may not qualify as a hero “enjoying” himself, but there an inherent arrogance to Christian Bale’s Dark Knight that’s unmistakable. Batman may wish his parent’s were never killed and Gotham City didn’t need his help, but he clearly gets a charge outta being a bad-ass, particularly in Batman Begins.
Besides, the real “joy-of-being-me” in the obviously more dour The Dark Knight came from Heath Ledger as the Joker, of course.
Hell, even Gerard Butler’s King Leonidas in 300 clearly relished being his world’s greatest warrior.
So note to superhero movie producers: This ain’t Shakespeare. And these aren’t comic books. If your hero doesn’t even want to be there, your audience won’t either.
· Hey, where the eff was Balder? Yeah, he would have been a little superfluous with the Warriors Three in an ‘origin’ movie, but for the faithful, his absence is somewhat conspicuous.· Asgard could have used 3 weeks on location in New Zealand. Yeah, the production design is impressive, but an entirely cityscape Asgard and the Frost Giant realm Jotunheim are rendered entirely from sets, green screen and CGI. While likely budget-busting, a Lord of the Rings-ish look at a real forest, mountain, river or even a glacial plain would have done wonders for broadening the visual scope of the production.
· I’ve been reading comic books for 35 years and hell, I even worked at Marvel Comics for 14 months, but I don’t think I’ve actually ever heard anyone say “Mjolnir” out loud until last night.
[Newsarama Note: Lucas here, and I'm utterly ashamed of Michael. Don't worry, the rest of us at Newsarama say Mjolnir out loud at least twice a day.]· I can’t say the other Asgardians made much of an impression other than that I think Jamie Alexander (Sif) would’ve made a good TV Wonder Woman, and Joshua Dallas (Fandral) looks like Cary Elwes's long-lost little brother.
Just sayin'. These aren’t all gold.
· Oh, and seeing the Warriors Three and Sif walk around a New Mexico desert town isn’t the film’s finest moment, though it sets up a pretty good line by an observing S.H.I.E.L.D. agent.
· I mentioned Hemsworth’s charisma earlier and its reason #1 my expectations for The Avengers have risen considerably in the last 18 hours. I hope and trust Joss Whedon will get out of the way enough and give what’s turning into an A-list group of actors room enough to just play off one another. Simply seeing Hemsworth and Robert Downey Jr. just riff together has immediately jumped to the top of my can’t-wait-to-see list.
Your serve, Chris Evans.
· I’m sorry, perhaps I run the risk of aging myself, but I’m still not sold on 3D.
I blame you, James Cameron!
· Finally, I have a nagging feeling Thor’s “comic book movie” status could hurt it at the box office as much as help it.
It’s an interesting dichotomy. It never would’ve been made if it wasn’t a Marvel comic book but stands well enough on its own as action-fantasy-adventure that it probably doesn’t require the inherent geek interest.
I can’t help but wonder if Thor will fall somewhere between the cracks of not having quite the same built-in Q factor as Iron Man while at the same time keeping those not predisposed to comic book movies away?
When I arrived home last night from the screening, my wife asked what I saw. When I replied “Thor” she shot back “What’s that?”
Understand how close to the comic book world she’s been for 15 years.
How many of her are out there is the question…
But Thor's good. Chris Hemsworth is good. It makes me anticipate the Avengers more.
So mission accomplished, regardless of Saturday morning’s numbers.