This is not going to be like your typical movie reviews.
First, NO SPOILERS. If you haven’t yet seen the flick, I won’t spoil it for ya.
I really hate when reviewers/critics do that. The main purpose of a review is to help a reader decide if the movie is worth seeing, not whether the reviewer is “right” or “wrong.” That’s secondary.
Second, I’m going to tell you where I’m coming from. I realize most paper-published reviews have limited space, but on the Net, there’s little excuse. Give the reader at least SOME background so they can better judge if their experience will jibe with the reviewer’s.
I’ve read only a handful of Thor’s early Marvel adventures. A few JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY and early Kirby THOR stories, the Marvel Treasury Edition with the great Ragnarok storyline, and the John Buscema-illustrated Galactus issues (circa 225-226) were pretty much it. Basically, the Kirby issues were for me ruined by Vince Colletta’s inking, which, along with the time-consuming Shakespearian dialog, caused me to not follow the book as a kid.
(A non-Peter-David digression: Ironically, the very first pieces of original art I bought (25 years ago–gulp!) were THOR pages. They were from issue #175, pencilled by Kirby and inked by the late, great Bill Everett (though some have said the also-great Frank Giacoia helped out on the inking because of Bill’s deadline difficulties). These cost me a small fortune at the time (I’d just graduated; still don’t know how I afforded them) but I still got ‘em. They’ve gone up in value ten-fold since, and I’m sure I could make more due to the movie. Truth is, my top Kirby “grail” (of a few) is a page from either of his Captain America runs. (As long-time readers of this blog know, my first is the cover of CAP #106, followed by the first double-page spread of #208.) The prices for any desirable Kirby CAP pages have become crazy by my current affordability standards, so by holding onto my THOR pages, I feel I at least have a chance to obtain one by trading. (Once the Bru-Hed, Mikey Moo-Moo, Nasti: Monster Hunter or other one of my dozen or so characters gets that lucrative TV/movie deal, I can hopefully buy one. But that may take awhile!))
I’ve not followed any developments of the character since Walt Simonson took over back in the early 300s. I have no knowledge of even where the beard came from! So I can’t compare the film to the current comic character, only the “classic” original.
But I loved the movie.
Yes, there are substantial changes. Yes, some are dumb or made little sense to the comic-book fan in me (for instance, he wore his cool winged helmet for about thirty seconds total. WTF? I thought it’s a battle helmet, not a ceremonial one.) But I have to grade it first and foremost as film entertainment, and for that it gets a solid B+, maybe even an A- if I’m generous. Specifically:
1. Like the most successful and entertaining Marvel franchises (Spidey and Iron Man, and to a lesser extent X-Men), there was a substantial amount of good-natured, poke-fun-at-ourselves comedy to balance the heroics and action. Unless you’re in a fowl mood or had your sense of humor removed, you’ll laugh out loud several times. (One is in the extended previews, where Thor gets injected with a sedative and collapses. For some BIZARRE reason, the end of that scene in the trailer, where his face slides down the window, is longer than the one in the final film, and the humor suffers greatly for it. Why the filmmakers did not extend the end for even one more second is beyond me. It’s one of the funniest gags if not the funniest.)
2. The production design, by Bo Welch and his team, is absolutely stunning. From what I can remember, Asgard retains Kirby’s basic design and majesty, and builds upon it impressively. Though we never really know if this is a true mythical, metaphysical theological realm or an alien planet, it sure fits the former. The Rainbow Bridge could have been better, though. I realize they couldn’t do the “cartoony” literal rainbow look, but the colors didn’t pop much for me; it looked too much like a dark metal with bits of color.
3. The acting! Wonderful performances. How can you go wrong with Oscar winners like Hopkins and Portman? Chris Helmsworth really nailed the character, which wasn’t easy given the formal speech patterns and regal background. He easily could have come off as too broad or corny but to me it was spot on. The transition from arrogant brat to true hero was well done. (Though to me, heroism and idealism are not corny.) Loki was very different; not the one-dimensional pure evil stereotype of the comics, but a more realistic “spurned son”, full of low self-esteem while being jealous, manipulative and treacherous. (He’d make a spectacular Republican or Democratic congressman/president!) Some were disappointed with his vulnerability and sympathetic nature which I understand but the good outweighed the bad. I wish Sif had a bigger role with more characterization, but there’s just so much to cram into a first outing.
4. Casting: overall, well done. Favorites: Thor, Jane Foster (tho I agree Portman would’ve been great as Sif), Odin and the impressive Heimdall. (Judging from the stills, I first thought he was going to be Loki, so I understood the racial controversy. But as Heimdall? Who gives a crap what he is? Why wouldn’t there be black guys in Asgard? He was one of the best characters in the film.)
Least favorites: Loki was too handsome and Volstagg was nowhere near as hefty as he should’ve been (but more believable as a warrior, which probably explains it). Interesting seeing Michael Clark Duncan (Kingpin from DAREDEVIL) as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent; I didn’t catch his name but I’m guessing he’s someone important later. The surprise cameos were quite enjoyable and fun. (Can’t say more without spoilers.)
One major complaint: Where the Hades (to mix mythologies) was Balder the Brave? I thought he was Thor’s best bud.
5. The story: Of all the Marvel films, this film had some of the fewest amount of “plot holes” that tend to drive me crazy. I could nitpick but it would be just that. A bit too much background exposition, perhaps, but that’s minor. Overall it held my attention throughout and left me wanting more, which is one of the main goals of any story.
6. Special effects and CGI were, like the IRON MAN films, so well done there were several spots where I couldn’t tell what was “real”. (Still not sure about the “topless” Thor scene…He looked too Mr. Universe for any actor.) The Destroyer was especially well done. And bless the filmmakers for including many of Kirby’s original character/Uru hammer bits, from twirling Mjolnir (which I finally learned how to pronounce!) to using it to create an earthquake to using it to fly.
Normally I refuse to see films in 3-D but this was actually well done as the effect was apparent and enjoyable in various scenes throughout, rather than the usual forget-after-the-first-twenty-minutes like most. Probably looked spectacular in IMAX.
7. The credits! In addition to Stan and Jack, look for a “thank you” list near the end which has several of the artists and writers from the comic book. And like all Marvel films, you’ll be rewarded with a teaser at the end!
A special treat was the previews for GREEN LANTERN and CAPTAIN AMERICA. The latter’s costume still looks stupid, but the Steve Rogers sequences look good. I have low expectations. GL looks like it will be the first DC film to follow the successful and enjoyable Marvel formula for adding some self-effacing humor to balance the serious and potentially-trite superhero stuff. Cool costume and action sequences.
Overall, I’d put THOR in my top five Marvel films. Better than IRON MAN 2, SPIDER-MAN 3, BLADE 3, DD, both HULKs and one or two of the X-MEN films.
See it. Keep an open mind and you’ll enjoy it.
So what did you think? Make your own thunder below.
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