So it isn't often that you put in a superhero/action movie and get Shakespeare!

At least, not lately. Actually, Shakespeare explored all the classic action plots! However, superhero/action movies these days tend to involve more bad guys v. good guys story-lines than father-son show-downs. So when I put Thor into the DVD player, the last thing I expected was King Lear with Thor taking the Edgar role and Loki taking the Edmund role.

It's a family drama!

That wasn't the first surprise. The immense Chris Hemsworth (at 6'3," he qualifies as immense) as Thor also surprised me. After all, what is Thor called upon to do or be other than immense-guy-who-smashes-things?

Okay, so the script demands that he undergo a change. At the beginning of the film he is arrogant and lordly and at the end of the film, he is sweet and down-to-earth (ha ha).

What makes Chris Hemsworth (directed by Kenneth Branagh) remarkable is that he is both arrogant/lordly and sweet/down-to-earth right from the beginning. In the beginning, he is arrogant but also guileless and charming (that smile!). At the end, he has been humbled, but he still carries himself like a king. As a result, his growth as a character is believable; as an acting feat, it is more than a little impressive.

I was also impressed by the use of Loki. At first, my reaction was "well, duh, of course Loki is the betrayer," and I was even a little miffed that the scriptwriters were being so obvious. But within thirty minutes or so, I realized that I wasn't sure what Loki would do next. Which is exactly how Loki ought to come across! He's the ultimate ambiguous character, and the writers (and Tom Hiddleston) nailed his attitudes/perspective (by the way, Branagh tends to use his own people in movies when he can; Hiddleston starred with Branagh in Wallander).

I was glad to see more of Agent Coulson whom I really like and who is in Iron Man 2 far less than I'd anticipated. Thor makes up for that lack. My favorite scene with him is when he tells Barton to wait; he wants to see what happens when Thor grips the hammer. (Marvel fans: Is Barton supposed to be the Green Arrow? Or am I getting my franchises confused?)

This brings me to the excellence of Branagh as a director. I wasn't sure if I would see any of Branagh in this movie. Although he does direct epics, they tend to be non-supernatural-elements epics, and I wasn't sure if anything of Branagh could show up in a Marvel movie.

I'm glad to say, his touch is there. Branagh's strength is his ability to pull ordinary human elements out of heroic, Shakespearean moments. Although I knew that Thor wouldn't be able to pick up the hammer (on earth) the first time, I was moved by Barton's caustic but sympathetic remarks, Coulson's willingness to wait (in the rain) for Thor to try, and ultimately, by Thor's weary disbelief at his failure to reclaim his own weapon. Likewise, Odin is fully believable in his defensiveness over Loki's pain while Thor's guilt, confusion, and love towards Loki are heart-wrenchingly authentic.

The music helps! By the way, that's Patrick Doyle whom Branagh almost always uses as his composer.

Oddly enough, the only false note is Natalie Portman. The interactions between her, Darcy, and Selvig are  natural and amusing (and Thor being tasered is one of the funniest parts of the movie), but there simply isn't enough of Thor and Jane together to merit the ending. This is actually a problem in these Marvel movies. So far, no one has really lived up to the "cool girl next door who dates the superhero" persona except Kirsten Dunst (Spiderman) who did it so effortlessly, I keep expecting her to show up again.

I'm really hoping Joss Whedon doesn't spoil the run by killing off a major character in his usual Whedon style. Take a lesson from Branagh, Joss! It is possible (and far more interesting) to create heroic moments without ending a life. (Yes, I'm glad Loki isn't dead.)

The DVD had a preview for Captain America which looks interesting. How does it compare to Iron Man and Thor?


Nanakat said...

Your twin (Kathleen) here.

I loved THOR, in fact, he's only the second movie character I've ever seen that I actually want to BE. (Daniel Day Lewis's Hawkeye from LAST OF THE MOHICANS is the other one.)

That said, and in response to your question about CAPTAIN AMERICA, it is also a very cool movie. Cool CGI, cool story, lots of heart, and (dare I say it?) sweet. Even though most of the sweet is bittersweet.

So, definitely see it as well.

The more of these Avengers movies I see (haven't seen HULK, but I have all the others, so far as I know), the more excited I am to see THE AVENGERS next year.

And thanks for the review of THOR. I'm looking forward to what you have to say about CAPTAIN AMERICA.

Mike Cherniske said...

Heya Kate!
I'm so glad you liked it! I hoped you would.

You hit upon the one thing I think really made the movie for me: From the beginning, even in the far flung realm of asgard, Thor is a likable guy, and has a real relationships with all of the supporting characters. He's just a tad full of himself. But he's THOR, so why shouldn't he be?

I do agree that despite Raw uncaged natural chemistry between the two actors, the jane/Thor relationship could have been built a little stronger.

As for Clint Barton, you're close, but yes, you are mixing universes. Barton is the Marvel bowman/hero Hawkeye, who is a long standing avenger, and will be playing a main role in the film.

As for Captian America, I really liked it alot. it was directed by the guy who did Rocketeer, which turned out to be Perfect! I will say though, that while a great film, it didn't knock me out like Thor. I wasn't disappointed by it at all... in fact. Cap was so much what it should have been that I was just really, well, ok with it.

So, here's hoping you WILL be blown away by it. The casting it great, the emotional arcs are all paid off, and there's solid links to the other marvel movies (tony stark's dad is a main character). I know I'm super excited to see it on dvd... maybe with a little more distance from the thor release, I can really appreciate it as much as it deserves.

Mike Cherniske said...

oh, and by the way, if you want to see a little more of agent coulson, there are 2 "marvel one-shots" short films online starring him, both at just around 3 minutes. First one explains the end of Hulk a bit, and the second shows him stopping a robbery on the way to new mexico.

"The Consultant" and "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor's Hammer"

Mike Cherniske said...

Cap is on DVD today! Yay!

Kezia said...

My dad and I both really enjoyed Thor. For me, it was my favourite Marvel film since X-2. I thought the drama and humour were well balanced and was happy that the story wasn't as clear-cut black versus white as it seemed at first. On a visual note, I absolutely loved Asgard's design.

I agree that Natalie Portman's character could have developed more, though I still enjoyed her more than most comic book love interests. The 'hero and love interest must kiss near the end of the film!' trope is common enough that I knew it was coming. However, because it is so common, I often just gloss over those type of scenes.

My favourite scene was near the beginning where Thor walks into a pet store looking for a horse. Great fun.

Captain America was perfectly average to me. I don't regret seeing it and I thought Hugo Weaving was great (as usual) as the villain, but probably wouldn't watch it again. Then again, I wasn't a fan of Iron Man; since you are, you might get more out of Captain America as Tony's father is an important side character.

Mike Cherniske said...

I've rewatched cap a couple times since this discussion, and I gotta say, I really love it! I must have been having a bad day when i saw it in the theater.... i liked it then.... I absolutely love it now. I think the casting is what nails it for me... everyone does an amazing job, even the smaller parts.

I'm not overly patriotic, and as superheroes go, Cap is definitely treading the line... But, it's just a great movie, with a decent plot (that I can follow! yay me!) and amazing acting.. worth a look, absolutely.