Saturday, May 07, 2011

For Honor, For Glory, For...THOR the Movie! -- A Review

It's beginning to be an annual tradition -- I take off the day before Free Comic Book Day (that's today folks!) and see the latest comic book movie. Well, yesterday morning at 9:15 am (I just love these early showings), my wife and I saw THOR in glorious 2D! It was AWESOME!!! So much better than that disappointing Iron Man 2 from last year. Hmmm, if Iron Man is the best super-hero movie, and The Dark Knight is the best movie period featuring a comic book character, I guess that would make THOR the best comic-book movie (my kind of comics anyway) far. Believe me there are distinctions between the three categories and I'm only talking about movies in the 21st century too, which totally leaves out the original two Superman films, which I will always adore.

It always helps to put you in the right mood when you get to see great previews prior to the film and I saw several. The 60's period piece X-Men First Class looks very promising. Although, I'd prefer a reboot rather than a prequel -- I want to see it, but I doubt I'd take off for it. I've been off the mutant bandwagon, since I guess 1993-ish and haven't been able to get back on it yet. The really big surprise was the Super 8 trailer. Last summer we were shown something trying to escape a box car and you got this whole Cloverfield indy filmmaker vibe from it. Nope, this is going to be much, much better than that. It's kids from 1979, my childhood, making the films and it should be an outstanding time capsule of that wonderful era -- super-exciting too. But even that doesn't compare to what may be the best Marvel movie to date: Captain America: The First Avenger!!! Wow, does this movie look perfect. I still can't believe they won't release it Fourth of July weekend. Trailers I didn't see but films that I'm still looking forward to are Green Lantern (Of course) and Rise of the Planet of the Apes! This is looking to be the biggest movie summer for me personally in many, many years.

Hey, if I had to wait through the previews, it only makes sense that you'd have to too...

Being that this post will go on-line exactly 24 hours after the movie opened in theaters, I hardly feel the need to shout "SPOILERS!", but for the sake of the few who haven't seen it yet -- Well, you've been dutifully warned.

I've been really looking forward to this film so much that I was beginning to think I was due for a huge let down. It's tough to match your expectations, but the good thing is that I didn't have too many detailed expectations, just vague hopes -- if that makes any sense. We fans tend to arm-chair quarterback comic book films a lot, but this film delivers on so many levels, it should make any die-hard appreciate the filmmakers artistic take on these characters. The differences make sense and work and the similarities are a pure delight. Forgive me, if I gush, because I'm still (at this writing) only about 2 hours since seeing the film and the endorphins are still working!

The casting is phenomenal! I can hardly believe how suited to the roles all the lead actors were. Chris Hemsworth (and the scripting) captures Thor beautifully. You've got the brash, head-strong, arrogant Thor and the charming, selfless, heroic Thor and the transformation between the two was seamless and he maintained his likability throughout. Tom Hiddleston almost stole the show with his portrayal of Loki. This is the most sympathetic version of the character I've ever seen. His motivations for doing what he does were not just evil and selfish and it really makes his "fall" (literally) at the end even more tragic. After nearly 50 years of publishing, this movie has actually improved upon the character. Hopkins as Odin was just as regal as you'd expect and Natalie Portman was lovable and vulnerable as Jane Foster (more like the Thor Mighty Avenger one in some ways). The Warriors Three were also well cast, although, I was having a little trouble with Volstagg -- I would have liked for him to have been fatter and more boisterous.

Asgard was magnificent -- golden spires indeed! Most exceptional was the rainbow bridge and the more science-y concept of transporting between the nine worlds (Can you say Boom Tube anyone?). It was beautiful, even though it didn't really resemble the comic version much at all. I loved the way the Frost Giants fought with their ice weapons (is that in the comics?) and having Loki at times show his true heritage was a nice new twist. I've seen too many rubber Mjolnirs in the toy aisles, so it colored my view of it a bit. Although, having the mallet return to Thor's hand, not as a boomerang, but more like a magnet was a great idea (I still can't pronounce it correctly). Stan's cameo with the truck was hilarious. Best of all had to be the Destroyer! What a perfect rendering -- the way the metal moved was so cool. The scene where it twists around to attack Sif on it's back was incredible (I'm starting to run out of descriptors) -- it was one of the best fight sequences in the film, that and when Thor flies a hole through that creatures head. I can't wait to hear the Destroyer's beam sound as somebody's ringtone! The costuming wasn't hokey at all and I really feared it might. They always look better in the actual movie than in the stills. The movements of Thor from the flying, to the hammer swinging, to the fighting, etc. all matched the comics! What more could you ask or hope for! Oh, and the Odin sleep chamber -- terrific!

For a movie with such close ties to the Avengers build-up, the Shield parts didn't detract from the story at all (like they did in Incredible Hulk, poor Hulk -- he never gets a movie as good as this one). Probably because they revolved directly around Thor's own story. It was nice to see Agent Coulson in a more prominent role. The Hawkeye cameo didn't even seem forced either. The wait-until-the-very-very-end teaser was the best one yet. I'm guessing that device in the box was the cosmic cube, but I didn't recognize it right away, because of the other items surrounding it. (If anyone knows for certain, throw me a comment -- pathetic pandering plea).

This new Helen Hunt Twister incarnation of Jane Foster, took only moments to get used too. I was okay with it by the time she hit him with the car...the second time! Her "sidekick" Darcy was very funny and provided some well timed comic relief. When they switched to flashback mode after she said "Where did he come from?" so soon into the movie, I at first thought it was too much, too fast, especially for the non-initiated like my spouse to the Lee/Leiber/Kirby mythology, but the backstory needed to be told and really set up the dual simultaneous events between Asgard and Midgard well. Thor needed a serious humbling, after he strode into that hall like a celebrity ball player. I knew he wouldn't be worthy to pick up the hammer the first time -- it was great to see him surprised though. I liked the way he was totally in tune with the storm Mjolnir was brewing. I thought the Donald Blake gag was great, but I really miss the secret identity aspect (I guess that's too old school). At least, he got to be mortal for a while, even though he was a buff mortal -- just in time to get stuck by the Destroyer -- OUCH!!! Jane and Thor's chemistry was palpable and I really felt the emotion when she finally kissed him and when they wouldn't be together again (until the next movie that is). The relationship between Thor and Loki was very well developed too as I hinted at before with the portrayals. I loved when Thor destroyed the rainbow bridge.

There's so much more I could say, but this has gone on long enough I think and y'all have free comics to read. Simply put THOR is a perfect translation of the comic book to film. Bravo to one and all involved. Nuff Said!

I wonder why they didn't acknowledge John Buscema in the credits?

Thanks to Fred Hembeck for getting me a scan of this in time for this post. I got the original in the mail last week and it now proudly hangs on my bedroom wall! See you even got something special at the very end!

The original for comparison.

From my recent trip to Manhattan last month (note the tourist-y attire). I was really hoping to see these posters plastered all over the place (like on those plywood tunnels around building construction sites), but I guess they don't do that anymore. It's such the norm nowadays, but it's so HUGE to see these characters come to life. Imagine how Jack would've felt to see this (if he was duly compensated of course...)

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