Greater Than the Sum of Our Parts

a miscellany of the wonderful and the banal

Movie Review: Thor And The Legion Of Improbable Armour

with 3 comments

Thor

On Wednesday I went to see Thor with my boyfriend. On Wednesday, during the day, on one of those Orange Wednesday deals, cinemas almost relent in their pocket-gouging, wallet-devouring expense sufficiently to make them worth going to. Also during the day the Wood  Green Vue is empty enough that the desire to commit genocide doesn’t begin until after the film has finished and I’ve been spat back out into the middle of a hideous shopping thoroughfare.

It is important that you understand the circumstances: this was a cheap film, I was bored, and I have a lot of homework to distract myself from. So when I say “it wasn’t a waste of money” you will be aware that I didn’t actually spend any money, and that when I say “it wasn’t a waste of time”, you will be aware that I was actively looking to squander some.

I’m less educated about Norse myths than my other half, who is something of a fan (possibly because he looks like a wizened version of the God of Thunder himself), but the film is of course based on the Marvel Comics Avengers-member Thor. Now my opinion in this area is probably unpopular (they usually are), but I think I liked the comic-book Thor best in Ultimates – the Marvel reboot which also saw Captain America turn into a raving dickhead, and fulfilled many a teenage boy’s long-lived dream in Ultimate X-men by making Colossus gay; in Ultimates, it’s actually debatable whether Thor is really the god of thunder from Asgard, or whether he’s just a mental with superpowers. Oh, and he’s a rabid environmentalist.

The movie, which if there is any justice in box office returns will not make a great deal, leaves us with no such ambiguity. It also leaves us with approximately no surprises whatsoever, broadcasting every single event, character, and line from a thousand miles away. You do not have to be Heimdall, possessed of world-penetrating sight, to spot them, either.

Every single fight scene is dotted throughout the course of the film with precision, and I can’t help thinking someone has sat down with a stop-watch and a copy of the script and some focus group responses in order to place them in exactly the right spots to maintain peak interest from the core audience. Said audience are clearly not me, as I found them enormously boring: continuing the current tradition whereby so much swooping, shaking camerawork is involved in hand-to-hand combat scenes that it’s no longer necessary to choreograph them to make sense – no longer necessary and no longer even possible.

Thor and Jane Foster

Quaint Handholding And Armour From Homeware

There is little point getting into the dialogue, which thuds along, merrily pleased with itself and its banal quips and occasional knowing asides to Marvel fans in the audience OH LOOK THERE’S HAWKEYE and a lot of the Asgardians standing around Talking Like Wankers. At least the last part is, unfortunately, canonical. I promise I am expecting very little from comic book movies – some jokes which actually make me laugh, a little charisma from the lead, a little chemistry with the romantic lead that is mandatory in almost every big-budget movie, and some heavy-handed moralising which I’d rather not have but know I’m not allowed to live without. Oh, and Stan Lee, who in this turns up in a truck trying to pull Mjolnir from the crater in which it has landed.

It is customary to find things one liked, or didn’t actively hate, about a movie one is reviewing (no but seriously do we have to have explanatory flashbacks and the same computer-animation sequences from Lord of the Rings but in different and highly implausible armour?), so I shall lay off Anthony Hopkins phoning in his performance in favour of being pleased with Stellan Skasgard instead; I shall be pleased with Kat Dennings in general for being at least vaguely interesting, and praise Natalie Portman for gamely struggling with an abysmally dull character who – in spite of being a driven and apparently intelligent woman in the manner of female Hollywood scientists who Do It Because Daddy Did – magically lost her spine and personality the minute she became infatuated with a large blond wall, Nickelback in a plaid shirt, the All-American Hero as portrayed via Norway.

Norway in this movie, incidentally, is rendered in CGI.

The title character and supposed hero of the story actually does very little in the way of character development – he’s boorish and annoying, gets a slap on the wrist, can’t lift his hammer, falls in love with a pretty girl, becomes less of an asshole, is suddenly able to lift the hammer (because he’s PROVEN HIMSELF WORTHY, DO YOU SEE?), and then has a fight with his brother and mopes around being all manly and sad while his father blames the Little Freak he adopted.

Tom Hiddleston

Tom Hiddleston: Actually Acted

Which is the main thing I found iffy about the film: Loki, who is one of the great characters of mythology, is masterfully portrayed by Tom Hiddleston. He is determined to act while all those around him are standing around reciting lines, chewing scenery, or extending a hand for their paycheques, and he brings far more sympathy to the role of the envious, nervous, devious outcast than anyone manages to bring to any of the Good Guys. He is also the only person from Asgard who doesn’t suffer from Talking Like A Wanker syndrome; possibly because he’s not an Asgardian, but an Ice Giant. This is painfully obvious from the get-go; what’s less obvious is his motivation, until he more or less spells it out during a final fight with his adopted (blond, huge, All-American, Shiny White Teeth) brother.

Thor

Thor: Also Likes Mascara

Such exposition is at least in keeping with the grand tradition of Marvel. It is very hard to forget, for example, the precise moment and manner in which John Byrne had Northstar out himself …

What about Loki’s storyline left a bad taste in my mouth? Well, apart from the idea that anyone not physically strong is automatically a traitor, the distrust of eloquence (although given the quality of writing it’s not hard to see why the script might favour a Wit Is Bad approach), and the undercurrent of “adoptees are not to be trusted”, there is the crescendo of the movie, in which Loki looks to his father for validation that he could at least have successfully destroyed Jotunheim (yes! He wanted to destroy the Ice Giants instead of defecting to them, and all for his father’s approval) had Thor not prevented him. Rather than a tactful “you could have done it, but you shouldn’t have and you didn’t need to prove anything to me”, Odin’s response is effectively “LOL NO”, after which Loki commits Pseudocide, or Disney Falling Villain Death of the “there’s no corpse so he can have him back later” school, over the edge of the world. Charming.

Overall:

Women who do anything: Frigga, Thor’s mother, draws a sword against Laufy, the King of the Frost Giants (in Norse Mythology, Laufy is the mother of Loki), but immediately gets walloped aside; Jane Foster chases “disturbances” and then large blond men with unsupportable claims without doing a great deal of questioning and is more or less portrayed as a pair of delighted ovaries with a passing interest in sciense; and Lady Sith kicks some arse for a little bit while hanging around with the most boring, badly-scripted, pointless non-sidekicks imaginable.

Take away message: Adopted kids are evil, it’s okay to play favourites with your kids, everything works out if you’re big enough and blonde nough.

Special effects: Excellent when in our world, but Asgard and Jotunheim appear to have been envisaged by an imagination-deficient savant after several watchings of Lord of the Rings and a few leafings through the Encylcopedia of Fantasy & Sci Fi Art.

VERDICT: Kind of dull but an inoffensive way to pass spare hours. Will not be watching it again.

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Written by Amelia &/or Delilah

May 6, 2011 at 9:11 pm

3 Responses

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  1. You failed to say whether or not this passes the Bechdel Test.

    FAIL AS MOVIE REVIEWER WITH A VAGINA.

    Also, levels of latent homoeroticism? Anywhere? No?

    Liza

    May 6, 2011 at 9:17 pm

    • Thank you, this comment, for making me realize what I thought made this movie review better than any other I’ve been linked to from Livejournal in ages: something that DOESN’T MENTION THE BECHDEL TEST. Which I am so so tired of hearing about. Right on.

      Rue

      May 7, 2011 at 2:54 am

  2. It actually passes the Bechdel Wallace test within the first minute. So it has that going for it.

    Maud

    May 7, 2011 at 1:30 am


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