Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Movie Review: THOR, directed by Kenneth Branagh

The Orion Nebula in mostly infrared



Thor:  A Review


            We have become a people inured to the stupendous.  The term "awesome" has become the ultimate superlative.  What's beyond "awesome"? Mega-awesome?  Hyper-awesome?  Has it become Gi-normous?  Our imaginations have been fertilized by The Hubble Telescope.  We think it terms of billions of light years.  Our movie special effects are so good that we expect, we DEMAND, a higher level of stimulation.  So, the Romans watched people eaten by lions.  Fech!  Big deal.  We've watched movies of the most gruesome realism.  In the so-called real world we've watched colossal tsunamis ravage continents, storms of staggering power, melting ice caps, species going extinct before our eyes.
            What haven't we seen by now?
            Here's a movie about Marvel Comic character slash ancient Norse god The Mighty Thor.
It's directed by Kenneth Branagh.  What an odd match-up.  Branagh's name is synonymous with Class.  He joined the Royal Shakespeare Company at 23, then founded his own Shakespeare troupe.  His film version of HENRY THE FIFTH made Shakespeare accessible and exciting.  Getting Branagh involved in any project is to raise the bar, to nudge expectations upward.  The formula has held so far: Branagh = not trash.
            A lot of things did not happen in the movie THOR.  There was no thespian rug-chewing.  The villain did not twirl his moustaches.  The special effects were beautiful, not merely stunning.  The fight scenes did not go on and on.  The love story was light and believable.
            Given the budget and the subject matter, a lesser director would have cast Vin Diesel as Thor and had him throw his hammer through the Pentagon, from whence it would have drilled its way through the earth and come up in the Chinese version of the Pentagon and then split into a hundred hammer-clones that would wreck all the military command centers on the planet before whooshing back into Thor's outstretched fingers.  Haha!
            In Branagh's self-assured hand we get hunky Chris Hemsworth as Thor.
Hemsworth looks like a sweet surfer dude.  He plays his character without hyperbole.  The story arc is the classic "arrogant prince gets humbled before attaining his full legacy as a wise king."
            The real star of the film is its beauty.  Cast and crew have deferred to the setting, the cosmos, and they have used the latest telescope imagery to render a universe that is awe inspiring with its clouds of black dust back-lit by radiant nebulae. 
            This is no masterpiece of a film.  It's possible that half my pleasure was simple relief, that the cliché chorus didn't come out ringing its bells and insulting  my intelligence.
            Three muskrats.  I'd give it three and a half but it's a comic book film,
people, albeit an awesome comic book film.