Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Mighty Thor

I saw Thor today, internationally titled as Thor: God of Thunder, domestically titled in the U.S. as just "Thor," because there's only one god in America, and His name is glocalization. Can't use the word "god" so casually in a fundamentally religious nation like the U.S., right? It's like drawing Mohammed; people might get offended. But go ahead, let them worship their pagan deities abroad. They're animals anyway, so let them lose their souls.


I've been a fan of the Thunder God since grade school. Why? Beats me. Buff blond guy with wings on his helmet, wields a mighty's amazing I'm not gay. Seriously, though, it's because the combination of myth and imagination stirred my senses as a youth. The possibilities seemed endless. Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Larry Lieber made the adventures of a mythological Norse god epic in comic form, staying somewhat true to the foundation of Norse mythology while at the same time bending its parameters to create their own mythos. Then came along Walt Simonson, who deserves his own article (seriously). Church: they were the original mash-up artists, because anything's game when you're playing with characters created before copyright laws were invented. Ask Walt Disney.

I love the hell out of Thor (2011**); how it's received by the rest of Midgard is another matter. If I were a betting man, I'd say that Chris Hemsworth's charisma alone will catapult its box-office through word of mouth. But he's unproven, and Fast Five is released one week later stateside. And I'm drunk on mead.

If you're into hammer and grammar, though, read on for some non-spoiler points:

- Chris Hemsworth is fantastic. Young Hollywood just got its next big star (Sam Worthington is so fucked). The man has Brad Pitt-level charisma. With Downey Jr., Hemsworth, Chris Evans and Jeremy Renner, The Avengers is packed with talent. That's a charisma overdose.

- Loki is the best and most realistic Marvel movie villain yet.

- The trailer and previews really shortchanged the actual look of the film. Asgard looks amazing. The Rainbow Bridge is breathtaking.

- Holy shit, the Destroyer.

- The Marvel Movieverse tie-in stuff is handled a lot more aptly than it was in Iron Man 2. It's virtually seamless, and in one case will sound like a throwaway comment to a lot of audiences. But the nerds will get it. Then circulate it online so everyone will know. They're great at that.

- Vincent D'Onofrio has a great cameo.

- Don't see the film in 3D. I saw a 2D digital projection, and even then it was murky in spots, perhaps due to poor projection, a bad trend at too many theaters. No way I'd want to see that with tinted glasses and post-conversion 3D and cataracts.

- Idris Elba is a stoic badass as Heimdall. Word to Stringer Bell. No typecast.

- Demerit points for all the Dutch angles Branagh uses. They serve no purpose whatsoever. They're visually displeasing to the point of annoyance. The crowd I saw it with was oddly -- for modern Korean audiences -- rude during the film, talking, using their cell phones, etc. Maybe the American-superhero-via-Norse-mythology plot had something to do with it, but when the film was clicking everyone was silent. Even for me the Dutch angles were unsettling. Seriously, there were like 30 people in the theater (a matinee), and folks started squirming like kids on a long car ride. Such an overuse of Dutch angles would make for an interesting social experiment, I suppose, but for Thor it realistically could hurt the film's gross, and it puts a significant bruise on a great addition to modern superhero films.

- Odin's speech that Mjolnir -- and, yes, I'm capitalizing that sucker, the greatest supporting inanimate object in film since Wilson the volleyball* -- is a powerful weapon and a powerful tool is terrifically subtle foreshadowing.

- A little more nitpicking: the sets on Earth are spartan, and that's being kind. The New Mexican town 50 miles away where later action takes place looks like a B-movie set. Overall, Branagh's sense of mise en scene on Earth is claustrophobic. It's a thematic idea gone wrong.

- Screw Pandora, I want to live in Asgard. But only if I can take my Shih Tzu with me. In the Marvel tradition, there's a nice message contained within the storyline. Hogun's Japanese, Heimdall's black, and frost giants are blue. The Rainbow Bridge is rainbow-colored. It's a simple analogy, but the simplest ones are the greatest. Ask Aesop.

* No one believes me, but when I saw Cast Away in Korea in 2000, Wilson was actually a Spalding. To this day, I haven't been able to find any evidence, but I know what I saw. At the time, I found it an ironic joke. Now, I think global corporate mergers are to blame, and maybe some mischief on Loki's behalf.

** The 2017 reboot not so much. Gary Oldman didn't work for me as Odin, nor did Armie Hammer as Balder the Brave.

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