Unless Fast Five manages to steal its thunder (pun intended), Thor marks the official beginning of the summer blockbuster season -- and these days, that means comic books and superheroes. But since most of the top-tier superheroes have already received their Hollywood adaptations (with reboots for the most popular ones), the studios are moving onto second-string heroes who, for most people, are hardly household names. Thor, the Marvel Comics version of the hammer-wielding Norse god of thunder, definitely fits that description, which makes Thor (with an estimated budget of $150 million) a significant risk, even though fanboys will feel obligated to see the film since Thor will be returning in the eventual multi-hero megamovie, The Avengers.
But is Thor worth seeing if you're a regular person not bound by the completist bylaws of geekdom? Will it matter that Thor is a hero most people don't know and is played by an Australian actor (Chris Hemsworth) that most people haven't heard of? And will there be any movies released in 2011 that don't star Natalie Portman? Watch my review of Thor for What the Flick?! below.
I figured a lot of critics might pan Marvel's new comic book movie Thor simply so they could say it's "Thorrible". But it looks like the opposite is happening, with Thor scoring a very impressive 81% on Rotten Tomatoes, which is kind of a shock to me since I thought the majority of Thor actually was Thorrible. And what's frustrating about that is that it clearly didn't have to be that way, since watching Thor often felt like I was fighting over the remote on movie night, where I wanted to watch the funny, original movie about what would happen if the Norse god of thunder was walking around on earth as a human, but the idiot I was with wanted to watch some loud, crappy, meandering movie about space Vikings. And unfortunately, the idiot won.
The movie starts on the realm or planet of Asgard, where Thor, played by Australian Chris Hemsworth, is about to be made king by his father, Odin, played by Anthony Hopkins. But when the Frost Giants (yes, that's what they're called) break the uneasy truce between them and the Asgardians with a sneak attack, Thor, who's kind of an arrogant jerk, launches an ill-advised raid that gets him banished to earth in human form without his powers.
Thor lands in New Mexico and is discovered by astrophysicist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), her mentor (Stellan Skarsgard), and a wisecracking intern (Kat Dennings). Meanwhile, Thor's mighty hammer, which he uses to fly and smash things, has landed in the desert several miles away, where it's been discovered by S.H.I.E.L.D., the shadowy government agency we were introduced to in the Iron Man movies, who will eventually bring all the Marvel superheroes together after their individual movies for The Avengers megamovie.
Here's where Thor's schizo divide starts. See, I wasn't interested at all in the stuff about the goings-on in the CG world of Asgard, but the stuff about some beefcake hockey player-looking dude walking around New Mexico claiming to be Thor and looking for his magic hammer was great and often really funny.
The problem is that every time I started to get into the story of Jane and her crew trying to figure out who this weirdo is, what he has to do with the astronomical phenomena that occurred when he came to earth, and how Thor will get his hammer back from SH.I.E.L.D, the movie jumps back to Asgard, where things grind to a self-serious halt and we have to hear about Thor's scheming and jealous brother Loki, the frost giants trying to get a magical blue plastic ice brick from the Asgardians, and the band of warriors (including an Asian one!) trying to bring Thor back from exile using a magic/science teleportation space needle.
Personally, I would've preferred if most of the Asgard subplots, including why Thor came to earth, had been done in flashbacks or abandoned completely, which not only would've improved the flow of Thor, but also vastly reduced the film's rumored $150 million budget.
So Thor isn't totally Thorrible, but about 60% or 70% percent of it is, because that's roughly the amount of time the movie spends dealing with all the Asgard stuff. But in the other 30% to 40% percent, you can see a much better, more interesting movie struggling to get out from under all the CG, deafening sound effects, leaden space Viking silliness, and pointless 3D conversion (which, along with IMAX, isn't worth paying extra for). You can't say a movie is good if 60% of it doesn't work, so I gave Thor a low but proportional rating of 4.0 for the roughly 40% of the movie that did.
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