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Thor - frolicking and fabulous bit of fantastical fun
I don't usually say what I think about films, because I'm very bad at noticing flaws. I also have a tendency to waffle on, and lose track of what I was supposed to be writing about - but if you've read any of my hubs before you'll be used to that by now, and my film ramblings are no different. I cannot tell you if a movie has been badly directed, if the cinematography is not as good as it should be, or if the Best Boy or the Dolly Grip have done their jobs properly (can you tell those last two just from watching the film? I have no idea, I don't even know what those jobs are).
I can tell you what I think about an actor's performance, possessing, as I do, some talent in that field. Taste in actors is usually a subjective thing, but I can certainly spot a bad performance, and I can tell you that I saw none of those in this fun-filled little adaptation of Marvel's comic superhero story, Thor. Chris Hemsworth played the title role, and as with many of today's antipodean actors, did not disappoint in any way. In the past few years, us ladies, and also gay men I should think (I can't speak for the homosexual population, really, not being one of them, I'm merely making an assumption) have been treated to a veritable stream of talented, and I must say, very beautiful actors (it's a word I use to describe men often - it's a not a term reserved for women, and 'handsome' 'just don't go far enough'*): Russell Crowe (I find him beautiful, you may not), Eric Bana, Sam Worthington, Hugh Jackman, Simon Baker, Guy Pearce (not all that beautiful, but certainly very talented), Julian McMahon, and Geoffrey Rush (alright, we probably wouldn't call him handsome, but he has beautiful acting skills - absolutely tremendous actually). I don't know what it is about Australian/New Zealand actors at the moment, but they seem to do well in Hollywood. Perhaps it's their rugged charm: they're all a little bit scruffy, and look as though they enjoy a good surf and a party, followed by a delicious long lie-in on a Saturday morning (I think I may have just come across as a prejudiced person who likes to lazily refer to stereotypes - I am not these things, I am just sharing my little fantasy with you).
Well, Chris Hemsworth was absolutely super in the role of Thor. He was charming, interesting, deeper than I expected, and armed his character with exactly the right amount of potential for development to make us eager to see more of him in future films. I think Australians often have the right kind of sense of humour to get the comic timing right, and that's the difference I notice between a good performance and a flat one I think. A good actor - with good direction, probably - can produce those little moments that make the viewer smile, or giggle, or swoon a bit. With a flat performance we can acknowledge that we were supposed to smile, or giggle, or swoon, but we don't actually have those involuntary responses to a turn of phrase, an expression, or a glance.
That's also the difference between too much cheese**, and just the right amount. Cheesiness abounded in Thor, but it's a comic adaptation, so a certain amount of Wensleydale is required (I was going to go for brie there, but it seemed too obvious). I think that allowing a movie such as this to smell slightly of sweaty socks is how we laugh at it in the twenty-first century, and this is how we deal with it. We are now too sophisticated a film audience to look at caped and outer-underpanted mutants in the way we did when Christopher Reeve was doing his thing in front of the blue screen. Superman we took rather seriously; we hoped that he might be real, and half believed that he could be. Now we know better, and the way we deal with that is with cheesiness. Of course, you know what I've done there? I've forgotten that I was only a very small child when Superman was out, so of course I believed he was real! But am I right though? Is it not just my age that has made me realise that superheroes don't exist? Well, no, because I still do believe in them actually - it's the 'youff' of today who don't believe, bless them, poor kids. Imagine being unable to suspend your disbelief (if that's not a contradiction in terms). Imagine watching films like Avatar, or any of the Harry Potters (or Tangled - I loved that film, and I know I'm not the only thirty-something who fell in love with an animated character that week) and not wishing with all of your heart that you could step into it and join in the adventure - how awful not to wish that.
I wanted to jump into the world of Thor - and not only to indulge in a good long stare at the eye candy. It was fun - the world was fun, the story was fun, and being a person who enjoys fun it suited me very well. I came out of the cinema beaming, pleased that I had just spent a really good couple of hours doing something beneficial to my general health and mental well-being.
* Anne of Green Gables, describing the 'Avenue'.
** Cheese is what we refer to as humour that is just on the edge of acceptable, in terms of believability. If something is too cheesy then it is just ridiculous, and it spoils the whole flavour of the movie or the scene. A film can also be cheesy if it takes itself too seriously, and becomes funny because it is crap. There are also other definitions of cheese, and it encompasses a wide range of issues.
Directed by Kenneth Branagh?? Eh? My bottom jaw almost hit the floor when his name popped up in the closing credits - I had not been aware of Ken's involvement with this film before actually going to see it (oh yes, we're on first name terms, Ken and I, but he didn't bother to tell me about this little project - I shall be writing to him, forthwith). But once I knew that he had directed it, of course, it did make perfect sense; it had his stamp all over it, his silliness, his love of bright and shiny things (does Kenneth Branagh love bright and shiny things? I have no idea, I've never met him - I'm making another assumption, based on two of the roles I've seen him in - Benedick in A Midsummer Night's Dream, and Gilderoy Lockhart in Harry Potter 2, both larger than life, both funny and silly - this is all I really know of him). He does love his Shakespeare though, and you could see that influence in Thor (blimey, I can make up some rubbish for the sake of boosting a word count, can't I?! This reminds me of one of my old English essays at school), with the magnificent vistas and towers of Asgard, and with characters bursting on to the set from the wings in a comedy way: I'm thinking here of the scene in which Thor's warrior companions make it to Earth, and knock on the window of the diner he's sitting in, beaming and waving at him. Fun.
Branagh said of himself that his experience of '...heightened language, period drama and the dynastic sagas of the great and the good' stood him in good stead (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-13082987); not only that, but they also served to provide some lovely comedy, such as the little snippet when Thor enters a small pet shop and bellows 'bring me a horse!' It's not so often lately that dialogue brings about a genuine laugh from a theatre audience, but I was pleased to hear several titters and chuckles as I watched this movie, mostly arising from these endearing fish-out-of-water scenes when Thor arrives on Earth - I won't spoil them all for you.
I liked the magic of Thor. The way it was explained was good for me - in this world, magic is science, but something more. That's the way magic works in my own half-begun novel - I think it's the way a lot of writers are dealing with magic at the moment (which is interesting, because Thor first appeared in comics in 1962). It no longer really satisfies our curious minds to be met with unexplained magical phenomenon thus: 'she clicked her fingers and the object she had been thinking of appeared out of thin air'. This is just not good enough now, we want to know how, and possibly why. I enjoyed that in Thor we were given a brief explanation of magic and science being the same thing; just a little thing, but it made a difference for me.
It wasn't a perfect film by any means, there were mistakes and flaws, but because the film was so much fun, and because Chris Hemsworth was so likeable, these things didn't matter. I don't know if many, or any, of you might have seen the BBC series of Robin Hood with Jonas Armstrong, but that had a similar endearing lack of attention to superfluous detail, elements of costume design and missed continuity errors that brought you crashing back to your own living room with a chuckle; I can remember Doc Martin boots, very modern dress designs and definitely-not-medieval-zip-fastenings. In Thor one such error was the title character crashing down to Earth though the wormhole, wearing clothes that were obviously made on Earth - did the wormhole create them, we wonder? See, I wouldn't have minded if they'd given the film an 18 certificate and made Thor crash land in his birthday suit. But sadly, that was not to be. Instead, he was put in jeans and a long-sleeved t-shirt. He also had unnaturally blonde eyebrows - I don't know if they were bleached, or glued on, but they were not real. All fine though - these minor distractions did not detract much from the overall joyful loved-upness and action play fighting. There's not much I love more than seeing giant baddies get smashed in the face by a magically powerful hammer (by the name of Mjolnir - trying saying that after a couple of pints) - especially not when it's wielded by such a fine specimen of muscularity and gentlemanly charm; excuse me, I've gone a bit faint.
I did feel a bit sad for Stellan Skarsgård and Natalie Portman, who weren't given very much to work with. Both played pretty forgettable characters, which was a shame for two such stellar actors as these; I say 'stellar', though since Leon I have not seen Portman in any remarkable roles (I haven't seen Black Swan yet - I expect it to be amazing). But next to Marvel superheroes, every body looks bland and grey I suppose. I think the role of supporting actors is to be us - we ladies might want to be Natalie Portman's character, so that we have a good excuse to gaze adoringly at the hero in a way that we can't do in real life without attracting derisive comments from our friends.
There was some other interesting stuff in the film, but I don't want to talk about the plot and all of the characters too much, because I think you should just watch it. But let me just tell you this: there was a mischievous character called Loki, nicely complex, not totally bad and not totally good, lost, confused and jealous. There was Anthony Hopkins, as an actually very convincing Odin. There is something very special about a certain generation of actors, isn't there? They just have such a compelling presence onscreen: Derek Jacobi has it, Oliver Reed had it, Richard Harris too, Michael Gambon, Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan of course. These actors have always left their younger and less experienced counterparts looking wishy-washy and as though they're only playing at it. They are the kind of actors that can just add that little bit of gravitas to allow you to take the film more seriously, and prevent it from becoming just a mouldy and ripe bit of cheese.
I would not say that Thor has something for everyone, because it hasn't. If you don't like comic adaptations you won't like this. Of all of the Marvel movies so far, this is the one that has most captured that comic book feel, and has been less worked on to look like a 'real' movie. For the most part it does look as though each scene, even each shot, has been lifted from a comic strip, with such vivid colours (particularly in Asgard), slightly blurred edges occasionally, which is an effect that occurs in comics when the colour doesn't quite sit perfectly over the black. It isn't stretching the imagination too far to picture each shot as an ink drawing. You can almost see a few 'K-Pow's and speech bubbles. Fun.
Go and see it, it's worth the money for 2D. I don't think any movie is worth the 3D price, since ten minutes into the film I don't notice the 3Dness any more, and just find the glasses annoying.