Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Thor (2011)

The march to New York Comicon and we’re going to take a look at another of this years big budget comic films Thor.

Thor is a mostly rewrite of the comic book which started out as the the story of the god of thunder who was sent to earth and hidden away in the body of Dr Donald Blake and who would strike his cane down and return to his true form when ever danger neared.

In the film Thor again gets himself in trouble and is cast down to earth, but it’s all due to the machinations of his brother Loki who is trying to take over the Asgrdian kingdom for himself. The film also serves as a lead up to the Avengers film which is coming next year.

As a pure popcorn film that is taken on it’s own terms the film is pretty good. There is a good, if not particularly epic story (at least on Earth), a reasonable representation of the characters and enough action to please most people.

The problem is that the Marvel movie people have taken a page from the Marvel comic people and sublimated what should have been a great stand alone story in order to attach it to the up comic Avengers film.

Unfortunately by focusing on the next film is that this film is full of digressions. There are odd appearances such as Jeremy Renner’s bowman (he’s Hawkeye, one of the Avengers) that are cool but don’t really belong (a bowman? Really?) There are all these references to SHIELD and characters that will be important later. We get twists and turns that strand Thor on earth, that put the “cosmic cube” into exactly the right place to be found in Captain America and set up Loki so he can show up as the villain in the next film.

The film also is painfully insistent on getting almost every character that ever was in a Thor comic into the film. It reminded me of the final four Star Wars films (Return of the Jedi and the three most recent films) where story took a back seat to showing characters and creatures that could be sold as toys.

While I like the basic plot, the digressions take what should have been a great film and make it an okay one.

I do like the heroics. I do like the portrayal of Thor as lost warrior who finds his honor. I also like that Natalie Portman as Jane Foster, Thor's love interest, is a woman of action. As a long time comic fan Thor’s interest in her makes more sense here than in the comic, especially considering that his heart in Asgard was tied to the Lady Sif.

For me the film works best when Thor is a hero or in action. There is the sequence on earth when Thor is wounded and broken but keeps going because the Destroyer is going to wipe out his friends. Thor is down and all but out but somehow he manages to come back and take on the machine that is threatening everything. With in the scene we see what makes Thor tick and why he’s a character that has survived 50 years in comics and else where.

You also get a sense that had the filmmakers been left alone to just tell the story they would have had a true classic of cinema instead of a reasonably good one with moments that soar. Looking back some five months I’m asked why they couldn’t have gone the route of Captain America which is a perfectly self contained film.

Personally while I understand why Marvel is tying everything together, they want to keep the audience alive, the trouble is they wreck the stories they are trying to tell. It’s a problem that has haunted their comics for decades and it’s something that has made many comic fans, myself included, walk away from one of our passions because we simply are tired of the fake bullshit connections.

Comic legend Peter David has said on several occasions that he was only allowed to tell maybe two thirds of the stories he wanted to tell during his legendary run on the Hulk because he had be mindful of the fake plot points the Marvel editors forced on him. He had roughly 7 or 8 issues a year where he could write what he wanted, but then that had to lead into an issue leading into a cross over issue, the cross over issue or two then a lead out issue back to the story he was telling before. It wrecked the momentum and the continuity and he was always playing catch up and covering for mistakes that weren’t his doing. Thor is full of mistakes like that.

As I said the film’s flaws all stem from the need to connect to this thing called The Avengers movie due next spring. And while I applaud Marvel's going for the audience you have to wonder about a tactic that has resulted in the stars of two franchise film Chris Evans who is Thor and Robert Downey Jr who is Iron Man both saying the next stand alone films will be better because the films won’t have to connect to anything.

Ultimately see Thor just forgive the set up flaws.

1 comment:

  1. It definitely had flaws in it and I have to agree if they had just left it to be a movie and not a lead in the movie would have been much better. I never saw Thor in theaters, between my hectic works schedule at DISH, and a loathing of germs, I skipped the theater experience. I came across Thor on EPIX page at DISH online last week and decided to sit down to watch it. Even though I was a little bummed about not seeing it on the big screen, the flaws screamed at me. The Asgard side of the movie was great, good back story and they built the characters, while the earth side of the movie seemed totally rushed. They left characters to be cardboard characters like Jane, Hawkeye and a few others. Like you said if they would have just focused on this movie instead of making it lead into Avengers, it would have blown people away. I guess Thor being seen as a B class of hero in Marvel, didn’t deserve his own movie until after Avengers.