Thor: How to make a superhero movie

Wow.

See for a second there I kinda doubted whether or not Thor would pull off the impossible. A Shakespearean infused plot dichotomy mixed with Viking Gods shouting at each other with magic powers, potions and government conspiracies battling a guy who just wants his giant hammer back. It’s without a doubt Marvel’s heaviest risk since ever and it has paid off. Thor is the type of superhero movie that isn’t gritty or kid-friendly or dumbed-down or stupid or Rise of the Silver Surfer, it’s something else entirely, it’s about a superhero – a character study in some sense – and it is damn good.

Kenneth Branagh’s take on the story fits oh so perfectly by fusing together both the mythos of Asgard with the dilemma that, at the end of the day, Mr. Thor is going to land on Earth and hang out with Earth-dudes. The story requires theatricality and Branagh’s Shakespearean roots fit perfectly with the film. I have never been more surprised with a superhero movie and it’s already clear to me that we need to do something to Marvel Studios. It’s enough for them to turn out enjoyable, comic book aesthetically loyal, downright good movies but they may have gone one step beyond.

I think we should thank them forever and ever.

How is it that this giant fan-service of a film continuity can remain so faithful yet so accessible to mainstream audiences? How is it that they can let Joss Whedon play with some of the greatest icons of modern culture? How is it that a movie studio can actually care about its film character’s history and influences? This shouldn’t be happening, we should have Michael Bay behind the reins making close to a billion dollars per movie as they try and shove it in the stupid people’s faces and rub in us nerdkind’s eyes that we’re all nerdkind. Yet, here we are, with loyal servicing films and filmmakers who are enjoying making good movies and servicing these characters.

I raised doubts over The Avengers and whether or not it could fit and balance so many characters, I had no idea who could handle that and I still believe no-one can. But if one man can then it’s Joss Whedon.

So, Thor, fantastic movie. It’s pretty much the mid-point of this whole Avengers thing so it sets off the countdown to the coolest thing that will ever happen in the history of forever. The post-credits sequence is so teasing, so diabolically revelatory and just downright nerdkind servicing that it blows your mind thinking about just how much some top executive cares about their audience and servicing characters that were created probably before they were even born. It takes love and I doubt love exists in this world aside from a stupid chemical, but it also takes balls to risk it all on us nerdkind folk. It didn’t pay-off with Scott Pilgrim but it paid off here and thank God.

So, the bad of Thor? People raged over Idris Elba’s casting as Heimdall but, when you see the film, you know that he’s one of the best things. His power over some of the scenes pretty much makes everyone who said otherwise look like the biggest jerks who ever existed. Myself included. I was caught up in a cloud of elitist nerdom and thank god for Marvel Studios once again holding their neck and take the savage beatings that would ensue. No, the problem isn’t with Elba’s amazing performance, nor any performance, in fact it’s not really with anything except…

Thor ain’t no Iron Man.

On the same level, yeah it’s just about as good as Iron Man but Iron Man was about a guy who built a robot suit and dealt with personal issues. Iron Man 2 was about said character getting his act together for the countdown to the coolest thing that will ever happen in the history of forever. The first Iron Man was so character focused and I’ll outright say it’s Robert Downey Jr.’s ‘comeback kid’ movie. It’s one of his best performances next to Chaplin and the film is solely devoted to fleshing out the character by using his relationships with other people.

Thor… not so much. The God of Thunder isn’t really the focus here as much as the giant plot is, which plants seeds for when the coolest thing ever will happen and there’s a lot of teasing here and there. I’m a hypocrite when I say the blatant teasing is what ruined Series Five of Doctor Who (along with ‘that’ supporting character becoming a plot device) but here it isn’t laid on too thick for my tastes. It’s still annoying at times the fact we have to stick around a few seconds at special shots so the camera can focus on a little piece of text which will make me squee anyway, but Thor still manages to feel like its own movie.

There are times when I don’t get on well with the characters either. Case in point: the Warriors Three’s arrival on Earth is pretty pointless and we’re not given enough time to ‘remember their names’. I use that term given that you really only remember the names of characters you like or just know all about. I couldn’t tell you for a second their names and my Thor comic-book knowledge is so old I don’t even know if Odin had an eyepatch or not. When the Warriors Three arrive and then fail, we cheer on Thor more, yeah but they look like they’ve been inserted just for that cause and not to giddy-up their characters.

Likewise, Thor’s mother just sort of hangs around and I swear for a second she once just outright walked out of the room ‘to fetch guards’ and never came back in the movie until the very end. I have some problems with the fighting scenes having that Batman Begins problems of zooming in too far so we can’t see what the hell is going on but it’s not that too big of a deal. Thor is an inconsistent, semi-character focused movie that prides itself in its comic book roots and fan-service. It’s not as eccentric in exploiting  its main character as much as Iron Man did but it’s a much, much braver movie and is well worth your time.

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