FOR ASGARD! Another AHDVD Movie Review – THOR

It’s been a short while since AHDVD, the resident Lolocaust film reviewer creeped into a darkened room to watch a movie with intentions of the reviewing nature, but now he’s back, to let you know, he can really shake it down.

This time he’s reviewing Thor, the latest film from the Marvel super-franchise – and lead-in to the future Avengers movie.

[allow break for nerd-gasm to subside… mmmmmmmmmm]

*cough*

Right… erm, hit the jump and see his words and stuff!I’ll try to keep this spoiler free.

I’ve always been a geek, into sci-fi and comic books since I was young. One of my earliest memories of when I was a kid was being on holiday somewhere with my parents and buying my first comic book (it was an edition of Wolverine), and while I haven’t kept up the (expensive) trend of collecting comics, they and the stories that they tell have always been an interest of mine.

I’m far from an expert on Marvel comics or comics in general, but I have always been aware on some level from bits and pieces here and there of the potential these stories had for being made into big screen entertainment, and not only that – but good big screen entertainment. I was convinced when I saw Blade over a decade ago, followed closely by the X-Men and Spider-man movie series (Curse you Brett Ratner for ruining that!!!).

The critical and financial success of those movies (and indeed series) proved that if there was a good enough story, and the right people were involved to make that come through on the screen, that a movie series based on comic books could be successful.

One series I had been vaguely aware of was The Avengers. A comic book series which had several of the Marvel universe characters all working together as a team. Marvel wouldn’t be bold or crazy enough to try to make a big screen version of this would they? When they announced just that, I was excited at the prospect of seeing such a big scale thing happening,

In previous years we’ve had Marvel building up to The Avengers being released in 2012, starting with Iron Man, which took the approach of being set in the real world (Hence why The Mandarin has not made an appearance so far). The success of this then led to The Incredible Hulk being made, again being set in the real world, with no ‘magical’ elements involved, and it too worked (if ultimately to a lesser extent). Iron Man 2 followed, and further established this ‘real world’ Marvel universe, but then doubts started to creep in. Thor has elements of what can only be described as ‘magic’ – how would they make this work on the screen? What if it sucks? (Fantastic Four, anyone?).

Today, those doubts were smashed by the mighty Thor and his hammer Mjolnir.

It’s hard to believe that a comic book has such talent involved – Kenneth Branagh (not known for being a special effects movie maker) directing, and a cast including Anthony Hopkins, Stellan Skarsgård and Natalie Portman, supported by a group of relatively unknown actors including Chris Helmsworth (previously seen playing James T. Kirk’s father in JJ Abrams Star Trek) in the lead title character. What could go wrong?

Well, the decision to convert it into 3D in post-production, but we’ll get to that.

To me Kenneth Branagh has always been one of those actors/directors who has been typecast, when I think Kenneth Branagh I think of Shakespearian stage plays and in many ways, this is why he was perfectly chosen as the director. Thor does not feel like a typical comic book movie – a kingdom falling into crisis, a King being deceived and usurped by a scheming manipulator, a house being destroyed from within – all elements that would not be out-of-place in a Shakespearian play.

The cast is great from start to finish, Chris Helmworth and Tom Hiddleston standing out amongst them as Thor and his brother Loki respectively, My only real niggle is that the character played by Kat Dennings felt out-of-place and totally unnecessary, and there is some nice continuity tying in the movie with the Marvel universe (and in particular re-use of the ‘end tag’ teaser from Iron Man 2) with Clark Gregg as Agent Colson of S.H.I.E.L.D. as well as another pre-Avenger making a cameo appearance.

There are some slight comedy moments, especially in the middle of the movie, and apart from one or two slightly slapstick moments none of them feels out-of-place. While jumping from world to world as the story develops, the pace of the movie is well controlled and neither goes too fast for the audience to follow or slows to become dull. The music works throughout but disappointingly has no real theme (what impact would Superman have had without John William’s now infamous theme?).

Of course this movie has plenty of special effects, some of which are incredible to behold on the screen, the design of the realm of Asgard, travelling on the ‘bifrost’ – the bridge of light between worlds, the ice realm of Jotunheim and the Frost Giant battle is a lovely action set piece, while there are other smaller effects which are equally as good – seeing Thor throw Mjolnir and it’s movement mid-air is something that I’m sure will never get old.

I don’t know the comic book series of Thor too well, so I can’t compare it, but given the number of attempted comic book to screen adaptations there have been over the years that failed completely, I would hope that any Thor fans would be pleased as at it’s core Thor focuses on character and has a good deal of story behind it making it stand out in today’s movies.

Which brings me to the only real issue I have with the movie, you guessed it, 3D.

When going to see this I had the choice to see it in either 2D or 3D and even though I knew it was not shot using 3D equipment I was still curious to see what they had done with the 3D.
It’s not that it’s bad (nothing like Clash of the Titans) but apart from some of the shots of Asgard or the scenes when travelling across the bifrost it feels unnecessary.
Thankfully they have decided against ‘jump out’ 3D and gone for depth of view in their use of 3D which in my opinion is the best use of the technology, so it meant there were no gimmicky attempts to show Thor throwing Mjolnir directly at the camera. If you don’t mind the 3D thing then see it with, but you would likely enjoy it just as much, if not more, without it.

Thanks to this, I’m now eagerly looking forwards to The Avengers in 2012 with doubts quelled and the final lead-in movie: Captain America: The First Avenger, later this year. Here’s hoping that movie does not undo this.

Following that, perhaps now we will finally see The Mandarin make an appearance in Iron Man 3 since they have shown how ‘magic’ can exist in this universe.

Oh, and stay around after the credits for a Fury-ous and ‘cosmic’ end tag teaser.

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