I saw a trailer for Thor at a screening of Source Code (a film that although well acted, seemed pointless and not worthy of review). It looked fairly atrocious, something of the Blade or other superhero variety. However, by chance I noticed later that a) it was directed by Kenneth Branagh – which promised good acting not visible in the trailer, b) Thor is played by until now unknown to me Aussie Chris Hemsworth, who reminded me in the trailer of Aussie Heath Ledger in the execrable but nevertheless watchable Knight’s Tale – a performance that made you think he might just be a real actor in the making and c) it had a long list of other notables, including Anthony Hopkins, Stelland Skarsgard, Idris Elba (the great Stringer Bell from The Wire), Ray Stevenson (Rome), Natalie Portman etc, and finally d) I have never seen a 3D movie before.
So what did we get? Well… a lot of noise, unrealistic 3D effects that reminded me of those plastic things you can buy with 3 or 4 flat layers in them, typically of dinosaurs (although my friend Pat has a particularly tacky one featuring Jesus Christ), a very simple story containing absolutely no tension, some completely laughable pseudo-scientific justification of the structure of the universe (given that here, it must contain Earth, Asgard and some other places containing nasty creatures like Ice Giants), some morsels of reasonably acted dialogue drowned by noise, and giant CGI sets. Did I mention the noise? It’s a very noisy film, partly because Thor’s hammer is a huge chunk of metal I guess.
My take home…
0. Superhero / Marvel comic movies are just boring (I expect a massive spam attack due to that comment, but read on those of you with souls). Everyone is invincible, or nearly so, which simply means that ‘fighting’ just involves destroying really large objects like trucks and buildings. You can’t sympathise with anyone because you know it will all come out all right in the end. Noone in these comic universes has any real feelings or doubts (even those ostensibly in evidence in some comics are in my opinion a thin attempt to make the reader believe they are reading some sort of deep literature… but they aren’t, it’s just kids’ pulp in pictures). You know noone can really die. Even Loki will come back from the void of space, that’s obvious.
1. It’s completely forgettable. Go see Archiplego or somesuch if you want feelings with your meal.
2. Not clear if Branagh’s brilliance is evident or not. There are certainly worse acted movies. Hopkins is always marvellous to watch, and it may be that Branagh added some subtlety to Tom Hiddleston’s portrayal of Loki. Portman may have been directed to look pretty & fetching, but that would have only require Branagh to say ‘Natalie darling, just be yourself’ ….Kenneth, could you please apply your talents to something that a thinking person might care about? Don’t mention Wallander. That was pointless, the Swedish original was perfect.
3. Is there any point to 3D? I’m completely unconvinced. Some of the larger CGI looks kind of nice, in the same way as say viewing a giant ice-sculpture would be. But the variety of 3D on offer here (RealD circular polarising images and glasses) doesn’t make things look more real, it makes them look like cardboard cutouts placed at different distances.
4. Chris Hemsworth does look like he will be a good or even great actor one day… hard not to imagine him following in Heath Ledger’s footsteps, and there is probably a bit of Russell Crowe in him as well. Have to wait and see if he gets real famous and then throws telephones at reporters asking stupid questions.
5. A world in which people hop off horses into a space travelling machine doesn’t seem quite believable. Aren’t such machines full of little complicated circuits and quantum resonators? Where does the horse poo go on a CGI surface anyway?
6. Will there be any decent film at which I can use my 3D glasses? Yes! There is – Werner Herzog’s The Cave! I’m off already.