When Stan Lee penned the first Thor comic book for what would become Marvel Comics, he probably couldn’t have imagined that almost 50 years later, his Norse superhero (based on the mythological god of thunder) would hit the silver screen — in IMAX3D no less. The result is a big swinging hunk of modern movie myth-making.
Thor (Marvel Studios/Paramount Pictures) pounds onto summer blockbuster screens with all the muscle that $150 million can buy. At the helm is director Kenneth Branagh. With his background as a director and actor of Shakespeare, he’s an interestingly unlikely choice to weave such an epic tale. But given that the Norse myth is ripe with Shakespearean plot lines (kings banishing sons, sons betraying fathers, brothers fighting for good and evil), Branagh pulls it off with finesse. He certainly keeps the story moving along — perhaps even at too brisk a pace — and does an excellent job at portraying the “human” side of Thor when he’s stripped of his powers on Earth, even with a comic touch.
The story occupies two very different realms. One is the celestial city of Asgard, ruled by Thor’s father Odin, played brilliantly by Sir Anthony Hopkins. When Thor (Chris Hemsworth) upsets his father, Odin unceremoniously banishes him to do Earthly penance, stripping the power from his mighty hammer, Mjolnir, until such time as Thor earns it back by learning humility.
The action moves to a more comical locale — a small New Mexico town (proudly displaying their “Home of the Vikings” banner), where Thor abruptly encounters the ever-so-lovely Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), the most adorable astrophysicist you’ll ever see. The fun starts when the mythical god has to deal with ungodly reality. The fish-out-of-water scenes will remind viewers of Schwarzenegger’s Terminator and there’s even an innocent touch reminiscent of Jeff Bridge’s Starman.
Thor, which is Marvel’s first 3D release, was shot in 2D and converted to 3D in postproduction. It is heavily laden with special effects, and these are convincing in 3D. However, forcing the 2D film scenes into 3D (particularly the New Mexico scenes) robs them of the presence they might have had if they had been shot in 3D originally. In some cases, the characters look as if they're cutouts acting in front of a 2D set. Still, the film benefits overall from judicious use of the added dimensionality — thankfully, there aren’t any scenes or effects added specifically to make use of gimmicky 3D effects.
The scale of some of the landscapes, however, seemed off; the Norse warriors are dwarfed by the backgrounds in more than a few scenes. Personally, I like my gods to appear larger than life. Branagh might also want to tone down his use of the Dutch angle, where the camera is tilted to create tension and unease. The effect is certainly unnecessary given the grand scale of the film's CGI monster.
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