As I said in my last blog, I’ve found the “I wanna be…” theme to be too restrictive, so I am introducing a new feature called “Ruminations on…”.
Initially, I was going to call the feature “REVIEWS.” Catchy title, I know, but not quite right for my purposes. The word “review” might raise your expectations too much, like I might actually know what I’m talking about. Besides, I have plenty of uninformed opinions about things besides movies and books. Dog-walkers, for example. The space shuttle. And certain brands of chocolate.
Today, I’m going to talk about the movie Thor. But before I begin, I must warn you: I’m not a sophisticated movie-goer. If I’m going to lay down $17 to see a movie in a theater, I want special effects. Action. Maybe a few explosions. Save the deeper commentary on the human condition for the small screen. (Better yet, save it for someone else. I’m just not that deep.)
With those criteria, I figured Thor would be the perfect movie for me. But, since it cost $17 a ticket (plus $103 in snackies), I checked the reviews first. Happily, Thor got 4 stars everywhere I looked and was compared to Iron Man. Plus, Thor was directed by Kenneth Branagh. That should mean something. I bought the ticket.
(Disclaimer: It’s been a week since I’ve seen the movie, so forgive me if I get some details wrong.)
According to my admittedly faulty memory, the movie opens with scientist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) investigating an astronomical phenomenon that is somehow affecting the earth. The science behind this is muddled, but that’s okay because Jane and her team jump into their truck to chase a mysterious storm and science becomes moot. During the high point of the chase, my thoughts go something like this: “Why are they doing this? Are they nuts or just suicidal?”
The movie then segues to a flashback scene, where we meet Thor. We are introduced to three or four of Thor’s godly sidekicks. (I’m not sure exactly how many there were and, for some reason, don’t really care.) If you’re paying attention, you might catch their names. All except one: a dark-haired somber-seeming fellow whom Thor only calls “brother.”
“Oh, that must be Loki,” I think. And then I spend the next 30 seconds wondering why the screenwriters are avoiding identifying Loki, who is obviously the main villain. (I’m not sure what I might have missed during this distraction, but I am sure you could zone out during any randomly selected 30 seconds of this movie and not miss anything important to the plot.)
Here’s a generalized summary of the rest of the movie. (Alert: I don’t think I spoil any specific moments or plot points, but I may influence your desire to see the movie.) Much male posturing and cartoon violence ensues, followed by Thor’s deserved fall to earth and loss of god status (that part’s no secret). Thor is found by Jane Foster, and we are treated to Thor’s introduction to human society.
Meanwhile, inexplicable events occur back in Asgard, thus thickening the plot. More posturing and cartoon violence ensues. Doom threatens something (Thor? The Earth? I’m a little foggy about that), and we reach the movie’s climactic battle scene. By now, I am bored. Yes, bored. Our heroes are in danger, but the outcome is so relentlessly predictable that I’m tempted to pull out my iPhone and start playing HoldEm poker.
Okay, I guess I’m pickier than I thought.
So, what went wrong?
Possibly the contrived, telegraphed plot was to blame. But there are plenty of examples of good movies with bad (or no) plot. No, in my opinion, the biggest flaw was character development. As in, there wasn’t any.
Of all the movie’s characters, Thor is the most thoroughly developed. At first, he is portrayed as an over-confident, brainless, admittedly studly hothead. As the movie progresses, he develops into an over-confident, brainless, admittedly studly hothead with angst.
Jane Foster is portrayed as an astronomical meteorologist. Or something. By mid-movie, she devolves into a brainless Thor-groupie, devoid of personality and purpose. At one point, Thor turns to her and says something like, “You are really a clever one.” To which I want to yell, “Only compared to you.” But I restrain myself. Barely.
Don’t get me started about the characterization of Loki.
All other characters were so poorly developed that the filmmakers might as well have saved themselves the actor’s salaries and used stop-action Claymation figures.
So why is Thor getting such great reviews…even from unpaid user reviewers at sites like IMDb?
Answer: Chris Hemsworth.
I can’t comment on Hemsworth’s acting abilities. I don’t recall that he even had much dialogue. But somehow he dominates any scene he’s in. I could try to explain it with a monologue about charisma and presence, but it boils down to this: Chris Hemsworth is hot. He is so hot, that something weird happens to you when you watch him on the big screen. You find yourself wanting to like the movie. You want to believe it was written well. That the director knew what he was doing. That the acting is good. You rush home and write the review while the movie is still fresh in your head.
It nearly happened to me. Thankfully, the spell wore off before I had a chance to commit to paper. I wonder what the authors of those 4 and 5 star reviews really thought, once the magic dust faded from their eyes.
My rating: 3 stars. (Excuse me, I think I have something in my eye.)