The Sons of Katie Elder

The Sons of Katie Elder
"First, we reunite, then find Ma and Pa's killer...then read some reviews."

Saturday, March 24, 2012


One of many movies that I'm looking forward to in 2012, The Avengers will arrive in theaters on May 4. I've seen the other unofficial prequels that have all led to this movie including Iron Man (loved it), Iron Man 2 (eh), Captain America (loved it), and the Hulk movies (okay, but nothing more). Who's left? That would be 2011's Thor, a movie I really had little interest in seeing, but for the sake of The Avengers, I wanted at least to be up to date on everything. Yeah, that was a bad choice.

In the realm of Asgard, a king named Odin (Anthony Hopkins) has stopped the Frost Giants from destroying the remaining eight realms of the universe. Odin is quickly aging though and is ready to name his son, Thor (Chris Hemsworth), his heir and successor to the crown. Thor though is too arrogant, too cocky, and finds himself banished to Earth when he pushes his father too far, all his power and strength -- including his hammer -- is taken from him. He's found in the desert by Jane (Natalie Portman), an astrophysicist exploring sightings in the sky. With no powers, Thor doesn't know what to do as he explores this foreign world. Back home in Asgard, his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is up to no good though, and Thor must find a way to stop him.

I think it took me about five minutes to decide I didn't like this film, and unfortunately things didn't improve over the next 110. From the previous Marvel superhero movies, I expected a certain quality even when the movie itself isn't that great. Director Kenneth Branagh seems lost here. There is absolutely no payoff here at all. None. Things keep building and building....well, sort of. Things happen in the desert, then Asgard, then other realms, then a lackluster fight at the end. People are shot back and forth through the realms, people fight. I don't see the point of the movie other than introducing the Thor character. It's dull, the attempts at humor fall far short of actual laughs, and a good cast is wasted...a really good cast.

What was my first sign of trouble? The sweeping panoramic reveal of Asgard, a Norse-like realm straight out of Viking mythology, reeked of Lord of the Rings. The overabundance of CGI bored me to death. I maintain that the best of computer-generated imagery is barely noticeable. It just flows with the movie. The scenes that call attention to themselves are pretty clear we're watching something a computer created. But mostly, it's the ridiculous tone. An acting legend he may be, but Hopkins just looks uncomfortable here. Hiddleston as Loki is one of the weakest, most boring villains around. And the introduction of the Frost Giants in the beginning? I realize this is all a fictional mythology, but that's the best that Marvel came up with? Big monsters that freeze things? When they're fighting Thor or his allies in battle, why don't they just freeze them off the bat instead of engaging in hand-to-hand combat? Wow, that's way too much analysis for a movie this dumb.

Now not that an IMDB rating means a lot (is The Shawshank Redemption really the greatest movie ever? I think not.), but Thor is rocking a 7.0 average at the time of this review. The only real bright spot I come up with is Hemsworth as Thor. He's one of the few actors here who looks comfortable in his role. He commits to the part for lack of a better description. Thor, the god of thunder, arriving on Earth with no powers but all his Norse mannerisms and stilted, boisterous speech patterns do provide some laughs. He orders a 2nd cup of coffee, slamming the empty mug down because that's what he's always done. More importantly though, Hemsworth is quite the physical presence. This dude is ripped, and he dominates the fight scenes he's in. Now if he joins The Avengers, I don't see why anyone else is needed -- especially if he's got his Hammer -- but more over-thinking on my part. Silly me. Anyways, Hemsworth is the best thing going here.

The rest of the cast doesn't fare too well. No doubt that Portman is an above average actress, and it's great to see her in a mainstream blockbuster, but this is not a good part for her. She floats along, tries to act pissed and falls hard for Thor because something's got to happen in this movie. Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Denning play Erik and Darcy, Jane's assistants in the field who get mixed up in the whole Thor arrival. Denning at least gives it a go with her cynical humor, Skarsgard just looks bored. Thor's Asgard crew of warriors -- potentially very cool, in execution not developed and cliched -- include Ray Stevenson, Tadanobu Asano, Josh Dallas, and Jaimie Alexander. Making an out of left field appearance, Rene Russo stands around for two or three scenes as Frigga, Thor's mother. Another bright spot in the cool character/actor department is Idris Elba as Heimdall, the Asgard gatekeeper to the portals that reach the other realms of the universe.

Because I'm struggling to put into words why I disliked this movie, let's talk connection with The Avengers. Clark Gregg is back as Agent Coulson, on-site and much-maligned field agent for S.H.I.E.L.D. who must investigate Thor's arrival, as well as his Hammer. Also look quickly for Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye, another Avenger introduced for the first time here. And if the other Marvel movies have taught us anything, watch through the credits as Samuel L. Jackson makes his requisite appearance in a short scene as Nick Fury. I didn't care for Thor -- the movie, not the character -- much at all, but I'm still psyched for the Avengers movie in May.

I'm trying to put my finger on this one, and I'm drawing a complete blank. I'm not sure what Brannagh was going for at all as a director. The story is aimless, drifting along with no real purpose or set goal. It bounces around far too much, and then when its deemed we've had enough, the credits roll. Hemsworth as Thor is trying though, and he does a fine job with the character, but there's not much else to recommend.   

Thor <---trailer (2011): */****

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